What’s the best meal you ate out in the Chicago area in 2018?

We asked Chicago food pros to name their absolute favorite. This is the first of a two-part story on the chefs’ recommendations.

This year, again, several chefs picked Smyth, Boka, Bad Hunter and others again as in previous years. We heard about Monteverde several times again, too, and then a brand new exciting restaurant, Pacific Standard Time, was the new pick of three different chefs.

To start us off, Jaime Laurita picked Club Lucky (“I dream about this place at home,” he revealed). Comforting dumplings, noodles and gnocchi were trends this year in several chef picks. It’s all good. From ramen (High Five Ramen) to crab legs (Half Shell) and everything in between, there’s something in this list for everyone.

Francis Gonzalez, Corporate Executive Chef, Parker Restaurant Group in Chicago

Best Meal: House-Made Stracciatella with Mighty Vine Tomatoes, Croutons, Shallots, Sherry Vinegar, Basil

Restaurant: Ema, 74 W. Illinois St., Chicago, 312-527-5586, www.EmaChicago.com

The Skinny: “Ema’s Stracciatella is a fresh, light and creamy dish with tomatoes woven in to balance it out. The plate reminds me of when I was running a restaurant in Santa Monica, California, and I regularly visited the local farmer’s market to get fresh ingredients. I love the simplicity of the dish and how I am able to be immediately transported to such a wonderful destination — it’s an important factor in what I look for when choosing a place to dine.”

Carlos and Debbie Nieto, Owners, The Freehling Room at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park and The Happ Inn Bar and Grill in Northfield

Best Meal: Degustation Menu

Restaurant: The Everest Room, 425 S. Financial Place 40th floor, Chicago, 312-663-8920, www.EverestRestaurant.com

The Skinny: “Each course was better than the last. So perfect. We loved each other’s meal as much as our own. Total perfection. We celebrated my birthday and the food, service, ambiance is first rate. They never skip a beat. Always perfection! The Everest is a wonderful celebration restaurant. We wish we could go every night. We are planning to return to celebrate Carlos’ birthday and can’t wait.”