When it comes to recognizing restaurants and chefs who excel in their craft, no one does it better than the James Beard Foundation. A favorite restaurant means something different to every person. So to weed through it all and set apart the industry greats, every year the James Beard Foundation honors restaurants, hospitality groups and chefs who excel in their craft, the award winners providing excellence across culinary arts, hospitality, media, and broader food systems.
This year’s semi-finalists have been announced, and they show and impressive array of culinary artists, masters in their field, and dining destinations you won’t want to miss. Here are some of the semi-finalists for 2022.
What is considered an outstanding restaurant? A dining locale that offers reasonable prices? Fine dining, foreign delicacies, or hometown favorites? How do you determine which restaurants are the best of the best? To the James Beard Foundation, what makes a restaurant outstanding is their commitment to excellence in food, atmosphere, hospitality and operations while being a positive influence on their community as a whole. Each of these semi-finalists must have been in business for five or more consecutive years, but they aren’t counting shutdowns related to the pandemic. These restaurants are being recognized as semi-finalists heading into the big night:
- Brennan’s, New Orleans, LA
- Butcher & Bee, Charleston, SC
- Chai Pani, Asheville, NC
- Cora Cora, West Hartford, CT
- Di Fara Pizza, NYC, NY
- El Burén de Lula, Loíza, PR
- Friday Saturday Sunday, Philadelphia, PA
- Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm, Boulder, UT
- La Morada, NYC, NY
- Living Kitchen Farm & Dairy, Depew, OK
- Métier, Washington, D.C.
- Mixtli, San Antonio, TX
- Parachute, Chicago, IL
- Paragary’s, Sacramento, CA
- Post & Beam, Los Angeles, CA
- Odd Duck, Milwaukee, WI
- Oriole, Chicago, IL
- ShinBay, Scottsdale, AZ
- Sushi Izakaya Gaku, Honolulu, HI
- The Walrus and the Carpenter, Seattle, WA.
When it comes to those who make the food, almost everyone has a favorite. Whether it’s a celebrity chef you watch on TV whose delicacies you dream of sampling or someone in your hometown or favorite vacation spot who keeps you coming back, we all have someone who makes food that means something to us. This year’s chef semi-finalists are recognized for setting high culinary standards and a positive example to food industry peers. They must have worked as a chef for three or more consecutive years, again pandemic shutdowns notwithstanding. Here are this year’s semi-finalists:
- Reem Assil, Reem’s, Oakland and San Francisco, CA
- Mashama Bailey, The Grey, Savannah, GA
- Andrew Black, Grey Sweater, Oklahoma City, OK
- Peter Chang, Peter Chang, VA and MD
- Austin Covert, Rosewild, Fargo, ND
- Christopher Gross, Christopher’s, Phoenix, AZ
- Stephen Jones, The Larder + The Delta, Phoenix, AZ
- Ji Hye Kim, Miss Kim, Ann Arbor, MI
- Kyle Knall, Birch, Milwaukee, WI
- Emiliano Marentes, ELEMI, El Paso, TX
- Niki Nakayama, n/naka, Los Angeles, CA
- Keiji Nakazawa, Sushi Sho, Honolulu, HI
- Josh Niernberg, Bin 707 Foodbar, Grand Junction, CO
- Alex Raij and Eder Montero, La Vara, NYC, NY
- Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli, Don Angie, NYC, NY
- Michael Schwartz, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Miami, FL
- Douglass Williams, MIDA, Boston, MA
- Cindy Wolf, Charleston, Baltimore, MD
- Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi, Joule, Seattle, WA.
Best New Restaurant
And when it comes to up and comers in the field, there’s a category for that too. These restaurants have the same requirements as the Outstanding Restaurant honorees, but the venues must have opened in 2020 or 2021. They are chose because they seem likely to have an impact in the years to come, making them the movers and shakers to watch. Here are the 2022 Best New Restaurant semi-finalists:
- ABACÁ, San Francisco, CA
- Angry Egret Dinette, Los Angeles, CA
- Bacanora, Phoenix, AZ
- BARDA, Detroit, MI
- Café Mamajuana, Burlington, VT
- Casian Seafood, Lafayette, CO
- Dhamaka, NYC, NY
- Fritai, New Orleans, LA
- Gage & Tollner, NYC, NY
- Horn BBQ, Oakland, CA
- Kasama, Chicago, IL
- Kimika, NYC, NY
- Laser Wolf, Philadelphia, PA
- Leeward, Portland, ME
- Lengua Madre, New Orleans, LA
- MACHETE, Greensboro, NC
- Matia Kitchen & Bar, Orcas Island, WA
- The Marble Table, Billings, MT
- Nani’s Piri Piri Chicken, Asheville, NC
- NiHao, Baltimore, MD
- Owamni, Minneapolis, MN
- Oyster Oyster, Washington, D.C.
- Pier 6 Seafood & Oyster House, San Leon, TX
- República, Portland, OR
- Roots Southern Table, Farmers Branch, TX
- Sooper Secret Izakaya, Honolulu, HI
- Union Hmong Kitchen, Minneapolis, MN
- Ursula, NYC, NY
- Zacatlán Restaurant, Santa Fe, CA
- Zitz Sum, Coral Gables, FL.
America’s Classics Honorees
There’s also a category in the awards called the America’s Classics. Every year, six winners are chosen for America’s Classics and they come from recommendations submitted by the public and reviewed by the Restaurant and Chef Awards Committee. Honorees are chosen from six of 12 regions and rotated every other year so every region receives a winner every other year.
This year’s America’s Classics Honorees are:
- Casa Vega: A standard-setting Mexican restaurant in Sherman Oaks, CA.
- Corinne’s Place: This Camden, NJ, homestyle cooking diner offers cajun favorites and feel good dishes.
- Solly’s Grill: Located in Milkwaukee, WI, Solly’s offers a world-famous butter burger and uses their place in America’s dairy basket to set themselves apart from peers.
- Wo Hop: In New York City, NY, Wo Hop has outlasted dozens of restaurants that have come and gone on the same street.
- The Busy Bee Cafe: In Atlanta, GA, the Busy Bee carries the weight of history as the business of a Black entrepreneur in the Civil Rights Era – serving some of the movement’s most famous faces such as Martin Luther King Jr and others.
- Florence’s Restaurant: In Oklahoma City, OK, this diner gives guests a family dinner feel with excellent food. This is not your grandma’s cooking – unless your grandma is a celebrated local chef icon, that is.
The Pomp and Ceremony
Now that we know the bulk of the semi-finalists and who it all comes down to, all there is to do is wait for the big day. Other categories announced this week include Emerging Chef, Outstanding Pastry Chef, Outstanding Baker and more.
The winners will be announced at the ceremony on Monday June 13, 2022, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. This is the first ceremony in 2 years as the James Beard Foundation took a two-year hiatus to review their policies and procedures to make sure that the nomination and award process was free from bias, prejudice, and offers a transparent, accessible, equal opportunity for all that aligns with the Foundation’s principles.
For more information on the ceremony, the semi-finalists or how the winners are chosen, visit the James Beard Foundation website.