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Chicago Has 19 James Beard Award Semifinalists For 2020

Highlights include Thattu, Tzuco, and Sarah Grueneberg

James Beard Award
The 2020 Beard Awards gala will be held May 4.
James Beard Foundation [Official Photo]

On Wednesday morning, the James Beard Foundation released its semifinalists — the so-called “long list” — and Chicago restaurants, bars, chefs, and beverage professionals nabbed 19 nominations. That number is six fewer compared to the 25 semifinalists named in 2019. The awards ceremony will again take place at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, this time on May 4. The Beards will continue to take place in Chicago through at least through 2027.

This year’s Chicago nominee highlights include Best New Restaurant nods for Thattu — the Indian food stall inside Politan Row — and Tzuco, Carlos Gaytán’s follow-up to Mexique. Meanwhile, Sarah Grueneberg of Monteverde earned another nomination for Outstanding Chef (she won in 2017), Boka in Lincoln Park was nominated for Outstanding Restaurant, and Alisha Elenz of MFK. and Bar Biscay was named on the Rising Star Chef of the Year list. Other nominees include repeat semifinalist Lost Lake for Outstanding Bar Program, Spiaggia for Outstanding Wine Program, and Emily Spurlin of Lula Cafe for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Virtue chef Erick Williams also also earned a Best Chef: Great Lakes nomination. He continues to rack up acclaim in Hyde Park; Virtue is an Eater National Best New Restaurant for 2019.

In bit of surprise, Yūgen pastry chef Jeanine Lamadieu earned a nomination for Rising Star Chef of the Year. She’s no longer with the West Loop Japanese restaurant. It’s also noteworthy that a pastry chef earned a nomination in that category.

The list will be whittled down on March 25 as that’s when the 2020 finalists will be announced. This is the smallest group of Chicago-based semifinalists in some time — 28 were named in 2018, and there were 31 the prior year. This may be a result of the foundation’s newly focused attention on geographic diversity, as Chicago has a history of overshadowing others in the “Great Lakes” category. An example of this could be Best Chef Great Lakes nominee Abra Berens (Granor Farm). Interestingly, she worked at Local Foods, off the Elston Industrial Corridor, before moving to Michigan.

Head over to Eater National for the long list from around the country. This year’s Chicago nominations are below.

(* denotes a repeated nominee from past years).

Best New Restaurant



Outstanding Bar Program

*Lost Lake

Outstanding Chef

*Sarah Grueneberg, Monteverde

Outstanding Pastry Chef

Emily Spurlin, Lula Cafe

Outstanding Restaurant


Outstanding Wine Program


Rising Star Chef of the Year

*Alisha Elenz, MFK and Bar Biscay

Jeanine Lamadieu, Yūgen

Best Chef: Great Lakes

*Thai Dang, HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen

*Brian Jupiter, Frontier

Gene Kato, Momotaro

*Jason Hammel, Lula Cafe

*Ethan Pikas, Cellar Door Provisions

*John Shields and Karen Urie Shields, Smyth

Mariya Russell, Kikkō

Erick Williams, Virtue

*Noah Sandoval, Oriole

*Lee Wolen, Boka

Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Awards.

Cellar Door Provisions

3025 West Diversey Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 697-8337 Visit Website


1729 North Halsted Street, , IL 60614 (312) 337-6070 Visit Website

HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen

1800 South Carpenter Street, , IL 60608 (312) 702-1303 Visit Website

Lyric Opera

20 N Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60606 312 332 2244 Visit Website


1072 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60642 (773) 772-4322 Visit Website


2601 West Fletcher Street, , IL 60618 (773) 754-0199 Visit Website


661 West Walnut Street, , IL 60661 (312) 877-5899 Visit Website

Politan Row

2445 Times Boulevard, , TX 77005 (713) 489-2546 Visit Website


1020 West Madison Street, Chicago, IL 60607 (312) 888-3041

Mfk Restaurant

432 W Diversey Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60614 773 857 2540 Visit Website

Lost Lake

3154 West Diversey Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 293-6048 Visit Website


177 North Ada Street, , IL 60607 (773) 913-3773 Visit Website


652 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL Visit Website


720 North State Street, , IL 60654 (312) 374-8995 Visit Website


630 West Lake Street, , IL 60661 (312) 285-2912 Visit Website

Lula Cafe

2537 North Kedzie Boulevard, , IL 60647 (773) 489-9554 Visit Website

Local Foods

1427 West Willow Street, , IL 60642 (312) 432-6575 Visit Website

Bar Biscay

1450 West Chicago Avenue, , IL 60642 (312) 455-8900 Visit Website


980 North Michigan Avenue, , IL 60611 (312) 280-2750 Visit Website


1800 S. Carpenter St., Chicago, IL Visit Website


1462 E. 53rd Street, Chicago, IL


820 West Lake Street, , IL 60607 (312) 733-4818 Visit Website