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10 Best Restaurants Of 2016

I write on culinary topics for many prominent publications, and had a New York Times Bestselling food book come out this year, so eating out is always on my mind. As 2016 winds down, it is time for an annual reflection on my standout restaurant meals from the past 12 months. This is a tradition I started with my “10 Most Memorable Restaurant Meals of 2011,” and continued in every year since. There are still plenty of gems in those previous articles, and most, if not all, of the eateries covered are still very relevant to travelers.

This concludes my annual Year in Travel roundup, which earlier this week covered Aviation 2016, The Year in Flight and the 10 Best Hotels & Resorts of 2016.

One reason my lists are especially useful for travelers is because, unlike most publications, I don’t confuse “new” with good. If I ate someplace this year that I have already visited several times in the past time, that’s because the place is still great (like Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami or the Golden Steer in Vegas). If it opened this year but I loved it and think it has staying power, then it made this list. Also, my picks tend to be in actual travel destinations some of you will be visiting for business or vacation anyway, so unlike most food magazines, my choices are not all in Brooklyn (though one is, much to my own surprise). My favorites don’t have to be expensive or Michelin-starred to be great either, they just have to serve great food. Hype or trendiness doesn’t make a restaurant better or worse – what matters to me is the taste.

As the Great American Bites restaurant columnist for USAToday, the nation’s largest newspaper, I scour the country looking for the best regional and standout foods in every corner of the U.S. My other food media outlets take me all over the world, and as a result I spend a lot of time in restaurants. A rough calculus would suggest I eat out at least 250 times a year. Unfortunately, many of these meals are forgettable, or merely “fine.” The following are the coveted exceptions, my ten very best taste memories of 2016.