You can be pretty much guaranteed three things when a restaurant wins a James Beard Award: The lines will be crazy long, the place will be overrun with tourists and you won't be able to afford it. Right?
Well, those first two might be true, and while plenty of James Beard winners have Michelin-starred tasting menus and meals that go for well over $100 (or hundreds), there are a few shockingly affordable restaurants in the James Beard universe.
Here are 10 of the best James Beard award-winning restaurants around the country that won't break your budget:
Monteverde | 2017 | Sarah Grueneberg, Best Chef: Great Lakes | Chicago
This newcomer to the James Beard family is a pasta palace where the menu is divided into traditional and innovative pastas, the former being comprised of dishes like gnocchi with pesto and spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and basil.
The latter is where chef Sarah Grueneberg has her real fun, creating dishes like Tortelli Verde, with winter spinach, parm, roasted white miso, Piemontese hazelnuts, ramps and lemon.
Small plates like guanciale-wrapped scallops and wok-fried Manila clams are also excellent, and the large format Ragu alla Napoletana with cacciatore sausage, soppressata meatballs, tomato-braised pork shank, and wild oregano is not to be missed.
- Snacks: $4-8
- Pastas and small plates: $13 to $20
- To share: $28 to $46
Hugo’s | 2017 | Hugo Ortega, Best Chef: Southwest | Houston
Hugo’s is the flagship of chef Hugo Ortega’s four Houston restaurants, dishing out quintessential Mexican food in a lovely historic building. But Hugo’s definitely takes the menu well beyond typical Tex-Mex, with the most celebrated dish being the lamb barbacoa, marinated in chiles, onion, garlic and avocado leaves, and slow-roasted in agave skin.
This local legend challenges the concept of what American Mexican food can be, with items like bacon-wrapped quail stuffed with chorizo, tomatillo salsa, butternut squash, ayocote beans and quinoa. Pro tip: Go on Sunday for the brunch buffet and live music, a total steal at $33.
- Sides: $7
- Ceviches, soups, small plates: $10 to $16
- Entrees: $18 to $35
La Petite Grocery | 2016 | Justin Devillier, Best Chef: South | New Orleans
Justin Devillier took over the floundering La Petite Grocery in 2007 and transformed the food there, along with what it means to cook Southern fare. He serves his own fresh take on upscale Louisiana fare out of a 19th century grocery store.
Classics like shrimp and grits (with roasted shiitake mushrooms, smoked bacon and thyme) and paneed rabbit (with spaetzle, mustard greens, turnip purée and sauce grenobloise) get their own little twist, while sides like blue crab beignets and beet and crawfish salad add something new to the conversation about New Orleans cuisine.
- Appetizers: $14 to $16
- Sides: $5 to $10
- Entrees: $16 to $48
Barbuto | 2016 | Jonathan Waxman, Best Chef: NYC
Jonathan Waxman is a culinary legend who's been in some of the most influential kitchens in the country for nearly 40 years, and is credited for being at the forefront of the California cuisine movement.
But above all he’s known for one thing: his famous chicken, which can now be found at his West Village establishment, rotisserie roasted and topped with Italian salsa verde. The pizzas, pastas and entrees are also excellent, but you’d have to be crazy (or vegetarian) to come to Barbuto and avoid the poultry.
- Antipasti: $10 to $21
- Pizza and pasta: $21 to $24
- Entrees: $15 to $27
Franklin Barbecue | 2015 | Aaron Franklin, Best Chef: Southwest | Austin
The only thing more famous than the brisket at Franklin Barbecue is the line. Married couples have met in it, teenagers have gotten rich by helping people skip it, and celebrities have been publicly shunned for trying to cut.
People travel from all over the world to eat at Aaron Franklin’s eponymous trailer-turned-BBQ-joint, so what’s a three-hour queue? The menu at Franklin has all the Texas classics: ribs, pulled pork and sausage. But ask anyone who’s been here and they’ll tell you it’s all about the brisket.
- Meats by the pound: $14 to $22
- Sandwiches: $8 to $12
- Sides: $2.50 for one serving
The Spotted Pig | 2014 | April Bloomfield, Best Chef: NYC
The Spotted Pig has been a West Village institution since pretty much immediately after it opened in 2004. Often credited with bringing the gastropub movement to New York, this cozy little spot is a palace of meat, and it’s not just swine (although there’s plenty available: pig's ear salad, pork rillette).
The Spotted Pig might actually be best known for its chargrilled burger with blue cheese and shoestring fries, and there are plenty of seafood options that hit the spot.
- Snacks: $5 - $12
- Entrees: $26 to $36
- Plates: $17 to $20
Pizzeria Mozza | 2014 | Nancy Silverton, Outstanding Chef | Los Angeles
Any New Yorker who has complained that you can’t get good pizza in Los Angeles has obviously never been to Pizzeria Mozza. Nancy Silverton’s and Mario Batali's pie joint is so good that Silverton won the 2014 James Beard Award for the country's Outstanding Chef.
Mozza is known as much for its otherworldly crust as it is for its list of fresh, inventive toppings. For example: the Pizza Primavera with peas, tendrils, asparagus, green garlic, ricotta and mozzarella, or the Speck, mozzarella di bufala, olive tapenade and oregano.
There is also a large selection of great Italian antipasti, bruschette, panini and a daily rotating main course (what else would you expect from Batali?) but as the name suggests, the reason to come is for the pizza.
- Pizzas: $14 to $24
- Mains: $17 to $25
- Appetizers/sides/sandwiches: $9 to $24
The Purple Pig | 2014 | Jimmy Bannos Jr., Rising Star Chef | Chicago
The Purple Pig is not your average swine-dominated restaurant, most of which live in the realm of gastropub or smokehouse. Instead, The Purple Pig gets its inspiration from the Mediterranean, with dishes like smoked pork tongue with tonnato sauce and salad olivier, as well as “JLT” pork jowl, tomato, frisee, pesto aioli and duck egg.
There is a seriously impressive amount of pork on this extensive menu, which has almost five dozen items. But there are plenty of other creative twists on classic Mediterranean delights, including olive oil-poached tuna with tomatoes, quail eggs, roasted red pepper and Greek lemon vinaigrette, and lamb ribs with harissa, Treviso marmalade, Israeli couscous & pomegranate.
- Antipasti and fried items: $5 to $15
- Smears: $10 to $14
- A la plancha: $10 to $28
Momofuku Noodle Bar | 2013 | David Chang, Outstanding Chef | NYC
These days, David Chang is more food personality and restauranteur than chef, and when it comes to bang for buck, the best of Chang’s New York establishment’s is still his first, Momofuku Noodle Bar (unless you can afford to eat at Momofuku Ko, in which case, I’m kinda surprised you’re reading this).
The smoked chicken wings, pork belly ssam and, well, pretty much everything else here is worth ordering. But there are two reasons to come to Momofuku Noodle Bar: The steamed buns and – obviously – the noodle bowls, which include everything from ramen to pho to chilled spicy noodles. You really can’t go wrong.
- Noodle bowls: $15 to $17
- Buns: $13
- Everything else: $6 to $16
Mission Chinese Food | 2013 | Danny Bowien, Rising Star Chef |SF and NYC
Mission Chinese Food is the kind of restaurant that seems to represent a time and place in history, but exactly what it represents is hard to pin. The food is Chinese-ish, as is the decor. But you could also say American. Or fusion. Or hipster food. Really, it’s all of the above, and it’s delicious.
The only problem is knowing what to order, as the menu here can be overwhelming, with nearly four dozen dishes that run the gamut from kung pao pastrami to green tea noodles to Malaysian beef jerky fried rice. Just make sure you go with a lot of people so you can share as many dishes as possible.
- Cold and hot appetizers: $8 to $43
- Mains/rice/noodles: $8 to $30
- Family dishes: $40 to $50