It was one rollercoaster ride of a year. We celebrated a lot at Food Republic, like the different regional cuisines of Mexico and the secret that makes Five Guys fries so great. We also got down to the not-so-nice truth about TV’s Jon Taffer and what’s making so many great New York City restaurants close. We also tried our hand at making our own charcuterie. Here are Food Republic’s top 10 stories of 2016 based on popularity.

Mexico has seven distinct culinary regions. (Illustration: Jason Hill.)

A Guide To The Regional Cuisines of Mexico

“Mexican food” is a misnomer, or, at least, woefully inadequate to describe the many distinct regional cuisines that encompass the term. The pork dish cochito, ubiquitous in Chiapas, might be a mystery to someone in Tamaulipas. Recently, when a (now-shuttered) burrito place opened in an upscale Mexico City neighborhood, the press coverage was careful to clarify what, exactly, a burrito is.

Host Jon Taffer of Spike's "Bar Rescue"
Host Jon Taffer of Spike’s “Bar Rescue”

What Does TV’s Jon Taffer Really Know About Bar Science?

According to the intro to Bar Rescue, “Nobody knows more about bar science than Jon Taffer.” For more than 30 years, Taffer has allegedly transformed hundreds of failing bars around the world into success stories. His mighty fish lips hurl insults at bar owners who plead with him to clean up their crappy bars, transforming them with elbow grease, business education and, of course, flat-screen TVs.

five guys
Five Guys fries in the pupal state

How The Five Guys French Fries Get Made: A Food Republic Exclusive!

At some burger chains, French fries are a side dish. At Five Guys, they’re an obsession for customers and employees alike. The Lorton, Virginia–based chain now has more than 1,300 locations around the globe, with rabid fans who swear by the savory burgers and that glorious single side item: hand-cut French fries.

Table for one: A 2015 OpenTable survey found that reservations for one have grown 62 percent over the past two years. (illustrations by Angelique Georges.)

The Rise Of The Solo Diner

“It was weird to look over and see some single person eating next to you ten years ago,” says Amanda Cohen, chef and owner of Dirt Candy in New York City. “Now it’s pretty normal.”

The recent closures of iconic New York City restaurants like Union Square Café (which will reopen in a new location) and the Four Seasons, as well as respected neighborhood spots, has led to speculation about bigger problems in the industry.

Why Are So Many Great NYC Restaurants Closing? It’s Not Just The Rent.

It’s happening all over New York City, to restaurants big and small, from acclaimed pioneers, like WD-50, Union Square Café, Telepan, the Campbell Apartment and the Four Seasons, to more humble and beloved spots, like Bianca, Hamilton’s and Brooklyn Fish Camp. All shuttered or packing up because the rent is due and it’s too damn high.

You’re just a few basic items away from making your own charcuterie board, like this one from Jockey Hollow in New Jersey.

How To Cure Your Own Meats At Home. Mini-Fridge Required.

When that eye round is staring back at you and it’s July — and you know no one is going to roast it — it’s just begging to be turned into bresaola. And it’s possible with just four ingredients: salt, humidity, temperature and a little time.

cook shortage
Many chefs are working to solve the shortage within the kitchen. (Photo: edsel_/Flickr.)

How Can Restaurants Fix The Kitchen Staffing Crisis?

Next time you run into a chef, don’t ask how they’re doing. Chances are, the answer will not be a smile and a “Fine, thanks, how are you?” More likely it will be some sort of frustration-fueled rant about staffing: “I can’t find line cooks, I don’t have a sous, I need a chef de cuisine. No one sticks around — my kitchen is a revolving door!” The staffing crisis across the country has reached a boiling point; there are not enough cooks in the kitchen.

(Photo: brickset/Flickr)
(Photo: brickset/Flickr)

A Pissed-Off Tampa Chef Explains The “Farm To Fable” Controversy

A couple of weeks ago I was on the phone with Laura Reiley, a writer and restaurant critic for the Tampa Bay Times, running down a list of what was and wasn’t local on the menu of my restaurant, the Refinery. She was working on a piece called “Farm to Fable — At Tampa Bay Farm-to-Table Restaurants, You’re Being Fed Fiction” that’s sorta set the restaurant world on fire by exposing who lived up to their claims of using local sources, who made an oversight, and who outright lied. I was excited about this piece because I’ve known of blatant lies from some of the restaurants mentioned for years and been justifiable pissed, but couldn’t say anything — ‘cuz professionalism. The truth came out last Wednesday, and I was happy.

A spread of coarse mustards. (Photos: Paul Harrison.)
A spread of coarse mustards. (Photos: Paul Harrison.)

A Guide To All The Different Kinds Of Mustard

Mustard: You know it, you love it, you want some more of it. I know. I feel the same way. But if you’re stuck on the yellow stuff, it’s time to change things up. There are a lot of mustards out there, and hopefully this guide can help you figure out which mustards you should be adding to your diet.

Tito’s Vodka is a corn-based spirit made by the premier craft distillery in Texas.

The Best American Vodkas, Ranked

Most people probably associate vodka with Russia and other territories of the former Soviet Union, the spirit’s ancestral home, or perhaps Sweden or France. But there is a surprisingly high number of good vodkas being made right here, right now in the United States.