As food writers, we eat out more than the average person. And while we're always on the lookout for great food, sometimes the experiences are just as delicious as the cuisine. Here are our top meals and dining experiences from 2022.

Our best meals

Zucchini takeover at Hyacinth

All it took was an utterance of "zucchini" and my perennial dining companion and I were off. On a beautiful summer evening, we slid onto the bar stools at Hyacinth and forever had our expectations altered for what could be done with a zucchini. Chef Rikki Giambruno took the farm-fresh vegetables and prepared them in all the good ways. In just one dish they were raw, sautéed, roasted and caramelized; crunchy, sweet, earthy, dense, light — and how are we still talking about zucchini? At the end of the meal, we were still sitting there with our minds sufficiently blown, when another dish appeared. This time, a fluffy, light-as-chiffon white cake, flecked with wisps of green, appeared: a zucchini cake that further confounded us. It was light (isn't this supposed to be dense?), sweet (we're still talking about a vegetable, right?) and the frosting was laced with an anise-forward amaro. I begged for the recipe, but it never materialized. Here's hoping we'll meet again next summer. (Joy Summers)

790 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-478-1822,

Chicken Red Curry at Khâluna

There's plenty to be enamored of at Ann Ahmed's measured culinary ode to Laos and beyond. Her latest restaurant, Khâluna, (gently) challenges — a shiitake and tapioca dumpling called Sakoo and a striped bass in sour curry, as examples — and you should order these innovative dishes, likely not seen before in the Twin Cities. But on the several occasions I returned, I found myself pining for her chicken curry: a succulent Bell & Evans breed, sectioned and seared so it develops a crust marked with dark welts and skin that varies from crisp to gently crackling. The chicken sits on a curry redolent of coconut milk and red peppers, so deeply flavored that I ordered extra rice and wasted none of it. It's a dish I think about immediately after my meal, and long after it. (Jon Cheng)

4000 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-345-5199,

Cachapas Venezolanas from Maria's Cafe

When swiping through all the food pics on my phone from the past year — and there were a lot — the one that had me practically drooling and immediately going to place another order was of the Venezuelan corn pancake from Maria's Cafe (bottom right). The sunny South American diner boasts seven kinds of pancakes on the menu, but that dinner-plate-sized disk of velvety sweet corn, crisped on the edges, with a bowl of cotija crumbles and pools of salty butter in the middle, is a knockout. No wonder it's been owner María Hoyos' signature dish for more than two decades. (Sharyn Jackson)

1113 E. Franklin Av., Mpls., 612-870-9842,

Chermoula Spiced Chicken at Mara

Meet the chicken dish that ruined me for all other chicken. Mara chef Gavin Kaysen and chef de cuisine Thony Yang spent months creating the recipe — an overnight brine, chermoula spice marinade, grilled to order on a brick press, brushed with pomegranate molasses — and it became an instant hit. So tender, so juicy and so flavorful, I recommend it to everyone, regardless of whether they're planning a visit to Mara. (It also inspired me to roast more lemons, a simple yet significant addition.) I was thrilled when I discovered a version of the chicken on the lunch menu. This time it's in skewer form, a smaller portion served with the same shaved fennel as its dinner counterpart but with lavash and a dollop of labneh for easy roll-up assembly. If you're looking for a lunch recommendation ... (Nicole Hvidsten)

245 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-895-5709,

Our favorite experiences

We took our favorite food to go

While I had some incredible restaurant meals this year, the bites that stayed with me were all a little harder to track down, takeout only, and worth any inconvenience. I waited an hour for an enormous breakfast burrito from Quince Mpls Mkt, and I'd do it again. When Saturday Dumpling Club first started serving hot food, namely the sweet-and-savory là cháng sausage slider, at its frozen dumpling pickups, I made sure I left my Saturday mornings wide open. The unforgettable wallop of garlic in the crispy pork belly noodles from Soul Lao food truck beckoned me to a parking lot party in St. Louis Park that I only wish I could return to. I became a devotee of Asa's Bakery's hearty breads, especially the homey, memory-laden kasha loaf, which I'll traverse the cities for on the one day a week it's available. And if I manage to secure a pint of ultra-creamy and mix-in-packed A to Z Creamery ice cream — doesn't matter the flavor — you can bet I'll be waiting in the block-long line in Hopkins to pick it up. (S.J.)

Rediscovering and revisiting an old favorite

Lake Street is central to my love of Minneapolis. I've lived at different points and different eras along the street before being wooed to the other twin city. Watching the events of the summer of 2020 unfold was horrifying in so many ways, but also for the damage done to the community that thrives along Lake Street. This year, I've been on a mission to walk these streets and sample the almost overwhelming multitude of amazing dishes found near here. It's a must adventure for any food lover, from newer places like the incredible coffee drinks found at Third Space on Lyn-Lake to the Salvadoran pupusas at El Guanaco to the seemingly endless supply of amazing tacos like the new-to-me beef ones at Taqueria el Patron. There are lifelong favorites like the pork fried rice at Cheng's Garden — or my favorite bar seat and arancini at the Bungalow Club. From the moment that day broke after the uprising, Lake Street has been rebuilding and there are so many delicious reasons to revisit it. (J.S.)

A match made in heaven

You have to respect the team at Travail Kitchen & Amusements — they sure know how to have fun. And they sure know how to make sure you have fun while you're there. So it's no surprise that its Basement Bar tasting menu pop-ups are full-blown events. Award-winning chef Tim McKee spent a good portion of the summer there with his tribute to Txikiteo (pronounced chee-kee-tay-o), a tapas crawl in San Sebastian, Spain. Bite after scrumptious bite appeared — tastes of calamari, lamb albondigas, cheeses, meats and a snow crab croquette I still think about — and so did glass after glass of top-shelf drinks. The combination made for an exquisite, intimate yet lively summer night. It was a moment when everyone — guests, chefs, servers — seemed to check their worries at the door and settled in for a couple of hours of bliss. It's a feeling I'm still savoring months later. (N.H.)

Neighborhood restaurant keeps raising the bar

When was the last time you visited a neighborhood eatery and found food that pushed the boundary, every single time you visit? For a place that bills itself as the restaurant next door, in Minneapolis' Kingfield neighborhood, there's a lot to find endearing about Petite Leon, Jorge Guzmán's kitschy ode to Southern Mexico and the Yucatán. I found plenty of reasons to return on days when I pined for a stiff drink and a (killer) burger. But I find myself gravitating toward the new dishes, which seemingly appear every few weeks. Recently, Guzmán's inventive take on shrimp and grits appeared — perfectly seared shrimp, a confetti of winter squash and pillowy polenta under a canopy of Thai basil — and it made me go quiet. As did several of his other dishes, served with the brand of hospitality that he and business partners Travis Serbus and Benjamin Rients have become known for, further cementing this place as a restaurant I will think about for a long time. (J.C.)