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The Biggest Dining Surprises of 2017, According to Restaurant Authorities

What shocked the dining experts this year?

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Several South Jersey restaurants, like Hearthside in Collingswood, impressed Adam Erace this year. 
Michael Persico

As per tradition, Eater asked a group of restaurant journalists, bloggers, and friends of the site to weigh in on the year in food. Here, the dining experts share what took them by surprise in 2017.

Joy Manning, editor of Edible Philly: The number of highly rated restaurants that left me totally cold. On several special occasions, I visited restaurants that had been extremely well reviewed not only in the local and national press but also by my fellow Philly-area food friends only to find the experiences meh. Recently, I celebrated my anniversary at a restaurant so universally lauded I left the meal thinking, “Well, perhaps I just don’t like restaurants anymore.” But days later my faith was restored by a visit to Royal Boucherie, where the service, atmosphere, and most importantly the food were all so well done I felt like a born-again eater.

Alex Tewfik, Philadelphia magazine food editor: Mad Rex having relatively good food (at least it did right when it first opened — haven’t been back yet).

Wendy Ramunno, freelance writer/editor and local editor at Zagat: The fact that we now have an apocalypse-themed restaurant.

Drew Lazor, Philadelphia-based freelance writer and author of the upcoming Session Cocktails (Ten Speed Press, May 2018): I was surprised and of course bummed that Erin O'Shea decided to leave Philadelphia. But I look forward to visiting her new restaurant, Mason's, on the Eastern Shore of our home state of Maryland.

Sarah Maiellano, food and travel freelance writer for local and national outlets, including Eater: The Fat Ham closing.

Adam Erace, freelance writer: This is pretty new to me, but in reporting a feature for a magazine in New Jersey this winter, I've discovered so much great pizza over the bridge. I'm not messing around when I say this, but I think Jersey has better pizza than we do here. Some spots not to miss if you want to do a Garden State crawl: Angelo's "upside-down jawn" in Haddonfield, Bruno's Neapolitan-style buffalo-mozz pie in Haddon Township, Bricco's bianco in Vestment, and Tacconelli's in Maple Shade. There have also been two really strong non-pizza openings in Jersey this year: Hearthside, from Dom Piperno (ex-Vernick) and Aaron Gottesman (ex-Fat Ham), in Collingwood, and Park Place from Starr vet Phil Manganaro in Merchantville. In short: Get to Jersey.

Royal Boucherie

52 South 2nd Street, , PA 19106 (267) 606-6313 Visit Website

Mad Rex Restaurant

1000 Frankford Avenue, , PA 19125 (267) 773-7566 Visit Website

The Fat Ham

3131 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19104 215-735-1913 Visit Website


801 Haddon Avenue, , NJ 08108 (856) 240-1164 Visit Website