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The Best US Restaurants of 2024, According to the 'Oscars of Food'

Restaurants + Bars Food + Drink
by Suzie Dundas Jan 25, 2024

Hollywood may be abuzz with news of who was and wasn’t snubbed in the 2024 Academy Award nominations, but foodies across the US may be more interested in a different elite list. On January 24, the James Beard Foundation — named for the late American chef and culinary pioneer James Beard, who made cooking a mainstream, popular activity — announced the list of nominees for the most illustrious culinary awards in the world: the James Beard Awards. The awards are so prestigious and important that they’re regularly called the “Oscars of Food.”

“The James Beard Awards are among the nation’s most prestigious culinary honors,” wrote the organization in presenting the nominees. “The James Beard Awards honor those who are creating exceptional food, food media content, and better food systems, while demonstrating a commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive.”

The James Beard Awards are often compared to Michelin stars, but the latter has narrower focus. Michelin stars are a rating system used by the red Michelin Guide to grade restaurants on their overall quality. It was originally started by the Michelin tire company to increase demand for automobiles, and thus tires. Michelin stars are globally recognized and awarded based on the anonymous reviews of professional inspectors. However, Michelin stars are based solely on the dining experience, while the James Beard Awards celebrate a broader spectrum of culinary achievements with a focus on American contributions and innovation.

Just like the real Oscars, there are numerous James Beard Award categories. Instead of “Best Actor in a Leading Role,” it’s “Outstanding Chef,” and instead of “Best Director,” it’s “Outstanding Restauranteur.” Awards are given on a national level, though the foundation does have awards for chefs by regional groups of states. California, Texas, and New York have their own categories.

But by far the most exciting award is the most straightforward. Instead of a “Best Picture” Oscar, it’s the “Most Outstanding Restaurant” food Oscar. And the nominees are an impressive bunch.

These are the 20 restaurants nominated for the “Outstanding Restaurant presented by Acqua Panna Natural Spring Water” award. The award will be presented on June 10 in Chicago to the restaurant that most “demonstrates consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, hospitality, and operations while contributing positively to its broader community.”

Map of the 2024 ‘Oscars of Food’ Outstanding Restaurant nominees


You may think all the James Beard-nominated restaurants would be in big cities, but it’s not the case. You’ll find potential winners in rural North Carolina, waterfront in Mississippi, and in small California towns that aren’t exactly tourism destinations. Zoom in on the map above to seer all the Oscars of Food nominees.

2024 James Beard nominated restaurants on the Eastern Seaboard

2941

 

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  • Location: Falls Church, VA
  • Cuisine: Contemporary American
  • Price range: $31-$60 per person
  • Reservations: Online

2941 Restaurant is an upscale restaurant just outside Washington, DC. It’s ideal for date nights and special occasions and led by a chef who has won numerous awards in the DC area. The name “2941” is derived from the street address of the restaurant: 2941 Fairview Park Drive.

The DeBruce

 

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  • Location: Livingston Manor, NY
  • Cuisine: Farm to table
  • Price range: $61+ per person
  • Reservations: Yes

The DeBruce is an upscale mountain hotel in the Catskills with an emphasis on farm-to-table dining. Stays are inclusive of dinner and breakfast, which are served a la carte, in a communal family style setting, or as a high-end, wine-tasting affair.

Superiority Burger

 

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  • Location: NY, NY
  • Cuisine: Vegetarian burgers
  • Price range: Under $10 per person
  • Reservations: No

Superiority Burger is in the East Village and is the brainchild of chef Brooks Headley, former pastry chef at the Michelin-starred Del Posto. Expect a line, but it’s worth the wait, especially as it’s one of the cheapest restaurants nominated for the Oscars of Food.

Coracora

 

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  • Location: West Hartford, CT
  • Cuisine: Peruvian
  • Price range: $11-$30 per person
  • Reservations: Yes

Coracora‘s casual atmosphere in a strip mall parking lot hides what may be one of the best restaurants in the country. Coracora serves up traditional Peruvian eats. The owners hail from the town of Coracora, and it’s one of the few nominees with a female head chef: Executive Chef Macarena Ludena.

Bywater

 

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  • Location: Warren, RI
  • Cuisine: American
  • Price range: $11-$30 per person
  • Reservations: Yes

Bywater has a small-but-delicious menu that changes seasonally. It’s seafood-heavy, as you may expect in Rhode Island, and receives high reviews for both its food and its interesting and creative cocktail menu.

Pineapple & Pearls

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Cuisine: New American
  • Price range: $61+ per person
  • Reservations: Yes

Acclaimed restaurant Pineapple & Pearls was founded by Chef Aaron Silverman, who also owns the highly regarded Rose’s Luxury in DC. It’s gotten lots of regional recognition for its innovative approach to cuisine, impeccable service, and its glamorous vibes — think Hollywood meets a St. Barts beach club. Oh, and it’s a set four-course menu.

2024 James Beard nominated restaurants in the Midwest

The Duck Inn

 

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  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Cuisine: Duck and dogs
  • Price range: $30-$60 per person
  • Reservations: Yes

The Duck Inn is in ChiTown’s Bridgeport neighborhood and is known for its contemporary American cuisine with a focus on duck dishes. The Duck Inn is renowned for its signature dish, the “Duck Inn Dog,” a gourmet take on the classic hot dog featuring a duck sausage with various creative toppings. It’s already won a host of food awards.

Yoshitomo

 

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  • Location: Omaha, NE
  • Cuisine: Japanese
  • Price range: $30-60 per person
  • Reservations: Yes

Omaha is quickly becoming a foodie hot spot in the US, though people who live there will say it has been for years. Yoshitomo will give you a taste of what makes the city’s food scene so highly rated, serving Japanese small plates and sushi in both traditional and creative presentations. It’s already been called the “best restaurant in America” by The Washington Post.

Selden Standard

 

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  • Location: Detroit, MI
  • Cuisine: American
  • Price range: $11-$30 per person
  • Reservations: Yes

Selden Standard has made a significant impact on Detroit’s culinary scene, so it’s not surprising it was nominated as best restaurant in the Oscars of Food. Known for its commitment to using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, Selden Standard offers a menu characterized by contemporary American cuisine with a focus on wood-fired dishes. It’s also in a cool historic building in Detroit’s Midtown.

2024 James Beard nominated restaurants on the West Coast

Koi Palace

 

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  • Location: Daly City, CA
  • Cuisine: Dim Sum/Chinese
  • Price range: $11-$30 per person
  • Reservations: Yes

Koi Palace has three locations, but it’s the Daly City one that was nominated for the 2024 James Beard Oscars of Food. The menu has a huge variety of dishes and it’s great for groups who want to share a host of small dishes. Expect a line no matter what time of evening you go.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Cuisine: Oyster/seafood
  • Price range: $31-$60 per person
  • Reservations: Only on holidays

The Walrus and the Carpenter is a renowned oyster bar and restaurant celebrated for its commitment to showcasing the finest seafood and shellfish from the Pacific Northwest. Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s poem, the restaurant exudes a rustic and charming maritime ambiance (and lots of bright, ship-inspired decor).

Langbaan

 

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  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Cuisine: Thai
  • Price range: $61+ per person
  • Reservations: Yes

Landbaan is tucked behind a discreet entrance in the city’s PaaDee Restaurant and transports guests into an immersive and exclusive culinary journey of Thailand. It’s known for its high-end tasting menu and shows off a greater depth and variety of the country’s cooking than you’ll find in most Thai restaurants in the US.

2024 James Beard-nominated restaurants in the Southwest

Beckon

 

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  • Location: Denver, CO
  • Cuisine: Gastronomic American
  • Price range: $61+ per person
  • Reservations: Yes

Beckon already has a Michelin star, so it’s no surprise to see it on the James Beard nominee list. It’s extremely high-end, and dinners are ticketed, lasting nearly three hours. It offers a prix fixe menu, not a la carte dining, and the presentations are gorgeous. When you make your reservation, be sure to complete the culinary questionnaire that gets emailed to you ahead of time, especially if you have dietary restrictions.

The Compound

 

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  • Location: Santa Fe, NM
  • Cuisine: Southwestern
  • Price range: $61+ per person
  • Reservations: Yes

The Compound is everything you’d expect from a top-tier restaurant in New Mexico. The menu relies heavily on southwestern ingredients, flavors, and spices, and the chef has quite a few awards to his name. It’s an old-school type of place that feels nearly unchanged since it opened in the 1960s (which is a very good thing).

Convenience West

  • Location: Marfa, TX
  • Cuisine: Barbecue
  • Price range: $11-30 per person
  • Reservations: No

Marfa is a strange, strange town, in the best way possible. But Convenience West serves up a dish not very strange to Texas: all-things-barbecue. It’s casual and delicious, with outdoor, open-air seating in a classic Texas pit-stop atmosphere. There’s almost always a line, but it moves quick. Try to get there early as the restaurant can run out of popular dishes.

Mixtli

 

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  • Location: San Antonio, TX
  • Cuisine: Global Mexican
  • Price range: $61+ per person
  • Reservations: Yes

Mixtli is known for an innovative approach to Mexican cuisine. The name “Mixtli” means “cloud” in Aztec and reflects the restaurant’s desire to explore the diverse regional cuisines of Mexico, rather than the usual Tex-Mex offerings. The restaurant operates on a concept known as “Mexican culinaria,” presenting a rotating menu inspired by different states and regions of Mexico. Sometimes, it does totally unexpected menus, like the current “Mexico meets Japan” offering. All dinners are prix-fixe.

Nancy’s Hustle

 

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  • Location: Houston, TX
  • Cuisine: Bistro/Wine Bar
  • Price range: $31-$60 per person
  • Reservations: Yes

Yet another nominee for the Oscars of Food in Texas is Nancy’s Hustle, a restaurant that describes its menu as “wildly creative.” Menu items range from lamb tartare with green olive to glazed sweet potato with lime-pickle yogurt to olive oil-poached octopus, so it’s a great place to go to try something entirely new.

2024 James Beard-nominated restaurants in the South

Vestige

 

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  • Location: Ocean Springs, MS
  • Cuisine: New American/Gulf Coast
  • Price range: $61+ per person
  • Reservations: Yes, by phone

Vestige is technically an American restaurant, but it’s really more localized than that, recognized for the Southern influences lovingly displayed in its dishes. It’s one of the best spots for Gulf Coast cuisine in America and is tasting menu-only, and only open for dinner.

The Marketplace

  • Location: Asheville, NC
  • Cuisine: New American
  • Price range: $31-$60 per person
  • Reservations: Yes

The Market Place is in the center of downtown Asheville and has been fixture in the city’s culinary scene form more than four decades. The restaurant’s menu is crafted with a focus on contemporary American cuisine and is known for being a casual — but delicious — place to grab a good meal and a good beer. And it’s led by a chef with dozens of accolades and awards.

The Restaurant at Gideon Ridge Inn

 

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  • Location: Blowing Rock, NC
  • Cuisine: New American/Farm-to-table
  • Price range: $61 per person
  • Reservations: Yes

This is the restaurant at the beloved Gideon Ridge Inn, known for its picturesque setting atop a ridge with breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It uses fresh and locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, with a menu that changes week-to-week or even day-to-day, depending on the whims of the highly acclaimed chef.

 

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