The James Beard Foundation announced Thursday the five recipients of its 2018 America’s Classics award. The America’s Classics award is given to restaurants that have timeless appeal and are cherished for quality food that reflects the character of their community. The 2018 honorees join the ranks of nearly 100 restaurants that have received the award since the category was first introduced in 1998. This year’s winners will be celebrated at the annual James Beard Foundation Awards Gala on Monday, May 7, 2018 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
This year, TABASCO Sauce is the presenting sponsor for the America’s Classics Award. “As a partner of the James Beard Foundation for decades, we have a longstanding appreciation for the role that culinary professionals play in making America’s food culture more vibrant, sustainable and accessible to all,” says Tony Simmons, CEO & President of McIlhenny Company, the makers of TABASCO Sauce. “On the occasion of our 150th Anniversary, we are honored by the love and loyalty that have brought us to this incredible milestone and are thrilled to have the opportunity to recognize these restaurant institutions that have made such a meaningful and lasting impact on their communities.”
The 2018 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Award recipients, presented by TABASCO Sauce are:
Sun Wah (5039 N. Broadway Street, Chicago; Owners: Kelly Cheng, Laura Cheng and Michael Cheng)
Eric Cheng began his career in New York City in Chinatown. In 1986, he and his wife, Lynda Cheng, opened a B.Y.O. storefront in Uptown Chicago, then as now the city’s most ethnically diverse neighborhood. In 2008, three out of their four children, Michael Cheng (barbeque chef), Kelly Cheng (general manager), and Laura Cheng (executive chef), took over the business and moved the restaurant to a bigger space around the corner. People travel from across the city for their famed three-course Beijing Duck Feast (so famous the family doesn’t bother listing it on the menu), carved tableside and served with duck fried rice and duck soup. Sun Wah got its liquor license years ago, but in a nod to its history and loyal supporters, permits B.Y.O. for a ludicrously low corkage fee.
Galleria Umberto (289 Hanover Street, Boston, MA; Owners: Paul Deuterio and Ralph Deuterio)
North End used to be a neighborhood of winding cobblestone streets. Italian immigrants began arriving here in the 1860s from Genoa, then Campania, Sicily, and Abruzzo. Umberto Deuterio founded Galleria Umberto in 1974. Sons Paul Deuterio and Ralph Deuterio run it today. The interior is straightforward, dominated by a counter and a hand-painted wall map of Italy. The Deuterios make arancini and calzones, but the main draw is crisp-edged squares of Sicilian pizza. When the pizza runs out, the shop closes for the day. They also close Galleria Umberto in July to maintain the business and spend time with family. Much has changed in the North End, but $1.85 here still buys you a slice and a taste of the old neighborhood.
Los Hernandez (3706 Main Street, Union Gap, WA; Owner: Felipe Hernandez)
Union Gap is the retail hub of rural Yakima County and home of Los Hernandez, where hand-made tamales are the sole menu items. In 1957, Felipe Hernandez immigrated from Piedras Negras in Coahuila, Mexico, to eastern Washington to work in agriculture. Some 40 percent of U.S.-grown asparagus is cropped in Washington, much of it by Hispanic farmworkers in the Yakima Valley. He opened Los Hernandez in 1990, using a recipe adapted from his sister Leocacia Sanchez’s tamales. Today, Hernandez and his wife June, along with daughter Rachel Wilburn and her husband Dion Wilburn, begin by milling dried corn to make masa. Chicken and pork tamales are available year-round. From mid-April to June, production shifts to a pepper jack and asparagus combination that makes the most of the short-lived local crop.
El Guero Canelo (5201 S 12th Avenue, Tucson, AZ; Owner: Daniel Contreras)
The Sonoran hot dog evinces the flow of culinary and cultural influences from the U.S. to Mexico and back. Decades ago, elaborately dressed hot dogs began to appear as novelty imports on the streets of Hermosillo, the Sonoran capital. Today, Tucson is the American epicenter, and Daniel Contreras is the leading hotdoguero. A Sonoran native, Contreras was 33 in 1993 when he opened El Guero Canelo. The original stand is now a destination restaurant, outfitted with picnic tables and serviced by a walk-up order window. Fans converge for bacon-wrapped franks, stuffed into stubby bollilos, smothered with beans, onion, mustard, jalapeno sauce, and a squiggle of mayonnaise. Contreras operates three branches in Tucson, one in Phoenix, and a bakery to supply the split-top buns.
Dong Phuong Bakery (14207 Chef Menteur Highway, New Orleans, LA: Owner: Linh Tran Garza)
The Vietnamese community in New Orleans dates to the end of the Vietnam War, when refugees moved to Louisiana, where they relished a climate reminiscent of their home. De Tran and Huong Tran settled in New Orleans East. In 1982, they opened Dong Phuong, one of the area’s first Vietnamese bakeries. They became known for their banh mi, sandwiches variously stuffed with pâté, Chinese sausage, and barbecue chicken, slicked with aioli and topped with pickled vegetables and fresh herbs. Now run by Huong Tran and daughter, Linh Tran Garza, Dong Phuong exemplifies how thoroughly the Vietnamese community has become a vital part of the local culinary landscape. The bakery now supplies dozens of cafes and shops with thin, crackling-crust bread with a pillowy interior, ideal for building the city’s iconic po-boy sandwiches.
To qualify for the America’s Classics award, establishments must have been in existence at least ten years and be locally owned. The honorees are selected each year by the James Beard Foundation’s Restaurant & Chef Awards committee, a group composed of restaurant critics, writers, editors and other experts. The selection process begins each fall with a public call for entries, allowing anyone the opportunity to suggest candidates for the awards.
The James Beard Foundation Awards Gala will be held at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on Monday, May 7, 2018. During the event, which is open to the public, awards for the Restaurant and Chef and Restaurant Design categories will be handed out, along with special achievement awards Humanitarian of the Year, Lifetime Achievement, Design Icon, Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, and America’s Classics. A gala reception will immediately follow, featuring top chefs and beverage professionals from across the country.
On Friday, April 27, 2018, the James Beard Media Awards, an exclusive event honoring the nation’s top cookbook authors, culinary broadcast producers and hosts, and food journalists, will take place at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers in New York City.
Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields and furthers the Foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone. Each award category has an individual committee made up of industry professionals who volunteer their time to oversee the policies, procedures, and selection of judges for their respective Awards program. All JBF Award winners receive a certificate and a medallion engraved with the James Beard Foundation Awards insignia. There are no cash prizes.
The 2018 James Beard Foundation Awards are proudly hosted by Choose Chicago and the Illinois Restaurant Association as well as the following partners: Premier Sponsors: All-Clad Metalcrafters, American Airlines, HMSHost, Lavazza, S.Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water, TABASCO Sauce; Supporting Sponsors: Breville, Hyatt, Robert Mondavi Winery, Skuna Bay Salmon, Valrhona, Windstar Cruises; Gala Reception Sponsors: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Ecolab, Front of the House, Kendall College; with additional support from: Chefwear, Emmi Roth and VerTerra Dinnerware.