The James Beard Foundation announced the five recipients of its 2019 America's Classics Award. Over the course of the last week, the James Beard Foundation has revealed one honoree daily via the Foundation’s Instagram page in partnership with a selection of prominent food industry influencers located in each of the honorees’ regions.
The James Beard America's Classics Award is given to locally owned restaurants that have timeless appeal and are cherished for quality food reflecting the character of their community. The 2019 honorees join the ranks of over 100 restaurants from across the country that have received the award since the category was introduced in 1998. This year's winners will be celebrated at the annual James Beard Awards Gala on Monday, May 6 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
“In an industry where longevity is quite an achievement, it is important to honor and celebrate the establishments that have stood the test of time, like the restaurants being recognized as America’s Classics this year,” says Clare Reichenbach, James Beard Foundation CEO. “These restaurants provide not only wonderful culinary experiences, but are important and enduring pillars in their communities.”
The 2019 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Award Winners are:
Pho 79 (9941 Hazard Ave., Garden Grove, CA 92843; Owners: Tong Trần and Liễu Trần)
Orange County, California, claims one of the most vibrant Vietnamese-American communities in the country. Pho 79 was founded by Thọ Trần and Liễu Trần who opened in 1982, when it was among the area’s very first restaurants of its kind, introducing Americans to bowls of slippery rice noodles in beefy broth, topped with eye of round steak, brisket, tripe, meatballs, or the restaurant's justifiably legendary oxtails. With chef Lieu Trần in the kitchen, Pho 79 helped pave the way for southern California’s Little Saigon to become the dynamic hub of Vietnamese cuisine it is today. The next generation of the Trần family continues to operate the restaurant, as well as others in the area including Pho 101. The family’s story is as much about intrepid entrepreneurship and excellent cooking as it is about a community that rose from war and displacement to forever change American cuisine.
Jim’s Steak & Spaghetti House (920 5th Ave, Huntington, WV 25701; Owners: Jimmie Carder, Larry Tweel and Ron Tweel)
Spaghetti is central to West Virginia, a state that in the early 1900s attracted so many Italian immigrants that their homeland set up a consulate there. And since 1945, it’s been the lifeblood of Jim’s Steak & Spaghetti House in Huntington, West Virginia. In fact, most people leave “steak” out of the name when referring to it, according to co-owner and general manager Jimmie Tweel Carder, who along with her two brothers, inherited the restaurant from their father, Jim Tweel. Spaghetti and excellent service are among the tiny luxuries that Jim’s has long offered the Huntington tri-state region but it’s the strawberry pie that draws thousands. In February, Jim’s starts prepping pie shells for the one-week-only slice sale that coincides with Mother’s Day, another tradition with West Virginian roots.
A&A Bake & Double and Roti Shop (1337 Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY 11216; Owners: Noel and Geeta Brown)
The cheap-and-cheerful breakfast is a New York City art form, but few stand out like the doubles at A&A Bake & Double and Roti Shop. The Trinidadian specialty, which consists of an irresistible combination of curried chickpeas layered between two deep-fried flatbreads, costs just $1.50 at the shop. Trinidadian natives Noel and Geeta Brown have been serving trailing line of customers since they opened the business in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in 2002. The Browns recently moved the restaurant down the street into a much larger space, offering customers more seating (and, hopefully, shorter lines). As the neighborhood continues to rapidly gentrify, A&A’s sustained success serves as a delicious reminder of the Bed-Stuy’s rich Caribbean history.
Sehnert's Bakery & Bieroc Café (312 Norris Ave., McCook, NE 69001; Owners: Matt and Shelly Sehnert)
The bieroc is as essential to the fabric of Nebraska as is Husker football. A savory yeasted pastry, its legacy reaches back to German-speaking Russians who immigrated to the state in the nineteenth century. Sehnert's, in the southwest Nebraska town of McCook, makes a definitive version. The Sehnert family has been baking in the United States since 1897. Walt and Jean Sehnert opened the McCook bakery in 1957, and fourth-generation baker Matt Sehnert and his wife, Shelly, have operated the business since 1991. They provide a place to gather for everyday meals and special events; for live music; and, of course, for the signature bierocs filled with seasoned ground beef and cabbage or sauerkraut.
Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse (1609 17th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20009; Owner: Paul Katinas)
Annie’s endures as a nexus for Washington, D.C.’s LGBTQ community. George Katinas, a first-generation Greek-American and U.S. army veteran, opened the restaurant in 1948, and by the early sixties it had earned a reputation as a welcoming space for gay people. It moved to its current location in 1985, and George’s son, Paul Katinas, eventually took over. Through the years, Annie’s has remained a stalwart supporter of LGBTQ causes, among them the Gay Men’s Chorus, Whitman Walker Clinic, Food and Friends and the Pride parade. At Annie’s, the steaks are hefty, the burgers juicy and the cocktails strong, but what really keeps people coming back is the restaurant’s legacy of inclusiveness and respect.
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