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JBF Announces 2014 America's Classics Award Winners

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 2014 winners are the New Orleans frozen dessert institution Hansen's Sno Bliz, the serious Italian restaurant in the heart of an Oregon farmtown Nick's Italian Café, purveyor of classic Rhode Island dishes Olneyville New York System in Providence, the Texas steakhouse Perini Ranch Steakhouse, and Cleveland's longtime hub for Polish comfort food Sokolowski's University Inn.

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 5. They join 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Sirio Maccioni and 2014 Humanitarian of the Year Award recipient Matt Haley. The "long list" of semifinalists has been announced and the nominees will be revealed on March 18. Below, the press release:

JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES 2014 AMERICA'S CLASSICS AWARD HONOREES

Five America's Classics Restaurants to be Honored at the Annual James Beard Foundation Awards on Monday, May 5, 2014, in New York City

New York, NY (February 27, 2014) – Today the James Beard Foundation announced the five recipients of its 2014 America's Classics Award presented by Coca-Cola. 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 culinary industry's most prestigious recognition program, in a ceremony taking place on Monday, May 5, 2014, at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City.

"Every year, the America's Classics Awards are a favorite part of the ceremony," said Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation. "These honorees represent the unique American dream of people who have created enduring, quality restaurants and food establishments that reflect the character and hospitality of their cities and community."

The 2014 James Beard Foundation America's Classics Awards presented by Coca-Cola are:

Hansen's Sno Bliz (4801 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, LA, Owner: Ashley Hansen)

The snow-ball, one of the city's iconic desserts was practically invented at Hansen's. Made of shaved-to-order ice, a Hansen's snow-ball -- which the family calls a Sno Bliz -- comes doused in house-made syrups that run an extraordinary gamut of flavors.

Ernest Hansen built one of the first electric ice-shaving machines, receiving a patent from the US government for his creation in 1934. Along with his wife Mary Hansen, he opened a small shop in 1939. Their granddaughter, Ashley Hansen, runs that shop today, and carefully crafts the family syrup recipes, including blueberry, Satsuma, root beer, and the mysterious cream of nectar.

Like her forebears, Ashley Hansen opens her doors only during the summer. When Hansen's is open, a queue forever spills out its door and snakes back through the stand's small interior, following a painted yellow line, known to regulars as the yellow brick road. Eventually that line leads to the counter, where a crew of young workers takes orders, shaves ice, douses cones, and cultivates a diverse community, one treat at a time.

Nick's Italian Café (521 NE 3rd St, McMinnville, OR, Owners: Nick Peirano, Carmen Peirano, and Eric Ferguson)
When Nick Peirano, a third-generation Italian-American, opened a serious Italian restaurant in the farming town of McMinnville in 1977, he had no previous restaurant experience. No matter. His restaurant soon became the place Oregon winemakers hung when there were just a dozen or so. Now there are hundreds, and Nick's is still their clubhouse.

Nick's daughter, Carmen Peirano, and her husband, Eric Ferguson, took over day-to-day operations in 2007. They updated the menu to include wood-fired pizzas and house-made charcuterie. But Nick's Dungeness crab and pine nut lasagna and his pesto-garnished minestrone remain favorites. And you'll find Nick himself shooting pool most nights in the Backroom Bar.

Nick's has forged a marriage of Oregon wine country and Northern Italian cooking that's as worthy of pilgrimage and patronage as the Oregon pinot noirs on their superb wine list.

Olneyville New York System (20 Plainfield Street, Providence, RI, Owners: Stephanie Stevens Turini and Greg Stevens)
Olneyville New York System, despite its name, serves food that is distinctive to Rhode Island. Slathered with mustard, topped with meat sauce, sprinkled with celery salt and onions, and served in a steamed bun, the hot wiener is signature as are the salt and vinegar French fries. The preferred drink is coffee milk, made in Rhode Island by flavoring milk with a sweetened coffee concentrate called coffee syrup.

Olneyville has been a family affair since Anthony Stavrianakos, a Greek immigrant, opened the diner in 1946 with his son, Nicholas. (Nicholas later anglicized the family name to Stevens.) Nicholas' son Peter took over from him. Peter's son Greg started as a dishwasher at age thirteen. Now he and his sister Stephanie are fourth generation owners.

Olneyville was once the favored lunch spot of workers employed by local jewelry manufacturers. Now, nearly 70 years later, "the System" has become a multigenerational family spot, the late night haunt of college students, and the first stop from the airport for returning natives.

Perini Ranch Steakhouse (3002 FM 89, Buffalo Gap, TX, Owners: Lisa and Tom Perini)
Cowboy cook and rancher Tom Perini made a bold decision in 1983. With oil and cattle prices depressed, he turned a hay barn on his family spread into a restaurant, hoping to draw folks from nearby Abilene. Serving Texas standards with genuine hospitality, he has created a signature rural roadhouse.

Grilled steaks are the heart of the menu. Tom knew that if he opted for prime beef, he would price himself out of the local market. He chose instead to grill the best choice rib eyes, strips, and filets. The appeal of those steaks owes much to mesquite. The scrubby, thorny trees grow everywhere in this arid terrain. And their coals yield a pungent smoke that perfumes the air.

Comfort foods and chuck wagon favorites fill out the offerings, including green chile hominy and garlicky cowboy potatoes. For dessert, there's whiskey-laced bread pudding.

Sokolowski's University Inn (1201 University Rd, Cleveland, OH, Owners: Bernard Sokolowski, Mary Balbier, and Michael Sokolowski)
In 1923 Victoria and Michael Sokolowski founded a Polish restaurant on a bank of the Cuyahoga in Cleveland. Today, Sokolowski's University Inn serves edible homages to the city's immigrant-driven industrial past, dishing sturdy comfort foods like cabbage rolls that once fueled the city's growth.

Pierogis, stuffed with whipped potatoes, bathed in butter, and drenched in caramelized onions, are everyday specials. The Sokolowski family does right by Midwestern dishes, too. They beer-batter and fry Lake Erie perch. They craft their own bratwurst and smoked kielbasa.

What began as a tavern when the Tremont neighborhood was flush with blue-collar steelworkers, expanded to cafeteria-style service in the 50s, and has evolved, more recently into a touchstone restaurant for Polish families in search of their culinary roots.

"Coca-Cola is honored to partner with the James Beard Foundation to celebrate America's diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire," said Brent Tollison, Region Vice President Sales Operations, Northeast. "Sustaining communities is something we both have in common, 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 & Chef Awards sub-committee, a group composed of restaurant critics, writers, editors and other experts. The selection process begins each fall with a public call for entries, allowing anyone the opportunity to suggest candidates for the awards.

On Tuesday, March 18, 2014, the Foundation will announce the final nominees for all Award categories during a press brunch hosted by One Off Hospitality Group at The Publican in Chicago. Nominations will also be announced live via the Foundation's Twitter feed at twitter.com/beardfoundation.

On Friday, May 2, 2014, 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.

The James Beard Foundation Awards Ceremony and Gala Reception will take place at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City on Monday, May 5, 2014. During the event, which is open to the public, winners will be announced in 20 restaurant and chef award categories, along with restaurant design awards and special achievement awards including Humanitarian of the Year, Lifetime Achievement, Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America, and America's Classics. The gala reception immediately following will showcase top chefs and beverage professionals from across the country. Tickets to the May 5 Awards ceremony and gala reception will go on sale on March 18, 2014, and can be purchased at jamesbeard.org/awards or through the Awards Box Office at 914.231.6180.

· All James Beard Awards Coverage on Eater [-E-]

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