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30 James Beard Award-Nominated Restaurants of 2014

By Kelly Dobkin
March 21, 2014

The 2014 James Beard Award finalists were just announced this Tuesday, so it's time to get well-versed in the restaurants that are going for medal this May. Below we've selected the 30 restaurants that are up for some of the most important JBAs including Outstanding Restaurant, Outstanding Service, Rising Star Chef and more. Check out the Zagat ratings (when applicable) and reviews for these spots in the map and slide show below.


View James Beard Award Finalists in a larger map

  • Outstanding Service: The Restaurant at Meadowood, Helena, CA

    Food: 27
    Decor: 27
    Service: 27
    Cost: $293

    "Unforgettable" is how fans describe the "singular experience" of dining at this special-occasion standout in St. Helena's Meadowood resort, where Christopher Kostow's "innovative", bespoke Californian tasting menus are paired with native wines and enhanced by "amazing presentations" and service to match, plus "serene" views overlooking croquet fields and fairways; the initiated swear it's worth the "stratospheric prices" to "experience at least once"; P.S. the bar lounge serves a more affordable three-course menu.

  • Outstanding Service: Blue Hill, NYC

    Food: 27
    Decor: 23
    Service: 26
    Cost: $89

    Dan Barber's "farm-to-table" "temple", this "top-tier" Village American "consistently wows" with "heavenly" "locavore" cuisine that "brings together the best ingredients and makes them shine"; a "serene", "sophisticated" venue where the staff "couldn't be more engaged", it's "well worth" the rez drama and "high-end" cost ("what's good enough for Mr. President . . .").

  • Outstanding Service: Quince, San Francisco, CA

    Food: 26
    Decor: 26
    Service: 26
    Cost: $101

    Guests embark on a "gastronomic adventure" at this "outstanding" Downtown Italian-French by chef Michael and Lindsay Tusk, proffering "exquisite" food and service with a focus on "inspired" tasting menus featuring Northern Californian ingredients; "intimate", "elegant" and "very expensive but worth it", it's "at the top of the local game", providing "a total experience."

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    Outstanding Service: Topolobampo, Chicago, IL

    Food: 28
    Decor: 24
    Service: 26
    Cost: $70

    "Tops in its category", Rick Bayless' "world-class" River North destination ranks as a "magnificent experience", offering "wow"-worthy, "high-end" Mexican tasting menus made up of "innovative", "flavorful" dishes plus "don't-miss" margaritas and "excellent" wines; its "upper-crust" atmosphere ("totally different from Frontera next door") further explains the "premium" prices, while "welcoming, passionate" staffers are another reason to "keep going back" (if you can "snag a table").

  • Outstanding Service: Vetri, Philadelphia, PA

    Food: 29
    Decor: 25
    Service: 26
    Cost: $202

    Acolytes attest "heaven on earth" can be found in an "unassuming" townhouse in Washington Square West, home of Marc Vetri's flagship Italian, a "gastronomic tour de force" that's "high-end" "without being ostentatious", offering "sublime" cuisine and "professional" service; while you may have to "raid your 401(k)" given the figures listed on the prix fixe–only menu, it's on just about "everyone's bucket list."

  • Outstanding Restaurant: The Slanted Door, San Francisco, CA

    Food: 26
    Decor: 23
    Service: 22
    Cost: $53

    "Tourists and regulars just keep coming and rightfully so", as Charles Phan's "longtime favorite" provides "extraordinary" "contemporary" Vietnamese cuisine in a "terrific" Embarcadero waterfront location; opinions vary on whether the "modern", "airy" space is "inviting" or too "noisy", and some feel the service can be "rushed", but most affirm the "pricey" tabs are worth it for such a "sensational" meal – "and the views of the bay aren't too bad either."

  • Outstanding Restaurant: Highlands Bar and Grill, Birmingham, AL

    French techniques and local ingredients add up to Southern sophistication at this Birmingham fine-dining spot where the menus change daily. Classic cocktails and more than 300 international wines are complemented by a white-tablecloth setting fit for special occasions.

  • Outstanding Restaurant: Spiaggia, Chicago, IL

    Currently closed for renovations and reopening this June, Tony Matuano's Italian mainstay on Magnificent Mile has been thrilling diners for 30 years with its upscale, authentic Italian cuisine. Locals anxiously anticipate the reopening with a new menu and chef (Top Chef alum Sarah Grueneberg made her exit last fall) and an updated, more modern and casual dining room. Meanwhile, Cafe Spiaggia next door is open for business right now.

  • Outstanding Restaurant: wd-50, NYC

    Food: 25
    Decor: 20
    Service: 25
    Cost: $117

    Bring an "open mind" to chef Wylie Dufresne's "cutting-edge" Lower Eastsider, where the "work-of-art" American-Eclectic menu is composed of "thoughtful", "unconventional" dishes; "skilled" staffers oversee the "appealing", open-kitchen space, and while the prix fixe–only format is "not cheap", it's definitely an "experience."

  • Outstanding Restaurant: Hearth, NYC

    Food: 24
    Decor: 20
    Service: 23
    Cost: $66

    An East Village "mecca for foodies", chef Marco Canora's Tuscan-American "old faithful" promises "delectable" fare from a "farm-based menu", complemented by a "fantastic", "amazingly eclectic" wine list; such "locavore goodness doesn't come cheap", but "sincere" service and a "warm", "bustling" atmosphere help ensure it's "worth the splurge."

  • Photo by: Mark Holthusen

    Rising Star Chef: Jessica Largey, Manresa, Los Gatos, CA

    Food: 27
    Decor: 26
    Service: 27
    Cost: $169

    "Exciting, unexpected and flawless" is how devotees describe the "special experience" at chef-owner David Kinch's Los Gatos New American, where "sublime", "inventive" tasting menus are inspired and sourced from its own biodynamic gardens; the "hours"-long meals served in the "sophisticated" dining room are elevated by "wonderful" wines and service that's like "precision choreography", and though it's all "horribly expensive", there's a lounge menu too; P.S. closed Monday and Tuesday.

  • Rising Star Chef: David Posey and Outstanding Pastry Chef: Dana Cree, Blackbird, Chicago, IL

    Food: 27
    Decor: 23
    Service: 25
    Cost: $69

    "Interesting", "sophisticated" New American dishes are "beautifully presented" by "attentive" staffers at this "well-established" West Loop "classic" from Paul Kahan and crew; the "sleek, modern" space can get "a bit loud", and it's certainly not cheap, but many still consider it a "top" place to "impress" and just right for a "special occasion."

  • Rising Star Chef: Jimmy Bannos Jr., The Purple Pig, Chicago, IL

    Food: 26
    Decor: 21
    Service: 21
    Cost: $42

    It's "always packed" at Jimmy Bannos Jr.'s "intimate" River North gastropub where the "interesting" Mediterranean menu is a "foodie adventure", full of "delicious", "mind-blowing" small plates including "unusual" "comfort zone"–busting choices you "won't see anywhere else"; "terrific" wines, "dynamite beers" and "friendly" staffers help fuel a "lively" scene, and while it's "easy to rack up a bill", it has all the makings for a "memorable" meal – if you can outlast the "long" wait (no reservations), that is.

  • Rising Star Chef: Blaine Wetzel, The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Lummi Island, WA

    Obsessively sourced local ingredients star in lavish seasonal American tasting menus offered in only one seating per night at this reservations-only Puget Sound destination, part of an upscale island inn. A relaxed atmosphere awaits diners who make the trek - a two-hour drive from Seattle followed by a short ferry ride.

  • Rising Star Chef: Katie Button, Cúrate, Asheville, NC

    From cheese and charcuterie to grilled and fried bites, this Asheville Spaniard celebrates traditional fare that pairs well an array of regional wines, beers and specialty drinks. An open kitchen adds to the warm, bustling vibe in the narrow, cocoa-hued space, a circa-1927 bus depot.

  • Best New Restaurant: Betony, NYC

    Helmed by Eleven Madison Park alums, this upscale arrival in Midtown's former Brasserie Pushkin space puts forth playful, artfully plated New American dishes matched with a creative cocktail list; the quiet upstairs dining room is suited to intimate dinners, while a bar area with vaulted ceilings is prime for a pre-curtain tipple before heading to nearby Carnegie Hall.

  • Photo by: Gabi Porter

    Best New Restaurant: Carbone, NYC

    Food: 21
    Decor: 21
    Service: 21
    Cost: $93

    Among NYC's "hottest" tickets, the Torrisi boys' "upscale" ode to Italo-American nostalgia in the Village's erstwhile Rocco's space delivers "fine" red-sauce classics theatrically presented by "jovial" tuxedoed waiters; it's an "upbeat", "celeb"-sprinkled "scene" with a '60s soundtrack, and while some find its "stagey" touches a bit much – ditto the "lotta moolah" prices – "when you see Jake Gyllenhaal and Jerry Seinfeld, you know the place has got to be good."

  • Photo by: Gabi Porter

    Best New Restaurant: Estela, NYC

    Upstairs from NoLita's Botanica is this well-priced arrival from Ignacio Mattos, who has traded in the aggressive modernism of his Isa days for creative, farmer's market–driven small plates with a Med bent; there's an ambitious wine list emphasizing unusual French labels, a long front bar with plenty of room for walk-ins and a just-launched new weekend brunch.

  • Best New Restaurant: Coqueta, San Francisco, CA

    Perched on the edge of Pier 5 with the San Francisco waterfront at its feet, this convivial eatery from celebrity chef Michael Chiarello (Bottega) showcases contemporary regional Spanish tapas and raciones (family-style large plates); the marble-topped bar focuses on artisanal Spanish and California wines, loads of sherry and molecular cocktails such as frozen sangria, plus a variety of housemade gin and tonics, all of which can also be enjoyed in the glass-enclosed terrace or alfresco on the patio along the Embarcadero.

  • Best New Restaurant: Peche Seafood Grill, New Orleans, LA

    Whole fish from the coal-fired grill and creative raw bar plates highlight the daily changing catch at this Warehouse District seafooder serving regional fare with a contemporary spin, plus local brews, specialty cocktails and wines. Exposed-brick walls and wooden seating lend a casual feel to the airy, open space.

  • Outstanding Pastry Chef: Dominique Ansel, Dominique Ansel Bakery, NYC

    Food: 27
    Decor: 25
    Service: 25
    Cost: M

    Pastry chef Dominique Ansel has created a "glorious piece of heaven" with his SoHo patisserie, where the canelés, "citrusy madeleines", tarts, cookies, "must-try" kouign amann and other "amazing" seasonal French treats are as "lovely to look at" as they are "delicious" – and the cronut (a croissant-donut hybrid) has sweet tooths lining up at the door; factor in savories served by an "incredibly nice staff" in a slim space augmented with the "surprise treat" of a roomy back garden, and to most it's "worth every penny" of the somewhat "pricey" tab.

  • Photo by: Osteria Mozza

    Outstanding Pastry Chef: Dahlia Narvaez, Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles, CA

    Food: 27
    Decor: 23
    Service: 23
    Cost: $67

    "Melt-in-your-mouth" pastas and a "to-die-for" mozzarella bar "speak volumes" about the "extraordinary" eating at this "high-end" Hollywood Italian from powerhouse pair Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali; "knowledgeable" servers tend to a "celebrity clientele" that packs the "elegant" space, and one bite of burrata ("wow!") will render the "deafening" noise and "huge prices" "worth it."

  • Outstanding Pastry Chef: Christina Tosi, Momofuku Milk Bar, NYC

    Food: 22
    Decor: 14
    Service: 19
    Cost: $18

    "Creative, cool and scrumptious" sums up David Chang's "non-typical" East Village bakery and its offshoots, where pastry chef Christina Tosi's "imagination" yields "fantastic" pork buns and "delightful" desserts including "sublime" cookies, "truly addicting" crack pie and soft-serve ice cream in "out-of-the-box" flavors; it's on the "expensive" side, and while you can "stand while you swoon" at "crowded" communal tables at the original location, the rest are takeout-only – "but you won't be sorry."

  • Outstanding Pastry Chef: Belinda Leong, b. patisserie, San Francisco, CA

    Food: 26
    Decor: 22
    Service: 20
    Cost: $18

    Devotees "bless the day" this "delectable" Lower Pac Heights patisserie started baking up its "fabulous" croissants, macarons and "signature" Viennese-style kouign amann (which "alone is worth" the trip); a few "artisanal" sandwiches, "good strong French coffee" and a "cute" if "limited" capacity space draw "the ladies who lunch bunch", and while some say "b. ready to pay" for the treats, they admit "excellence has a price."

  • Outstanding Bar Program: The Violet Hour, Chicago

    Food: 28
    Decor: 27
    Service: 24
    Cost: E

    "Don't order a vodka cranberry" at this "swanky" Wicker Park sib to Blackbird where "cocktail cognoscenti" and other "adventurous" imbibers savor "exceptional" drinks – "perfectly executed, right down to the style of ice in your glass"; "exaggerated" furnishings and drapery enhance the "seductive" "speakeasy" feel (and "keep the noise level to a hush"), and while a few reviewers are ruffled by "long" weekend waits and "house rules", most find the "unique" experience "justifies" the trouble; P.S. consider going during "off-hours" to beat the line.

  • Photo by: David Reamer

    Outstanding Bar Program: Clyde Common, Portland, OR

    Food: 26
    Decor: 23
    Service: 23
    Cost: $31

    There's "nothing common" about this American-Eclectic, a "hipster paradise" attached to the West End's Ace Hotel, which turns out a "short menu" featuring "high-quality, local ingredients cooked with care and invention" (even the "popcorn has magic on top") and stars a bar that "can't be overlooked" thanks to barrel-aged cocktails and house-crafted mixers; there's communal dining downstairs and "quieter" upstairs seating, and though a few find it "a bit pricey", the "quirky staff knows their ramps from their nettles."

  • Outstanding Bar Program: Bar Agricole, San Francisco, CA

    Food: 22
    Decor: 25
    Service: 22
    Cost: $51

    "Inventive", "locavore" dinners (and "not-to-be-missed" Sunday brunch) "struggle for" "supremacy" with the "even better" "killer cocktails" "hand-mixed" by "stylish bartenders" at this "stunning" SoMa Californian "near the clubs" that's "so cool" "you kind of want to hate it"; "portions are a bit small for the price", but service is "great" and "you can't help but love" the "Zen" interior and "beautiful patio"; a chef change may not be reflected in the Food score.

  • Outstanding Bar Program: NoMad Hotel Library Bar, NYC

    This opulent bar/lounge in Chelsea’s new NoMad Hotel channels an old-boys’ club with a high-ceilinged, book-lined setting that wouldn’t seem out of place at the NY Public Library – save for the 24-ft.-long mahogany bar; the bespoke cocktails on offer range from the classic to the newfangled, while bottle service arrives on an old-fashioned bar cart.

  • Outstanding Bar Program: Maison Premiere, NYC

    Food: 25
    Decor: 25
    Service: 18
    Cost: E

    Inspired by New Orleans, this Williamsburg bar/eatery exudes Crescent City charm with "impeccable" cocktails (some via an absinthe drip) served by a "dapper" team behind a horseshoe counter; an "amazing oyster selection", "back-in-time" ambiance and rear garden "wonderland" are further reasons why "everyone on the planet" is "waiting on line" outside.

  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Sirio Maccioni, Le Cirque, NYC

    Food: 25
    Decor: 26
    Service: 25
    Cost: $96

    "Old-time grandeur" endures at Sirio Maccioni's "time-tested" Midtown "dining icon", now in its 40th year thanks to a combination of "sumptuous" French cuisine, "exquisite" service and a "posh", Adam Tihany–designed setting with an "imaginative" circus motif; though both "jackets and deep pockets are required" in the main room, its cafe adjunct is less formal and more casually priced.

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