The food fanatics reading this likely already know, but: Earlier this week, the James Beard Foundation shared its annual list of Restaurant and Chef Awards semifinalists. Although this is just a start toward netting a coveted Beard award — not unlike the food world’s Grammys — even landing on the semifinalist list is a big thing.
Naturally, given our increasingly praised restaurant scene, Nashville is represented. If you’re new to town and aren’t sure where some of our best chefs and mixologists and restaurateurs are hiding, the Beard semifinalists are a great place to start.
Here’s a little bit about these Nashville-based 2016 James Beard honorees:
UPDATE: Tandy Wilson and Sean Brock are now finalists. Huge congrats to those talented chefs!
Nashville’s 2016 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards semifinalists
Outstanding Bar Program:
The Patterson House
1711 Division St. Nashville, TN
The highbrow cocktail scene in Nashville really kicked into high gear with the arrival of The Patterson House in 2009. Its speakeasy vibe hints to the fact that they’ll serve you any number of classic cocktails — Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, Negronis — and do so with the practiced hands of folks who take imbibing deadly serious. But what they’re really praised and loved for is their own creative bar menu creations — the kind you nurse slowly and deliberately to make sure you get each ingredient. The Bacon Old Fashioned is always a solid choice (with Benton’s Bacon-infused bourbon, maple syrup and coffee-pecan bitters). For something a little lighter and cleaner, the Juliet & Romeo (with gin, lime, mint, cucumber and rosewater) is crisp and floral and so, so good.
Sean Brock, Husk Nashville
37 Rutledge Street, Nashville TN
Beard nods are nothing new for Husk chef Sean Brock — he was a finalist for Outstanding Chef honors in 2013, 2014, and 2015, and took the Best Chef Southeast win in 2010. That it keeps happening should be an indication of just how good his distinctly Southern food is. Nashville’s Husk isn’t his flagship — the first was in Charleston — and it’s certainly not his only restaurant (he has others in Charleston and Atlanta). But his local and seasonal mindset definitely fits in here just fine.
Benjamin and Max Goldberg, Strategic Hospitality
The Patterson House, above? Benjamin and Max Goldberg’s. The Catbird Seat upstairs from that space, which Bon Appetit called the 5th-Best New Restaurant in America in 2012? Theirs too. There’s also the creatively cool restaurant hangout Pinewood Social (maybe the only place in America you can get an upscale meal, then bowl a few frames and take a dip in the pool), and kitschy honky-tonk-vibed Paradise Park downtown. Their contributions to the culinary scene in Nashville have definitely been among the most creative, and the most delicious. And it’s nothing new, really — the Goldberg name was intertwined with the city’s hospitality-world growth long before the “It City” thing was even a glimmer, when Benjamin opened cosmopolitan spot Bar 23 in The Gulch back in 2003.
Best Chef Southeast
Tandy Wilson, City House
1222 4th Ave N, Nashville, TN
City House’s Wilson is another James Beard repeat performer — 2015 was the third consecutive year he hit the Best Chef Southeast finals. We’re hoping this is the year the Germantown chef takes it home, since he certainly deserves it, bringing dishes and flavors of Italy together with Southern influences, and creating menus that are all-around delicious.
Are you a fan of any of these spots? Have other Nashville restaurants/chefs that you think the Beard folks should be looking at? Hit us with your thoughts.