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Chicago's Semifinalists for the 2024 James Beard Awards

Daniel Hautzinger
A James Beard Award

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The 2024 semifinalists for the James Beard Awards, one of the food industry's biggest national recognitions, have been announced. Seventeen Chicago restaurants, chefs, and bakers are among them, the most in several years. Nominees will be selected from amongst the semifinalists and announced on Wednesday, April 3. Winners will be announced in Chicago at the Lyric Opera, where the awards ceremony has taken place for years, on Monday, June 10. Last year Chicago had two winners

Here are Chicago's 2024 nominees. Check back early next week for the winners of Chicago's local food recognition, the Jean Banchet Awards, which has some overlap with the Beards but also spotlights some hidden gems. 

Outstanding Restaurateur

Marcos Carbajal, Carnitas Uruapan - This Pilsen restaurant is a stalwart of the neighborhood, founded in 1975 and serving up porky carnitas for decades.

Nicolas Poilevey and Oliver Poilevey, Obélix, Le Bouchon, and Taqueria Chingón - The Poilevey brothers have been on the rise, with their decadent River North French-plus-global-flavors Obélix racking up best new restaurant nods. That was preceded by the inventive Taqueria Chingón in Bucktown, while everything stems from the same neighborhood's French bistro Le Bouchon, which was run by their parents for years until they took over.

Outstanding Chef

John Shields and Karen Urie Shields, Smyth - Winning Outstanding Chef at the Beards would cap a year for the Shields in which their tasting course West Loop restaurant Smyth became one of only thirteen restaurants in the United States to be awarded three Michelin stars.

Outstanding Restaurant

The Duck Inn - Bridgeport's neighborhood restaurant par excellence, the Duck Inn has been quietly serving versions of Chicago street food, inventive cocktails, and of course, duck, for years from the corner of a residential block just off the Chicago River.

Emerging Chef

Zubair Mohajir, The Coach House by Wazwan - Mohajir serves the rare halal tasting menu at The Coach House by Wazwan in Wicker Park, trawling Indian history and regions for unusual flavors and combinations. He recently reopened the more casual Wazwan as Lilac Tiger. We profiled him last year.

Best New Restaurant

Atelier - Atelier replaced the unique tasting menu restaurant Elizabeth in Lincoln Square but is run by Tim Lacey, a veteran of Elizabeth. Lacey brought in the rising star chef Christian Hunter to craft an eclectic, clever menu in the new restaurant. We spoke to both Lacey and Hunter right before Atelier opened a year ago.

Outstanding Bakery

Loba Pastry+Coffee - It was a long road to opening this Roscoe Village bakery (the owner and baker Valeria Socorro Velazquez Lindsten turned to regulation crowdfunding), but her Mexican-influenced, creative pastries have been a hit in her new brick-and-mortar spce.

Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker

Anna Posey, Elske - The Danish-influenced Elske in the West Loop offers a lower-key tasting menu and a la carte options that have won acclaim for both Anna and David Posey.

Outstanding Hospitality

Lula Cafe - Jason Hammel's seasonal produce-centered Logan Square restaurant celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, a remarkable span of longevity for any restaurant. Hammel published a cookbook looking back on favorite recipes last year; we spoke to him about his career. 

Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program

Middle Brow - Middle Brow started off brewing coveted beers and recently diversified into making natural wines, all of which are available at its popular Logan Square pizza joint. 

Best Chef: Great Lakes

Diana Dávila Boldin, Mi Tocaya Antojería - Dávila Boldin has been nominated for Best Chef: Great Lakes numerous times, including last year. Her Logan Square Mexican restaurant has been a local and national favorite for years now, and was featured in PBS's No Passport Required. She has also engaged in charitable work, running a free meal program called Todos Ponen ("Everyone contributes") during the pandemic. 

Joe Fontelera, Boonie's Filipino Restaurant - Boonie's in Lincoln Square was another favorite new restaurant in 2023, the standalone brick-and-mortar iteration of a concept Fontelera started in a downtown food hall.

Joe Frillman, Daisies -  Daisies, too, has received national press after moving into a larger space in Logan Square and revamping into an all-day cafe while retaining its Midwestern produce-focused pasta menu at nights. 

James Martin, Bocadillo Market - This Lincoln Park Spanish restaurant is a bit more under-the-radar than many of the other Chicago restaurants on this list, but must have won people over with its sandwiches and bites.

Sujan Sarkar, Indienne - You'll get tired of us saying this, but Indienne is another restaurant that featured on many best new restaurant lists in the past couple years, for its bold Indian tasting menu in River North. 

Jenner Tomaska, Esmé - Tomaska first gained acclaim with the Alinea Group before opening Esmé in Lincoln Park, where the whole restaurant changes along with its menu and spotlights artists, as well as an infamous housemade Cheeto. We profiled beverage director Tia Barrett last year. 

Donald Young, Duck Sel - Young is a young (pardon the repetition) upstart chef who was awarded a Michelin star at a very young age at West Town's Temporis. Now he serves artistic menus in a pop-up series called Duck Sel.