This Is the Best Restaurant in America Right Now
On Monday, June 5, the 32nd annual James Beard Awards Ceremony took place at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, honoring our nation's best chefs, restauranteurs, pastry chefs, wine program, and more. The Awards are an annual nod to the best of the best in the restaurant industry, often likened to the Oscars of the food world.
Just being nominated for a James Bread Award can shine a spotlight on a restaurant, while winning one skyrockets it into national acclaim. Huge names have previously won the Outstanding Restaurant award, one of the most coveted of all the JBA recognitions, including Alinea, Daniel, Bouley, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and Eleven Madison Park.
The awards, presented by the James Beard Foundation, were brought back last year after a two-year hiatus, during which the Foundation conducted an audit of its own procedures and policies around picking the winners.
This year, the ceremony brought together one of the most diverse groups of nominees ever. Five restaurants vied for the top honor of Outstanding Restaurant. Here's what to expect at each of the nominated restaurants—all worth a visit—down to this year's winner.
Copine in Seattle, Wash.
Copine showcases contemporary American cuisine executed with classical French technique. The restaurant offers a single three-course prix fixe dinner which starts at $120 per person with the option to add a few dishes and upgrades. Chef Shaun McCrain creates a brand new menu each week with his team.
This week's dishes included Japanese Hamachi Crudo 'Aguachile, Caramelized Onion Agnolotti with pickled alliums, chive blossom, spiced beef consommé, Potato Crusted Petrale Sole, and blueberry sponge cake served with sweet corn ice cream and candied sorghum.
Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Chef McCrain has worked at San Francisco's legendary Masa and was part of the opening team of Thomas Keller's Per Se in New York City. In 2016, he and his wife, also a restaurant veteran, opened Copine.
Coracora in West Hartford, Conn.
Coracora is a family-run Peruvian restaurant in West Hartford that focuses on high-quality ingredients, a welcoming family-like experience, and superior customer service.
At Coracora, Chef Macarena Ludena, the daughter of owners Hector and Luisa, showcases her creative takes on Peruvian classics like ceviche, lomo saltado, aji de gallina, and more. The menu is packed with fresh fish, chicken, and steak dishes with the classic seasonings and produce of Peru including aji amarillo, a classic yellow chile pepper from the country.
Lucia in Dallas, Texas
Lucia is a high-end Italian restaurant in Dallas. Chef and owner David Uygur is no stranger to the James Beard Awards, having been nominated five times in the Best Chef: Southwest category. This is the first time the restaurant itself has been nominated. Articles and reviews rave about the restaurant, which opened in 2010. Zagat has called it one of the best Italian restaurants in Dallas.
Lucia features house-cured salami, homemade pasta, and fresh-baked bread. Diners can find elevated Italian dishes like Gruyere-stuffed ravioli with spring onion broth and fresh Pompano with cauliflower and mussels.
Mita's in Cincinnati, Ohio
Mita's is an award-winning tapas bar in Cincinnati, the second location for Chef Jose Salazar, who was born in Columbia and raised in Queens, N.Y. In 2008, Chef Salazar came to Cincinnati after working at the legendary Per Se and Bouchon Bakery under Chef Thomas Keller.
Opened in 2015, Chef Salazar named this restaurant after his Colombian grandmother. The 130-seat establishment offers an eclectic menu that merges traditional and modern flavors in classic dishes from Spain and Latin America—think ceviches, cured meats, cheese, and paella.
Most of the dishes come down to bites and small plates like Spanish octopus served with fingerling potatoes and potato foam or beef short rib hand pies with a cilantro-chili sauce. A few dishes are served family-style, like the classic Paella Valenciana or the Bistec Asada, which is a 32-ounce bone-in ribeye with ramp chimichurri. Among the desserts are a tres leches cake and a spiced dark chocolate tart with pepita crust, dulce de leche, and cinnamon whipped cream.
Outstanding Restaurant Award Winner: Friday Saturday Sunday in Philadelphia, Pa.
Friday Saturday Sunday, a finalist last year, snagged the top spot this year. This restaurant features a luxurious tasting menu in Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square—actually open Wednesday through Sunday, despite what the name suggests.
Chef Chad Williams, who has worked at Eleven Madison Park, Manresa, and other renowned restaurants, and his wife, Hanna, bought the iconic restaurant in 2015 and kept the restaurant's original name to honor Philly history.
The spot has an ever-changing, seasonally inspired, indulgent eight-course tasting menu for $155 with an optional wine pairing for $95. The current menu features crudo, confit artichokes, sweetbreads, fish, quail, New York strip, and Meyer lemon semifreddo. Check out the full list of winners here.