Your Next Culinary Vacation? Visit the 2023 James Beard Award Finalists

Some people plan vacations around baseball stadiums. Others around national parks, hiking trails or beaches. But what about planning a trip around food? With the coast-to-coast representation of James Beard Award winners and finalists, foodies can easily plan a cross-country culinary adventure.

Every year, the James Beard Foundation presents awards to recognize exceptional talent and achievement by chefs, restauranteurs, authors and journalists. Their Restaurant and Chef Awards are highly respected in the culinary world and are seen by many diners as a measure of excellence.

Known as the “Oscars of Foods,” the 2023 James Beard Awards were awarded in Chicago on June 5th.

2023 James Beard Award winners

Winning a James Beard award is a highly coveted, potentially life-changing moment for chefs and their restaurants — and many culinary enthusiasts will quickly scoop up reservations at the winning establishments. So, while reservations at award recipients may be hard to swing, there are plenty of other top nominees to consider. The list below includes the eateries that earned top billing and some featured finalists to explore on your next U.S. getaway.

Award winners by region

California

California is considered a “region” all on its own, given its high number of excellent restaurants and award-worthy chefs. In fact, Niki Nakayama (n/naka) was nominated in the national Outstanding Chef category, Greg Dulan (Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen) was a finalist for Outstanding Restauranteur, and Rashida Holmes (Bridgetown Roti) received a nod as one of the year’s best Emerging Chefs.

Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker

Margarita Manzke, République, Los Angeles

Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program

OTOTO, Los Angeles

Best Chef

Justin Pichetrungsi, Anajak Thai, Sherman Oaks

Finalists:

  • Gilberto Cetina Jr., Holbox, Los Angeles
  • Kyle and Katina Connaughton, SingleThread, Healdsburg
  • Brandon Hayato Go, Hayato, Los Angeles
  • Carlos Salgado, Taco María, Costa Mesa

Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH)

The Great Lakes region is bursting with culinary excellence, and the finalists in this region represent a range of cuisines and approaches from chefs who specialize in both the inventive and the classics. In addition to the regional recognition, Hajime Sato (Sozai) was a finalist for the national award, Chicago’s Obélix was in line for Best New Restaurant, and Damarr Brown (Virtue) was a finalist in the Emerging Chef category.

Emerging Chef

Damarr Brown, Virtue, Chicago, IL

Best Chef

Tim Flores and Genie Kwon, Kasama, Chicago, IL

Finalists:

  • Omar Anani, Saffron De Twah, Detroit, MI
  • Diana Dávila, Mi Tocaya Antojería, Chicago, IL
  • Andy Hollyday, Selden Standard, Detroit, MI
  • Sarah Welch, Marrow, Detroit, MI

Mid-Atlantic (DC, DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA)

The state of Philadelphia figures prominently in the mid-Atlantic region, with numerous Best Chef nods, including an Outstanding Restauranteur nomination and an Emerging Chef finalist. But it was Rob Rubba of Oyster Oyster in Washington, D.C., who took home the big prize of Outstanding Chef in 2023.

Outstanding Chef

Rob Rubba, Oyster Oyster, Washington, D.C.

Outstanding Restaurant

Friday Saturday Sunday, Philadelphia, PA

Outstanding Restaurateur

Ellen Yin, High Street Hospitality Group (Fork, a.kitchen + bar, High Street, and others), Philadelphia, PA

Best Chef

Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon, Kalaya, Philadelphia, PA

Finalists:

  • Jesse Ito, Royal Sushi, Philadelphia, PA
  • Dionicio Jiménez, Cantina La Martina, Philadelphia, PA
  • Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski, Apteka, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Michael Rafidi, Albi, Washington, D.C.Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon, Kalaya, Philadelphia, PA

Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)

From North Dakota to Kansas, the Midwest region is geographically vast and deliciously diverse. With informal Spanish and Portuguese eateries and intimate, upscale sushi-ya, there’s something for everyone looking to explore some of the region’s best cuisine.

Outstanding Bakery

Yoli Tortilleria, Kansas City, MO

Best Chef

Itaru Nagano and Andrew Kroeger, Fairchild, Madison, WI

Finalists:

  • Sanaa Abourezk, Sanaa’s Gourmet Mediterranean, Sioux Falls, SD
  • Gregory León, Amilinda, Milwaukee, WI
  • Francesco Mangano, Osteria Papavero, Madison, WI
  • David Utterback, Yoshitomo, Omaha, NE

Mountain (CO, ID, MT, UT, WY)

Work up an appetite through some pre-meal mountain biking and hiking in this region — then tuck in for a bounty of options. From craft Mexican to high-end, limited-run five course meals, the Mountain region will satisfy a range of tastes and budgets.

Best Chef

Kris Komori, KIN, Boise, ID

Finalists:

  • Salvador Alamilla, Amano, Caldwell, ID
  • Michael Diaz de Leon, BRUTØ, Denver, CO
  • Suchada Johnson, Teton Thai, Teton Village, WY
  • Ali Sabbah, Mazza, Salt Lake City, UT
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New York State

Yes, this list is made up of a heavy concentration of NYC restaurants, but that’s of little surprise. After all, the city is one of the world’s most dynamic dining capitals – and being a favourite destination for Canadian weekenders, it seems a great place to dig in. The city (including the borough of Brooklyn) saw finalists in the categories of Outstanding Chef (Erik Ramirez, Llama Inn), Best New Restaurant (Dept of Culture) and Emerging Chef (Charlie Mitchell, Clover Hill).

Best Chef

Junghyun Park, Atomix, New York, NY

Finalists:

  • Nasim Alikhani, Sofreh, Brooklyn, NY
  • Mary Attea, The Musket Room, New York, NY
  • Amanda Cohen, Dirt Candy, New York, NY
  • Shaina Loew-Banayan, Cafe Mutton, Hudson, NY

Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT)

New England and the surrounding Northeast region have long been thriving culinary destinations. Some truly unique finds in the Northeast are on this list, from authentic Indigenous cuisine to chic modern Greek to nautical lounges.

Outstanding Hospitality

The Quarry, Monson, ME

Best Chef

Sherry Pocknett, Sly Fox Den Too, Charlestown, RI

Finalists

  • Valentine Howell, Krasi, Boston, MA
  • Christian Hunter, Community Table, New Preston, CT
  • Yisha Siu, Yunnan Kitchen, Boston, MA
  • Renee Touponce, The Port of Call, Mystic, CT

Northwest and Pacific (AK, HI, OR, WA)

For B.C.-based Canadians looking for options across the border, the Northwest and Pacific region offers culinary excellence within a few hours’ drive — or on your next trip to the islands.

Outstanding Bar

Bar Leather Apron, Honolulu, HI

Best New Restaurant

Kann, Portland, OR

Best Chef

Vince Nguyen, Berlu, Portland, OR

Finalists

  • Joshua Dorcak, MÄS, Ashland, OR
  • Thomas Pisha-Duffly, Gado Gado, Portland, OR
  • Beau Schooler, In Bocca Al Lupo, Juneau, AK
  • Aaron Verzosa, Archipelago, Seattle, WA

Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV)

In 2022, some of the top awards went to chefs and restaurants in the Southeast region, with Mashama Bailey of the Grey in Savannah, Georgia, named Outstanding Chef and Chai Pani in Asheville, North Carolina, named Outstanding Restaurant. This year’s list of finalists is equally exciting as last year’s.

Best Chef

Terry Koval, The Deer and the Dove, Decatur, GA

Finalists:

  • Sam Fore, Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites, Lexington, KY
  • Josh Habiger, Bastion, Nashville, TN
  • Sam Hart, Counter-, Charlotte, NC
  • Paul Smith, 1010 Bridge, Charleston, WV

South (AL, AR, FL, LA, MS, PR)

With the Best Chef award going to Natalia Vallejo in Puerto Rico, the culinary scene in America’s South is as eclectic as it is exquisite. You can’t go wrong in the South if you fancy a warm getaway with your dining adventures.

Best Chef

Natalia Vallejo, Cocina al Fondo, San Juan, PR

Finalists:

  • Ana Castro, Lengua Madre, New Orleans, LA
  • Timothy Hontzas, Johnny’s Restaurant, Homewood, AL
  • Henry Moso, Kabooki Sushi, Orlando, FL
  • Alex Perry and Kumi Omori, Vestige, Ocean Springs, MS

Southwest (AZ, NM, NV, OK)

While Vegas is home to some of the world’s best and flashiest restaurants, other parts of the Southwest were in the running for some of the James Beard Award’s top honours — and this year’s Southwest regional Best Chef award went to Andrew Black, one of two Oklahoma City contenders.

Best Chef

Andrew Black, Grey Sweater, Oklahoma City, OK

Finalists:

  • Oscar Amador, Anima by EDO, Las Vegas, NV
  • Kaoru Azeuchi, KAISEKI YUZU, Las Vegas, NV
  • Jeff Chanchaleune, Ma Der Lao Kitchen, Oklahoma City, OK
  • Justin Pioche, Pioche Food Group, Upper Fruitland (Doolkai), Navajo Nation, NM

Texas

Another state that gets its own regional category is Texas, thanks to the number of spectacular restaurants within its borders. Texas food tour? Sounds like a great way to spend a vacation.

Best Chef

Benchawan Jabthong Painter, Street to Kitchen, Houston

Finalists:

  • Reyna Duong, Sandwich Hag, Dallas
  • Emiliano Marentes, ELEMI, El Paso
  • John Russ, Clementine, San Antonio
  • Ernest Servantes and David Kirkland, Burnt Bean Co., Seguin