The James Beard Foundation has announced the five winners of this year's America's Classics Award, an award that "is given to restaurants that have timeless appeal and are beloved for quality food that reflects the character of their community." The 2013 recipients are Minneapolis sausage specialists Kramarczuk's, Sacramento political landmark Frank Fat's, Nashville's iconic Prince's Hot Chicken Shack, DC "weekday-only lunch haunt" C.F. Folks, and New York City old-timer Keens Steakhouse.
These five restaurants — which all had to be locally owned and in existence for at least 10 years — will be celebrated at the James Beard Awards in New York on May 6. They join 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Cecilia Chiang and 2013 Humanitarian of the Year Award Emeril Lagasse; nominees for the rest of the awards will be announced on March 18. Here's the press release:
JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION NAMES 2013 AMERICA'S CLASSICS AWARD HONOREES
Five America's Classics Restaurants to be Honored at the Annual James Beard Foundation Awards on Monday, May 6, 2013, in New York City
New York, NY (February 28, 2013) – Today the James Beard Foundation announced the five recipients of its 2013 America's Classics Award, presented by The Coca-Cola Company. The America's Classics Award is given to restaurants that have timeless appeal and are beloved for quality food that reflects the character of their community. This year's honorees will be celebrated at the annual James Beard Foundation Awards, the nation's most prestigious recognition program honoring professionals in the food and beverage industry, in a ceremony taking place on Monday, May 6, 2013, at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall in New York City.
"The America's Classics Awards are always a highlight of the ceremony," said Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation. "Our honorees come from all walks of life. We have the privilege of hearing their unique stories, which celebrate the great variety and authentic flavors of America's culinary scene. These local hangouts, neighborhood diners, and family restaurants truly bring communities together, a concept James Beard would have loved."
The 2013 James Beard Foundation Awards America's Classics award honorees are:
Kramarczuk's (215 East Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, Owner: Orest Kramarczuk)
Minneapolis is known for its Scandinavian heritage, but for more than a century, the city's northeast neighborhoods have been a vibrant Eastern European enclave. A great deal of that Catholic, blue-collar culture has dissipated during the past 20 years, but some overt traces remain, most notably a dozen or more elaborate churches and Kramarczuk's, the landmark sausage-making company and restaurant.
The business dates to 1954, when Ukrainian refugees Wasyl and Anna Kramarczuk purchased Central Provisions, one of the city's oldest butcher shops, and renamed it Kramarczuk Sausage Co. It has been at the same address, just across the Mississippi River from downtown Minneapolis, since 1967. Wasyl and Anna's son Orest joined the business in 1979. He's now the primary owner. His father died in 1991, and Anna Kramarczuk died in 2008.
Kramarczuk's more closely resembles a cafeteria, with polite, mostly Ukrainian young women working behind the counter; Kramarczuk's has long been a first job for immigrants. In addition to deli sandwiches served on fresh rye and caraway rye, it still serves the traditional fare that Anna prepared for her family: gigantic pork- and rice-filled cabbage rolls smothered in a tomato cream sauce, dumplings stuffed with potatoes and cheese and served with a dill pickle, and thick Polish sausages stewed in
pungent sauerkraut, colorful salads, and crepes filled with a medley of beef, pork and chicken and topped with horseradish- laced sour cream. The piroshok—soft, golden buns filled with hard-cooked eggs, mushrooms, and seasoned ground beef— continue to be a staple.
Of course there's an ever-changing selection of the house specialty, the butcher shop's expertly made sausages, bratwurst, kielbasa, and wieners, swiped with some of the kitchen's zesty mustard and stuffed into sturdy, house-made golden buns. Along with a relatively recent push towards elaborate tortes, cakes, and cream puffs, the bakery continues to turn out delicious kolaches filled with cheese, prunes, apricots, or poppy seeds.
Frank Fat's (806 L Street, Sacramento, CA, Owners: The Fat family)
Frank Fat's is a political landmark in California, once known as the "Third House" and one of Sacramento's oldest restaurants. The restaurant serves Chinese American food and is known for honey-walnut prawns; Frank's-style New York steak (grilled, sliced, and smothered in sautéed onions and oyster sauce); Fat's brandy fried chicken; and banana cream pie.
Kevin Hefner in Capitol Weekly, writing on the restaurant's 70th anniversary in 2009 said: "The restaurant often was the site of political meetings that, according to some, sometimes accomplished more than those in the Capitol. The most notable of these deals was the "Napkin Deal" of 1987, written on the back of a napkin by the participants that defined a multimillion-dollar pact between the lawyers, insurers, doctors, and business interests over tort reform."
Willie Brown, former assembly speaker and San Francisco mayor, recalls that it was the place legislators would go to find a "pigeon," lobbyists who would buy them a meal. That's changed a bit with political reform, but it's still a popular hangout and a local favorite. Brown has his own booth and still stops in every time he has business in Sacramento. Governor Jerry Brown is also a frequent visitor.
The founder, Frank Fat, came to California from China in 1919 as a 16-year old. He worked various odd jobs for 20 years, mostly in Sacramento, before opening his namesake restaurant in 1939 near the Capitol. Today, the Fat family also operates three other successful restaurants in the Sacramento region: Fat City in Old Sacramento and Fat's Asia Bistro in Folsom and Roseville.
Prince's Hot Chicken Shack (123 Ewing Drive, Nashville, Owner: Andre Prince Jeffries)
Hot fried chicken, long popular in towns across the South, has become synonymous with Nashville. A visit to town doesn't count unless you make the pilgrimage to this joint, set in an abbreviated strip mall alongside a nail salon, for crispy yardbird with a cayenne-soaked coat of armor.
Thornton Prince was the original owner. He was a handsome fellow. One of his girlfriends grew weary of his late night carousing. As a revenge tactic, she doused his Sunday morning favorite, fried chicken, with cayenne pepper. But it backfired: he liked it. By the mid 1930s, Prince and his brothers perfected the process and opened a café, which they originally called the BBQ Chicken Shack.
Current owner Andre Prince Jeffries, great-niece of Thornton Prince, continues the family tradition. She brines her chicken, flours it, fries it to order, and slathers it with a secret layer of hot spices. You can order it from mild, which is not really mild, to extra hot. Ms. Jeffries likes to say, "It's a 24 hour chicken. Hot going in and hot coming out." The stack of crinkled dill pickle chips and slices of white bread that come with your chicken are the closest things to life rafts your taste buds will find.
At least thirteen other Nashville restaurants now serve hot chicken. And the Music City Hot Chicken Festival is in its sixth year. More recently, Nashville hot chicken has been recognized as a style of fried chicken. (Like Memphis barbecue, and Charleston she-crab soup, it's totemic.) Restaurants from Birmingham, Alabama, to New York City now serve twists on the dish, billing it as "Nashville Hot Chicken."
C.F. Folks (1225 19th St. NW, Washington, D.C., Owner: Art Carlson)
Art Carlson's weekday-only lunch haunt on Dupont Circle, open since 1981, is a 600-square-foot temple of honest cooking and good will. (The name combines the initials of Carlson and his business partner, Peggy Fredricksen.) The vibe is is loud and scrappy, and the food is delicious. Art Carlson, the ever-present host, is one of the last of a dying breed: a hands-on owner who schmoozes and teases his customers, often at the same time.
The place, with its 11 counter stools, is comfortable in its age. Behind the long Formica counter, racks of cookbooks from Julia Child and fellow titans share space with scribbled postcards, a rattletrap stereo system, a collection of old political campaign buttons, and a jumble of knick knacks including a Presidential Barbie and dusty cans of Alpo and Cheez Wiz.
The cooking is in the hands of George Vetsch, a veteran of a Zagat's worth of local kitchens. His standing menu is mostly sandwiches and salads. But the sheet of daily specials surprises and satisfies. Garlicky roast chicken with hand-cut fries. Mahi- mahi graced with an herbed cream sauce. Mexico gets its due with pork tacos jump-started with jalapeno-cilantro sauce. So does India, with chicken korma on basmati rice and sassy chutneys. Ditto Maine, by way of a lobster roll, slicked with basil mayonnaise.
Carlson suffered a medical setback in 2010, but that hasn't kept the host from dispensing wisecracks and making change at his relic cash register. Waitresses in C.F.'s have embraced Carlson's attitude. "Wanna dance?" a young waitress asked a customer after she bumped into him in the narrow eatery. "Ready to rock 'n' roll?" she greeted a party on the small covered patio.
Keens Steakhouse (72 W. 36th St., NYC, Owner: George Schwarz)
New York City specializes in new restaurants, not old ones, and local interest in them is generally measured in months instead of years. So it's nothing short of astonishing that a 120-something-year-old restaurant has managed to stay both relevant and wildly popular in the middle of Manhattan.
Albert Keen, a theater producer, opened the restaurant in 1885, when the Herald Square Theatre District thrived. Actors came in for a drink between acts. Today, the walls are decorated with over 50,000 clay pipes, from celebrated customers like Teddy Roosevelt and Albert Einstein, souvenirs from a era when smoke clouded many restaurants. George Schwarz, the current owner, took over in the late 1970s, investing much money and sweat equity in reviving the restaurant.
What Keens has always done well is to age and grill meat. They were one of the first restaurants to dry-age beef. It's a terrific place for a prime T-bone steak, well-charred on the outside and juicy within, served with a tangy-sweet house steak sauce. But their most famous cut of meat is not beef: it's the 26-ounce mutton chop. In one of their few nods to modernization, the mutton is now lamb, but it's still accompanied by homemade mint jelly.
The menu is stocked with classics like shrimp cocktail, iceberg wedge with chunky blue cheese, and extra-thick slices of smoked bacon, served unadorned on a plate. And the bar at Keens is one of the more democratic places in the city. Yes, it is a destination for Wall Streeters, artists, and fashion editors, but it also draws shoppers from nearby Macy's. The bar room is especially welcoming in the winter, when the fireplace roars and regulars nibble complimentary chicken wings or drink their way through the 275-plus selection of single-malt scotches.
"We are honored to be a sponsor of this year's James Beard Foundation Awards, and in particular, of a category that resonates with Coca-Cola's own place on the American cultural landscape," said Seena Cushman, VP Sales Operations of Coca-Cola Refreshments, sponsor of this year's America's Classics award. "The James Beard Foundation Awards recognize the best of the best in food, restaurants and chefs and our association brings the equity of great brands together."
To qualify for the America's Classics Award, establishments must have been in existence at least ten years and be locally owned. The honorees are selected each year by the James Beard Foundation's restaurant committee, which is composed of 17 people throughout the country, many of whom are notable food critics and culinary writers. The Foundation also holds a public call for entries, allowing the public the opportunity to offer suggestions for which restaurants they think should win.
On Monday, March 18, 2013, the Foundation will announce the final nominees for all Award categories during a press brunch at the historic Lowndes Grove Plantation in Charleston, South Carolina. Nominations will also be announced live via the Foundation's Twitter feed at twitter.com/beardfoundation .
On Friday, May 3, 2013, the James Beard Foundation Book, Broadcast & Journalism Awards Dinner, an exclusive event honoring the nation's top cookbook authors, culinary broadcast producers and hosts, and food journalists, will take place at Gotham Hall in New York City.
On Monday, May 6, 2013, the James Beard Foundation Awards Ceremony and Gala Reception will take place at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall in New York City. During the event, which is open to the public, awards for the Restaurant and Chef and Restaurant Design and Graphics categories will be handed out, along with special achievement awards including Humanitarian of the Year, Lifetime Achievement, Who's Who, and the America's Classics award honorees. A gala reception will immediately follow, featuring top culinary talents from across the country serving dishes that reflect this year's Awards theme, "Lights. Camera. Taste! Spotlight on Food & Film," a tribute to the role food plays in America's most iconic films. Tickets to the May 6 Awards ceremony and gala reception will go on sale on March 18, 2013, and can be purchased at jamesbeard.org/awards or through the Awards Box Office at 914.231.6180.
The 2013 James Beard Foundation Awards are presented with support by the following partners: Premier Sponsors: All-Clad Metalcrafters, Lenox Tableware and Gifts; Supporting Sponsors: Acqua Panna® Natural Spring Water, Celebrity Cruises®, The Coca-Cola Company, Delta Air Lines, Lavazza, S.Pellegrino® Sparkling Natural Mineral Water, Stella Artois®, Valrhona; Gala Reception Sponsors: Ecolab, Rums of Puerto Rico; and with additional support from BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival® and Chefwear. *Sponsors listed are current as of release date.