Best Of 2020

Best Reason to Live in Your Pandemic Sweatpants 
All Summer

Sunday Sauce at Stasio's Italian Deli

instagram.com/stasiositaliandeli

Stasio's have been COVID-pivot champs since day one. Not only were they THE place to get toilet paper during the Great TP Terror of 2020, they masked up, buckled down and greatly expanded ready-made offerings for their house-bound clients like produce, butchered meats and baked goods. But it's the Sunday Sauce Kit that has added joy to our hearts and jounce to our booties. For $65, it's a complete "red gravy and macaroni" Sunday dinner for four ... aka enough food in the form of leftovers to live on for an entire week: one braciola, two fat house-made sausages, two giant meatballs, tons of red sauce, two bags of fresh pasta, house salad with Stasio's Italian dressing, ricotta salata, Calabrian chilis and fresh bread. Order by noon Thursday, pick up Saturday afternoon, and you're all set for Italian granny love and quality carbs.

Best Short-Lived Loophole

"Chomping While Clomping" at Theme Parks

After their reopenings, both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando put mask requirements in place for their guests. Of course, eating is a big part of the theme-park experience, so they made an exception – guests could remove masks to enjoy some scrummy Dole whip or a Lard Lad doughnut. But some people took it too far, purchasing a food item as a sort of free pass from masking and walking around the parks with snacks in hand and masks a-dangle. Both parks later closed the chomping-while-clomping loophole, surely causing popcorn sales to dip.

Best Buzzworthy Bite

Birria Machete at Hunger Street Tacos

hungerstreettacos.com

When it comes to hubbub generated during the pandemic, Dalgona coffee has got nothing on Hunger Street Taco's birria – at least not in this town. Soon after they started making tortillas from imported Oaxacan heirloom corn, Joe and David Creech took things a step further with the "machete" – a giant brisket-stuffed tortilla in the shape of Danny Trejo's weapon of choice. It's served with birria, a wicked stew fashioned from roasted bone marrow, guajillo, chipotle and árbol chilies and a host of secret spices. Dip the machete into the broth and savor the social media sensation of the year.

Best Old New Dessert

Baked Alaska at the Osprey

theospreyorlando.com

What's old is new again, so the saying goes, and the fine folks at the Osprey Seafood & Spirits are serving patrons a sweet dose of nostalgia with the retro-est of retro desserts – baked Alaska. If vanilla sponge cake and chocolate chunk almond ice cream enveloped in meringue that's toasted tableside doesn't get you happy as a clam, you're probably dead.

Best Oral Conflagration

Nashville Hot Chicken at Chicken Fire

facebook.com/eatchickenfire

After stints at À La Cart and East End Market, Chicken Fire owner Kwame Boakye says big things are in store for his Nashville hot chicken concept. We take that to mean either his food truck will roll into a permanent parking space somewhere or Chicken Fire will finally go brick-and-mortar. No matter the outcome, Boakye's sure to continue making flames burst out of the yaps of his patrons. Even an oxymoronic "mild" hot chicken can peel the skin off your palate, but the "hot"? Or "hot x 2"? Or "hot infinity"? POOF!

Best Vegan Soup

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Bún Bò Hue at Z Asian Vietnamese Kitchen

eatzasian.com

The best reason to own an Instant Pot? Using it to cook up one of Z Asian's soup kits, particularly the vegan bún bò hue (spicy beef noodle soup), a knockout soup with a broth that punches well above its meatless weight. There are secrets that go into the shockingly good stock, along with known entities jicama, daikon, carrots, lemongrass, onions and various spices, and their flavors permeate the strips of "beef" as well as the thick, round rice noodles. Toss in some house-made chili oil for a superlative slurp.

Best Supermarket Eats

Taglish

taglishfl.com

Taglish puts the "super" in supermarket eats. The Pinoy fare served up by chef Mike Collantes and his skilled staff from a stall at Lotte Plaza Market is as cheffy as it gets – Collantes has worked with such A-listers as Wolfgang Puck, Eric Ripert, Masa Takayama and the late Joël Robuchon, after all. Taglish's new burger made with longanisa and bistek patties stuffed between ube milk buns with banana ketchup, "big mac" sauce, American cheese, grilled onions, tomatoes and pickles will certainly vie for best burger next year.

Best Locally Made Coffee Indulgence

Iced Coffee, Los Autenticos Cuban Café

cubancafeonline.com

Frankly, we don't give a damn whether Los Autenticos' "Cubano iced coffee" is completely authentic – it's completely mind-blowing and that's all that matters. An iced tumbler of their house blend topped with whipped cream, house-made caramel drizzle, cinnamon pastry tips and puffed trigo ... Starbucks who?

Best Summer Sweet

Maracujá Cake at Brazil Food Mart

maisbrazilfoodmart.com

Mais Brazil's traditional passion fruit cakes – dreamy yellow cake with homemade dulce de leche, passion fruit cream filling and fresh passion fruit drizzle – are the perfect summer sweet. Sweet, tart, fresh and light enough to eat despite the heat.