The James Beard Foundation announced the six recipients of this year’s America’s Classics Award, which goes to longstanding independent restaurants with loyal followings that give them near-iconic status in their communities.
They are selected by the foundation’s Restaurant and Chef Awards Committee, which also votes on the higher-profile awards for outstanding chefs, restaurateurs, restaurants and beverage professionals as well as the 12 regional awards for “best chefs” in their geographic area. Those winners will be announced at a gala celebration at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on June 5, and the America’s Classics winners will also be celebrated at that time.
The Beard Awards themselves were launched in 1990, with the first celebration held in 1991. The America’s Classics category was introduced in 1998.
This year’s winners represent six of the 12 regions, namely Texas, the South (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Puerto Rico), Northwest and Pacific (Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington), Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont), Mountain (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming), and Great Lakes (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio). Next year's winners will be from the other six regions.
Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop
Operating in Austin, Texas, since 1935, when Sophia DeLa’O opened it as La Oriental Grocery & Bakery. It was bought by Joe and Paula Avila in 1962. They moved it from East 9th Street to East 7th Street and gave it its current name. It serves classic Mexican pastries and Tex-Mex family recipes such as migas, carne guisada, breakfast tacos and a signature fried bacon — thick-cut slabs dredged in flour and cooked on the flattop.
It’s now owned by widowed Paula Avila.
La Casita Blanca
Jésus Pérez Ruiz opened this casual comfort-food restaurant in the Villa Palmeras section of the Santurce neighborhood of San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1980. The menu is written on a chalkboard and offers items such as salt cod fritters, pig feet, fricase de pollo, carne guisada, and rice and beans, and each meal ends with an anise-based digestif called a chichaíto.
It is now run by Ruiz’s two sons Leonardo and Jésus Pérez De Leon.
Hawaii’s oldest continually operating restaurant, the Manago Hotel was opened in 1917 in Captain Cook on Hawaii’s Big Island in 1917 by Kinzo Manago and his wife Osame Nagata, both immigrants from Fukuoka, Japan.
It is truly a hotel, originally offering cots for travelers between Hilo and Kona.
It was contracted to feed soldiers during the Second World War, and has remained largely unchanged since then, serving pork chops fried in a cast iron pan, liver and onions, local fish, and a few other entrées, all served with rice and Hawaiian side dishes usually including macaroni salad. It’s run by sisters Britney and Taryn Manago, who are great-grandchildren of the founders.
This café in Turner, Maine, operated by Gloria and Gregg Varney, is on the first organic dairy farm in the state. The Varneys opened it in 1987, although the property has been in Gloria Varney’s family form more than a century. Originally a coffee shop, it is now also a bakery, fromagerie, and charcuterie
Pekin Noodle Parlor
Hum and Bessie Yow opened this restaurant, the oldest continuously operating Chinese family restaurant in the country, in Butte, Mont., in 1911 with the help of Tam Kong Yee.
A 17-table restaurant on the second floor of a building on Butte’s main drag, the restaurant still offers Americanized Chinese dishes including 16 varieties of chop suey, plus sweet-and-sour pork, egg rolls, and chow mein. It’s currently owned by the Yows’ great-great-great grandson Jerry Tam.
Wagner’s Village Inn
Known for its peppery fried chicken, this Oldenburg, Ind., restaurant serves the traditionally comfort food of Southeastern Indiana, including coleslaw, string beans, and mashed potatoes with gravy, Owner Ginger Saccomando’s parents opened it in 1968, having learned their chicken technique from the owners of the now-closed Hearthstone restaurant in Metamora, Ind., around 10 miles away.
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]