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Top Food Writers Reveal Their Biggest Surprises of 2013

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As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, food writers, reviewers and bloggers. This year, we asked the group eight questions. Last week, we ran their choices for restaurant standbys, top newcomers, one-word summations and worst dining trends. Today, we ask, What was the year's biggest dining surprise? Responses are listed in no particular order; all are cut, pasted and unedited herein. Readers, please do add your survey answers in the comments.

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A second Holy Donut was a "fantastic surprise" for one writer. [Photo: Corey Templeton Photography]

Q. What was the biggest dining surprise of 2013?
Michael Cain and Meredith Perdue, Map & Menu bloggers:

Michael: It's small - Cheerwine at Salvage BBQ. This cherry soda is pretty hard to find outside of North Carolina, and Salvage stocking it showed me just how committed to detail and authenticity they are with their Carolina barbecue.

Meredith: The succotash grits at a Small Axe Sunday brunch service was a delightful surprise - I felt as though I was back down in the South!

John Golden, Maine Sunday Telegram restaurant critic, Golden Dish blogger:

Authentic French Food

Rachel Forrest, Seacoast Online food writer and restaurant critic:

That so many more restaurants opened and that more didn't close. It's such a tough business, I'm also surprised at the New Kennebunkport. Lots of excellent restaurants opened there this year and the already existing ones improved. David Turin's new places are excellent and Justin Walker made a big difference at Earth.

Claire Jeffers, Press Herald Bar Guide writer:

The best donut shop known to man, the Holy Donut, opened a second location in the Old Port. A fantastic surprise.

Nancy Heiser, food and travel writer, former Maine Sunday Telegram restaurant critic:

Portland's restaurant inspections created some serious buzz.

Kathy Gunst, author of 14 cookbooks (most recently, Notes from a Maine Kitchen), "resident chef" for NPR's award-winning show, Here and Now:

How great the state of food has become in the state of Maine. And the fact that you can get some very very decent coffee and bread.

Meredith Goad, Press Herald food writer and columnist, Maine a la Carte blogger:

We took a big hit in 2013 with the number of outstanding restaurants that closed: Bresca, Arrows, Bar Lola and Carmen at the Danforth, to name a few.

Susan Axelrod, Press Herald/Maine Today online content producer, Maine a la Carte blogger, former Eater Maine editor:

How good the food is at Outliers.

Lard of Avon, Eater Maine top commenter, Midcoast dining advocate:

Mine occurred out of town, sadly, at the S&D Polish Deli in the Strip District part of Pittsburgh. There, a styrofoam plate of potato cheese pieroghi, smothered in translucent sauteed onions & a pool of real butter, almost made me weep. Literally melted in my mouth. Surreal. Sublime. Bubba nirvana.

· All Coverage of Year in Eater 2013 [~EMAINE~]