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Beard Foundation names America’s Classics for 2019

Five regional concepts are cherished for quality, character and lasting appeal

Five restaurants deemed America’s Classics were spotlighted by the James Beard Foundation on Friday.

The Classics award goes to regional establishments — often family owned — that are cherished for their quality food, local character and lasting appeal, foundation officials said. 

This year, the winners were featured in Instagram and Facebook videos with a local influencer giving their take. The restaurants will be honored along with other Beard award winners at the annual gala at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on May 6.

Here’s a look at this year’s Classics:

Pho 79 in Garden Grove, Calif., was founded in 1982 by Tho Tran and Lieu Tran as a pho restaurant way ahead of its time. The restaurant paved the way for Southern California — and, in particular, Orange County — to become a hub for Vietnamese cuisine, the foundation said. The next generation of the Tran family now operates the restaurant. 

“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,” the foundation said.

Jim’s Steak & Spaghetti House in Huntington, W.Va., reflects a region where so many Italian immigrants settled in the early 1900s that Italy once set up a consulate there. Since 1945, spaghetti has been the lifeblood for the restaurant, and most people leave out the “steak” in the name, according to co-owner and general manager Jimmie Tweel Carder, who along with two brothers inherited the restaurant from their father, Jim Tweel. It’s also known for its strawberry pie.

A&A Bake & Double and Roti Shop in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., is described as a standout for its “doubles,” a Trinidadian specialty that consists of curried chickpeas layered between two deep-fried flatbreads (for only $1.50).

The restaurant was founded in 2002 by Trinidad natives Noel and Geeta Brown, who recently moved the concept down the street to a larger space. Still, it serves as a reminder of the neighborhood’s Caribbean history amid rapid gentrification, the foundation said.

Sehnert’s Bakery & Bieroc Café in McCook, Neb., is all about the bieroc, a savory yeast pastry brought to the region by German-speaking Russian immigrants. At Sehnert’s, the signature bieroc is filled with seasoned ground beef and cabbage or sauerkraut. 

With a long history of baking in the family, the bakery was first opened by Walt and Jean Sehnert in 1957. Fourth-generation baker Matt Sehnert and his wife, Shelly, have been operating the business since 1991.

Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse in Washington, D.C., is described as a nexus for the LGBTQ community of the nation’s capital. First opened in 1948 by George Katinas, a Greek-American Army veteran, the restaurant earned a reputation as a welcoming space for gay people, the foundation said.

The restaurant moved in 1985 and is run by the founder’s son, Paul Katinas. “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,” the foundation said.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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