The Best Restaurants of 2016

Although I occasionally suffer from Catholic guilt over getting paid to eat and drink to excess, the holidays are a great time to eat and drink even more, thus smothering my conscience like melted cheese on an appe-teaser at an exurban mega-chain. I’m also afflicted with the specific type of anxiety that makes me want to append asterisks and qualifications to every list as a pre-buttal against criticism, but suffice it to say that this roster captures my (totally subjective) favorite overall experiences, as opposed to the best single dishes or meals.

So if “Best of 2016” isn’t a complete contradiction in terms, these are — in no particular order — the standouts in what was otherwise a ghastly year. Happy 2017, everyone!

‘Aina
900 22nd St.

It was a pop-up, then it was open only for lunch, and now it’s a genuine It-restaurant in the Dogpatch, but ‘aina elevates Hawaiian food far beyond its scoop-of-rice-with-SPAM reputation. Be it the loco moco or the shoyu-cured beef pipikaula, Big Island native Jordan Keao labors to make every dish’s individual components — many sourced from the Aloha State — distinct. His guava-custard-filled malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts) are going to be very famous someday.