Meet the 2023 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics winners

San Juan's La Casita Blanca is among the James Beard Foundation America's Classics award winners. Photo credit: La Casita Blanca
The interior of the San Juan restaurant La Casita Blanca

The James Beard Foundation kicked off the 2023 restaurant world award season today when it announced its America’s Classics. These awards are a nod to historic restaurants around the country that are locally owned and beloved for their great food, warm hospitality, and the defining role they play in their communities.

The six winners this year include the oldest continually operating Chinese restaurant in America, a 125-year-old Hawaiian restaurant, and a Puerto Rican fonda revered for its comfort fare. Restaurants that receive this award are at least 10 years old, and this cohort now joins more than 100 recipients of the America’s Classics award since its inception in 1988. 

Tune in on March 29 when the James Beard Foundation reveals the finalists for its restaurant and chef awards. The winners will be revealed at a ceremony in Chicago on June 5. The America’s Classics winners will be celebrated at that ceremony as well. 

Read on for the full list of America’s Classics winners:

Pekin Noodle Parlor (Butte, Montana)

Four American Chinese food dishes placed on a tray at Montana restaurant Pekin Noodle Parlor
American Chinese staples star on the menu at the historic Pekin Noodle Parlor. Photo credit: Pekin Noodle Parlor

Hum and Bessie Yow debuted Pekin Café and Lounge along with Tam Kwong Yee in 1911. It was part of a legal office and mercantile building the trio built two years prior. The restaurant quickly became a favorite for Chinese immigrants working in the mines and railroads in the area.

With limited access to ingredients from their native China, the trio served some of the earliest versions of the American Chinese dish, chop-suey. Eventually, they served 16 varieties of the noodle favorite along with other staples of American Chinese cooking such as sweet-and-sour pork, pineapple fried rice, and egg rolls. The restaurant also became a go-to destination for the illegal gambling parlor in the basement. 

Today, Pekin is operated by Yee’s great-great grandson Jerry Tam, who took over the business from his parents Sharon and Ding K. Tam. Diners can still climb the same steep flight of stairs to the second-floor noodle shop and post up at one of the 17 tables inside, where booths are separated by orange beadboards. 

Manago Hotel (Captain Cook, Hawaii)

The interior of the Hawaii restaurant Manago Hotel
Manago Hotel is Hawaii’s oldest continually operating restaurant. Photo credit: Manago Hotel

Japanese immigrants Kinzo Manago and Osame Nagata opened Manago Hotel in 1917 offering simple fare such as udon and coffee, and cots for travelers going between Hilo and Kona. The hotel and restaurant expanded in subsequent decades, but not much has changed since the 1940s, including a hand sink by the entrance that was reportedly used by local coffee farmers who frequented the spot.

Diners return for the restaurant’s famed pork chops that are fried in a cast iron skillet that’s rumored to be as old as the hotel. Fourth-generation owners and sisters Britney and Taryn Manago are still serving a contained menu (under a dozen items), with mains presented in large bowls alongside Hawaiian banchan such as potato macaroni salad.

Joe’s Bakery and Coffee Shop (Austin, Texas)

Three women and a baby seen at Austin restaurant Joe's Bakery and Cafe.
Joe’s Bakery and Coffee Shop seen here in a photo from 1982. Photo credit: Joe’s Bakery and Coffee Shop.

The Avila family has been preparing Tex-Mex favorites such as breakfast tacos, migas, and pork carne guisada for the East Austin community for more than 60 years. The late Joe Avila and his spouse Paula Avila debuted the business in 1962 and established a restaurant frequented by locals for its top-notch hospitality.

Three generations of Avila women led by Paula Avila now run the restaurant, where they continue to serve breakfast staples. Thick-cut bacon dredged in flour, cooked on a flat-top grill, and served in a taco, is a standout. The restaurant also remains a community hub. During the pandemic, Joe’s sold toilet paper and other essentials, and it’s common to see voter registration on the restaurant’s front patio. 

Nezinscot Farm (Turner, Maine)

Several round baked pies on a surface at Nezinscot farm in Maine.
The pastry counter is a highlight at Nezinscot Farm in Maine. Photo credit: Nezinscot Farm.

Nezinscot Farm started as Maine’s first organic dairy farm before owners Gloria and Gregg Varney expanded to open a café and coffee shop in 1987. Buoyed by demand, the Varneys have since expanded further, adding a bakery, cheese shop, and deli. 

Customers visiting Nezinscot will find shelves lined with freshly baked pies, homemade cheeses, and bagels. The robust café menu includes dishes such as biscuits with sausage gravy, hearty omelets loaded with vegetables or meat, and Reuben melts. 

La Casita Blanca (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

A close up of a rice dish at La Casita Blanca in Puerto Rico
La Casita Blanca is known for its homestyle Puerto Rican food such as arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas). Photo credit: La Casita Blanca

Fondas are casual, inexpensive, family-run restaurants, and that’s what owner Jesús Pérez Ruiz planned for La Casita Blanca when he opened it in 1980. For Puerto Ricans, going to a fonda is like visiting a tía or abuela’s house for a family feast.

True to its nature, the restaurant serves family-style plates of fried codfish fritters with hot sauce, patitas de cerdo (pig’s feet), and rice and beans. Meals end with a small glass of chichaíto, an anise digestif. Ruiz’s sons now run the restaurant and have maintained its homey vibe.

Wagner’s Village Inn (Oldenburg, Indiana)

Indiana-style fried chicken relies on a heavy dose of black pepper, and Wagner’s Village Inn has stayed true to that tradition since its opening in 1968. Owner Ginger Saccomando’s parents learned to make the dish from the owners of Hearthstone, a now-closed restaurant in nearby Metamora that reportedly pioneered this style of frying chicken. 

The simple wood-paneled dining room and the fried chicken sizzling in cast-iron skillets remain. Diners come to Wagner’s for a family-style meal of chicken cut into ten pieces, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, and coleslaw. 

Tanay Warerkar is a content marketing manager at OpenTable

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