The James Beard Foundation — founded in 1986 to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable — recently announced the five recipients of its 2017 America’s Classics Award.
These awards are given to restaurants that have timeless appeal and community character. The 2017 honorees join the ranks of nearly 100 restaurants that have received the award since the category was first introduced in 1998, and will be celebrated at the 27th annual James Beard Foundation Awards Gala on Monday, May 1, 2017 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
All JBF Award winners receive a certificate and a medallion engraved with the James Beard Foundation Awards insignia. There is no cash compensation… but your patronage is the ultimate prize anyway, right??!
So make sure to check out these five classic favorites on your travels:
Bertha’s Kitchen (2332 Meeting Street Road, Charleston, SC; Owners: Julia Grant, Linda Pinckney and Sharon Coakley)
Albertha Grant opened shop in 1980 on North Meeting Street, offering bold flavors of the Lowcountry. Today, her daughters Julia Grant, Linda Pinckney, and Sharon Coakley serve fried whiting, fried pork chops, red rice, prioleau rice, stewed chicken neck with gizzards and lima beans in the spot where vibrant family portraits by Charleston muralist Charles DeSaussure line the walls. Regulars queue the cafeteria line before eleven each morning. Go especially for the Okra soup: a dark garlicky stew, thick with tomatoes, and clods of pork in a richly aromatic broth.
Gioia’s Deli (1934 Macklind Avenue, St. Louis, MO; Owner: Alex Donley)
Gioia’s has been a fixture of the Hill, the neighborhood that is the heart of St. Louis’ Italian-American community, for over a century. First it served the community as a grocery store, run by Marcallo, Italy, native Challie Gioia. Since Cathy Donley bought it in 1980, the building, built from brick and wood from the 1904 World’s Fair, has functioned as a lunch restaurant. Through it all, the recipe for Gioia’s signature hot (as in temperature, not spice) salami hasn’t changed. That said, the (mostly) secret blend of pork-head meat, beef and seasonings packs a peppery bite. It’s a fresh, boiled sausage, with a texture like coarse pâté and a flavor that is porky, earthy, a little funky. Topped with the city’s beloved cheese, Provel, it’s a dish that has traveled from Italian to Italian-American to thoroughly St. Louisan.
La Taqueria (2889 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA; Owner: Miguel Jara)
Burrito connoisseurs endlessly debate which taqueria makes the definitive version of the foil- wrapped, all-in-one meal of meats, beans, rice, cheese, and more, wrapped in a whopper of a flour tortilla, and often called a “silver torpedo.” Through the years, La Taqueria has stood out as a standard-bearer. La Taqueria rejects the beans-and-rice approach to burritos, doubling down on the meat, and griddling them a golden-brown.
Sahadi’s (187 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY; Owners: Christina Sahadi Whelan and Ron Sahadi)
Sahadi’s sit at the heart of a cluster of Middle Eastern restaurants, groceries, bakeries and sundry shops in Brooklyn. It is a truly family-run operation; multiple generations have run this bulk bin wonderland, packed with locals scooping through glass jars of amaranth, pistachios, dried figs, spices, and roasted coffee, or loading their carts with pantry goods like pomegranate molasses and Middle Eastern cheeses. All of the flavors come together in the deli, where the family stocks multiple varieties of rich, tangy labneh, vats of creamy hummus and delicious seasonal salads as well as stocking the bakery with flaky borekas and baklava, harissa-drenched lavash and Middle Eastern breads.
Schultz’s Crab House (1732 Old Eastern Avenue, Essex, MD; Owners: Karen and Bob McKinney
Schultz’s, a quintessential Maryland crab house, opened in 1950 as a cafe and lounge, run by Mildred and William Schultz. Karen and Bob McKinney took over in 1969. Their children, led by son Steve McKinney, still operate the restaurant. Located in Essex, Maryland, an easy ten-mile drive from downtown Baltimore, Shultz’s sets the scene for a timeless seafood spread with its wood-paneled, nautical-themed dining room, with white butcher paper covering every table. In summer and fall, when Maryland crabs are at their finest, devoted regulars feast on locally caught swimmers plump with sweet meat and zinged with a house blend of spices. Regional classics, highlighting the Old Line State’s signature crustacean, fill out the menu, including jumbo lump and backfin crab cakes, crab fluff (a battered and deep-fried crab cake), and dairy-rich crab imperial.
Kate Michael is a Writer, Emcee, On-Camera Host and Fashion/Commercial Model. Follow her at @kstreetkate