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The Best of Chicago's James Beard Nominees

Chicago's top semifinalist and finalist picks for the 2016 James Beard Foundation Awards

Chicago is proud to call itself the home base of the James Beard Foundation Awards Gala for a second year in a row on May 2, 2016. And not only that—we had a multitude of nominees. Here are a few of our favorites from the list of semifinalists and finalists—and some must-haves for your future dining adventures. 

Classic Chef: Tony Mantuano 

Tony Mantuano
Tony Mantuano (©Kenny Nakai)

An award-winner many times over, chef Tony Mantuano was once again a semifinalist for Outstanding Chef. Mantuano is chef-partner at the famed Spiaggia, the only four-star Italian restaurant in the city, and it’s for good reason—it’s an incredible experience all around. But you can also find him around town at little-sister Cafe Spiaggia, patio favorite River Roast, the Art Institute of Chicago’s chic Terzo Piano, and laidback Magnificent Mile-adjacent Bar Toma, a place you’d likely find “Tony” hanging out when he’s not running the Chicago culinary scene. Spiaggia, 980 N. Michigan Ave., 312.280.2750, www.spiaggiarestaurant.com


Classic Service: North Pond

North Pond
North Pond (Courtesy North Pond)

The Outstanding Service finalist’s picturesque views aren’t only of Lincoln Park—the plating is consistently a true work of art. It’s hard to tell where nature ends and cuisine begins as Chef Bruce Sherman takes his inspiration from local markets and the freshest of ingredients. Celebrating a special occasion? Call ahead and the staff will personalize your menu. 2610 N. Cannon Dr., 773.477.5845, www.northpondrestaurant.com


New Classic Restaurant: Alinea

Alinea (©Cristian Seel)

We’ve known friends across the country who plan vacations all around their reservations at JBF Outstanding Restaurant finalist Alinea, the only restaurant in Chicago with a 3-Star Michelin rating. The newly renovated hot spot has been known for its truly magical 18- to 22-course tasting menus since 2005, and isn’t losing any steam (in popularity or actual presentation), which makes us think that it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Chef Grant Achatz’s innovative modern techniques are the new classic, along with the Alinea group’s use of ticketing service Tock, now making appearances at exclusive dining spots across the city. 1723 N. Halsted St., 312.867.0110, www.alinearestaurant.com


New Classic Restaurateurs: Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz

Boka Restaurant Group's Momotaro (©Aburi Kanpachi)

Name one of the best restaurants in Chicago, and there’s a huge chance Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz are the power duo behind it. They are finalists for Outstanding Restaurateur and head up the Boka Restaurant Group, soon to have 13 entities under its belt. With famous chefs like Stephanie Izard and Paul Virant on its payroll, its no wonder Boka restaurants—like the original Boka, Girl & The Goat, Momotaro and recent addition Swift & Sons—are some of the toughest reservations in town. From Michelin stars to Jean Banchet Awards, there’s no slowing down this new classic empire. Boka Restaurant Group, 312.238.9896, www.bokagrp.com


New Faces: Taking Over

The Blanchard
The Blanchard (Courtesy The Blanchard)

The restaurant industry can be brutal, so we’re always proud to see new Chicago spots thrive—and thrilled when they achieve recognition for it. Our favorite newbie James Beard nominees include semifinalists The Blanchard (1935 N. Lincoln Park West, 872.829.3971, www.theblanchardchicago.com) and Parachute (3500 N. Elston Ave., 773.654.1460, www.parachuterestaurant.com), and finalist Fat Rice (2957 W. Diversey Ave., 773.661.9170, www.eatfatrice.com). The Blanchard, a French restaurant in Lincoln Park nominated for Best New Restaurant, made its debut last year. Parachute was nominated for Best Chef (Great Lakes) for its chef team, Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark, but we think these two should be national contenders. And we can’t forget Fat Rice, Logan Square’s “it” restaurant, with Chef Abraham Conlon nominated as a finalist for Best Chef (Great Lakes).