From breakfast to booze, these are the all-time best dishes we tried in Chicago in 2018

We’re officially stuffed. Throughout 2018, we sampled our way through some of Chicago’s best restaurants—both newcomers and mainstays—to hunt down knockout dishes and drinks that left us feeling inspired. We ended up with a collection of menu items that is as diverse as the city itself, from lobster dumplings and vegetarian sushi to a surprisingly awesome apple martini and a stack of lemon-blueberry pancakes. Better yet: Most of the dishes and drinks on this year’s list ring up under $15. Check out the amazing morsels and tipples that top this year’s list and plan your upcoming dining adventures accordingly.

Ms. Hsing’s Wonderful Lemon Meringue Napoleon at Booth One

When this prim-and-proper dessert arrives at your table, take a moment to admire its beauty before cutting into the sheets of lemon curd, meringue and crunchy pastry. $10.

Apple martini at Booth One

An apple martini in 2018? Trust us on this one. Crafted with vodka, apple brandy, green-apple liqueur, lemon juice and demerara syrup, this sophisticated quaff is the grown-up version of the lip-puckering stuff you slurped down in college. $14.

Melted tomato nigiri at Sushi-san

Chef Kaze Chan should win a Nobel Prize in Creativity for this wildly imaginative piece of sushi in which raw fish is replaced with a slab of flavorful roasted tomato. $5.

Clams Positano at Il Porcellino

Who knew an appetizer could steal the show? A gaggle of saucy, bacon-studded clams is served with a plank of garlic ciabatta that’s perfect for sopping up all the rich, lemony goodness that’s left behind. $13.95.

Fried chicken at Naoki Sushi

This year, one of the city’s best sushi joints introduced a delivery-only fried-chicken shop, serving poultry that’s braised in soy sauce, garlic and ginger, then dredged in flour and fried to finger-lickin’ perfection. Half $16.95, full $31.95.

Crème brûlée pie at Aba

Take everything you love about crème brûlée—the creamy custard base and the smoky, caramelized-sugar topping—and put it in a pie. Why didn’t someone think of this sooner? $8.95.