The James Beard Foundation has released its semifinalists for the coveted 2023 chef and restaurant awards. Bay Area foodies rejoice, because there’s a local restaurant in the running for every single category! The final James Beard Award nominees will be announced on March 29th and winners will be revealed on June 5th. But for now, we have plenty of time to peruse the Bay Area semifinalists and try them out for ourselves. Read on to learn more about the restaurants and chefs that made the cut.
1. Outstanding Restaurateur: Yuka Ioroi and Kris Toliao, Cassava
Get your fix of California cuisine at this new North Beach hotspot. Apart from the prix fixe menus and fresh, locally sourced ingredients, Cassava is known for its forward-thinking business model. Kitchen staff, servers, and everyone in between is paid a livable wage with full medical benefits. Enjoy the best of California ingredients and feel good about holding the restaurant industry to higher standards.
Location: 401 Columbus Ave, San Francisco
2. Outstanding Chef: David Nayfeld, Che Fico
Enjoy California-inspired Italian fare at this stunning and spacious restaurant. Gorgeous decor aside, Che Fico fosters a relaxing and casual dining environment where you can dine on tasty handmade pizza and pasta dishes paired with both Italian and Californian wines, housemade salumi, and plates inspired by Jewish-Roman heritage.
Location: 838 Divisadero Street, San Francisco
3. Outstanding Restaurant: Mourad
This innovative Michelin-starred Moroccan restaurant has a vibrant, shiny interior that reflects the punchiness of its flavorful menu. Enjoy the best of Moroccan cuisine with a modern, Californian twist – think couscous, halibut and lamb dishes with bright flavors and dynamic spices.
Location: 140 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco
4. Emerging Chef: Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino, Cafe Ohlone
This is the only Ohlone restaurant in the world, creating gorgeous dishes from ingredients indigenous to the Bay Area. Owners Vincent Medina (Chochenyo Ohlone) and Louis Trevino (Rumsen Ohlone) reopened the beloved restaurant at UC Berkeley in 2021.
Menu items include tan oak acorn bisque; Ohlone salad with blackberries, huckleberry, hazelnuts, and edible flowers; venison and gathered mushroom stew; dandelion soup; crispy duck breast; and much more. Drinks include rose hip tea, elderberry cider, and housemade elderflower soda. Not only is the food delicious, but it’s colorful and beautiful to look at, celebrating ingredients native to California and especially the Bay Area.
Location: 2430 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
5. Best New Restaurant: Birch & Rye
This modern Russian restaurant opened in early 2022 to rave reviews. The menu focuses on Russian food through a Californian lens with special focus on the traditions of foraging and fermenting. Menu options include a 5-course Chef’s menu, a 5-course vegan menu, and an outstanding caviar service. Birch & Rye also works to improve restaurant wage standards by charging a 20% “quality of life” surcharge which is split amongst the staff, allowing the restaurant to pay a livable wage and offer medical insurance to its employees.
Location: 1320 Castro St, San Francisco
6. Outstanding Bakery: Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop
Find this family-owned bakery inside Japantown’s Super Mira Market. Yasukochi’s is famous for its to-die-for Coffee Crunch Cake, which has been lauded in numerous local publications as the best cake in San Francisco. The fluffy yellow cake is layered with whipped cream and a Yasukochi’s own handmade coffee candy. Order the cake (or a variation of it) for your next event, or just stop by for a slice next time you’re in Japantown.
Location: Super Mira Market, 1790 Sutter Street, San Francisco
7. Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker: Vince Bugtong, Viridian
This stylish cocktail bar in Oakland has a spectacular beverage program led by several titans of the Bay Area restaurant industry. But this year, it’s the delicate and carefully crafted pastries that put Viridian on the James Beard Foundation’s radar. Executive Pastry Chef Vince Bugtong composes inventive creations inspired by Asian cuisine, such as Thai tea tiramisu and chocolate black sesame cake.
Location: 2216 Broadway, Oakland
8. Outstanding Hospitality: House of Prime Rib
This old-school English restaurant is one of the most-reviewed restaurants in the city on Google, and for good reason. This is where you’ll find high-quality prime rib to enjoy alongside excellent wines and cocktails. The atmosphere is taken up a notch with jolly fireplaces, traditional decor, and fantastic service.
Location: 1906 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco
9. Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program: Lazy Bear
Lazy Bear works to bring people together with quickly-changing New American fare served at communal tables. It nabbed a spot as a James Beard Awards semifinalist thanks to its elaborate and thoughtful wine and beverage program overseen by Beverage Director Jacob Brown. Their wine list has over 1,700 selections from around the world with special emphasis on California.
Location: 3416 19th St, San Francisco
10. Outstanding Bar: Trick Dog
This award-winning bar serves an unbelievable cocktail menu alongside delicious gourmet hotdogs from their foodie counterpart, Quik Dog. The menu is somewhere between a children’s book and an ancient manuscript, with drinks inspired by divinity, creative expression, rationality, and hedonism.
Location: 3010 20th St
11. Best Chef: California
In addition to the aforementioned categories, a number of individual Bay Area chefs have also made it to the semifinals for Best Chef: California. Of the twenty chefs in the semifinals, eight of them come from Bay Area restaurants:
- Val M. Cantu, Californios, San Francisco
- Pim Techamuanvivit, Kin Khao, San Francisco
- Robbie Wilson, Le Fantastique, San Francisco
- Intu-on Kornnawong, Jo’s Modern Thai, Oakland
- James Syhabout, Commis, Oakland
- Akira Yoshizumi, Sushi Yoshizumi, San Mateo
- Srijith Gopinathan, Ettan, Palo Alto
- Kyle and Katina Connaughton, SingleThread, Healdsburg