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In a more perfect world — where bacon strips spring from the ground like dandelions, beer and wine flow from public drinking fountains, and chocolate comprises a good majority of solid matter — food writers would have all the time necessary to dine often at every place featured in their dining guides.

I don't need to tell you that we live in a different world, as evidenced to me most recently by a tattoo I saw online that read "McRib Forever" above an oozing, cartoon-like rendition of said monstrosity. Not to mention the fact that I fell short of making 175-plus restaurant visits as I compiled this year's Bites dining guide, which is in this week's Independent.

But I got out quite a bit. And where I couldn't, the info herein comes via good old-fashioned ree-search: That means making calls, checking menus, reviewing our reviews (a redundancy in itself) — you know, stuff like that. In instances where I couldn't provide a fresh memory of flavors or textures, we aimed to capture the overall spirit and vibe of a place, to tell you the bare essentials. After all, this is intended to be a utilitarian item, something you leave in your bike bag or glove box.

Next time you're at a loss for where to dine out, we hope our Bites compendium will come in handy. Maybe not as handy as truffles that fall as rain upon the Earth, but handy nonetheless.

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