Charles' 5 Best Restaurants of 2013!

Wonderful, but didn't make the list!
Wonderful, but didn't make the list!

I spent most of 2013 not in California, so when Gustavo asked me to write one of these lists, I knew it wasn't going to look like everyone else's. After all, I had apparently missed some big restaurant openings in Orange County, and three months in, I still haven't caught up.

That being true, I had my share of memorable meals this year. And, while they might not be new or particularly exciting (one wasn't even in Orange County), they were important to me, and by golly you're going to hear about them.

5. Poutine at Skillet Seattle

Magical stuff, really
Magical stuff, really

Skillet in Seattle is basically the Pacific Northwest's version of The Playground. The restaurant is the successor of an iconic food truck and serves meals that could have never come out of the dinky little trailer. If you took The Playground, screwed a bunch of cast-iron skillets to the walls and added some hip-as-shit mason jars, you'd have Skillet (you'd have to make the food and cocktails worse too, but that's besides the point).

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But while I contend that The Playground -- and Orange County -- does most food-related things better than Seattle, there's one dish that I find myself missing -- Skillet's poutine.

It was one of the last things I ate in the city, and it speaks to the differences between the two places. Seattle's cuisine's not bright -- there's no excitement or spice, but it is hearty. Seattle can do potatoes covered in gravy and cheese amazingly, and if you ever visit, and it's cold and it's rainy, the poutine is the perfect, Seattle-appropriate meal.

4. Taco Time at Taqueria Zamora

Dat tortilla, dos meats
Dat tortilla, dos meats

Gustavo took me to Taqueria Zamora an immemorial time ago (honestly, probably nine months ago), and since then, I've been in love. During my extended exile in the land of no burritos, I would trudge to Tacos El Asadero, the only half-decent taco vendor in Seattle, and dream of Zamora's hand-made tortillas, bountiful free beans and limitless horchata.

When my college-aged friends would ask me for recommendations in Orange County, I'd tell them about this mystical place that had tacos the size of my face.

When I finally got back? Well, for a good week, I had eaten more tacos than I had spent days back in Orange County. I'll give you one guess where all of them were from. (Give up? Taqueria Zamora.)

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