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Three Chicagoans Win James Beard Foundation Media Awards

Plus, the owners of the controversial Parlor Pizza open a new taco bar

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A Japanese-American woman poses and smiles next to a bar.
Kumiko’s Julia Momose won for her Japanese-inspired cocktail book.
Nick Fochtman/Eater Chicago

The James Beard Foundation held its 2022 Media Awards ceremony on Saturday, June 11, in Chicago, its first after a two-year hiatus and for the first time in person since 2019

Three Chicagoans took home awards, two for books and one for journalism. Julia Momosé, the renowned bartender and creative engine the West Loop Japanese dining bar Kumiko, previously honored as one of the world’s best, and journalist Emma Janzen won in the Beverage with Recipes category for The Way of the Cocktail: Japanese Traditions, Techniques, and Recipes.

The award for Vegetable-Focused Cooking went to Joanne Molinaro, a trial lawyer and TikTok star, for The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes from Omma’s Kitchen. Molinaro brought her suburban immigrant parents, who feature largely in the cookbook, to the ceremony, according to Axios Chicago.

Eater reporter Ahmed Ali Akbar, a recent transplant to Pilsen, won the Feature Reporting award for “Inside the Secretive, Semi-Illicit, High Stakes World of WhatsApp Mango Importing,” which chronicles his search for highly prized Pakistani mangoes through the Meta-owned messaging platform WhatsApp.

A full list of the foundation’s media award winners is available via Eater.

The restaurant and chef awards categories will be announced at a gala at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on Monday. Nine local restaurants, bars, chefs, and bakers are in the running, including Filipino fine dining hit Kasama (Best New Restaurant), recently reopened Korean restaurant Parachute (Outstanding Restaurant), and queer cocktail spot Nobody’s Darling (Outstanding Bar Program).

Despite allegations of discrimination and labor violations, Parlor Pizza group opens new West Loop taco bar

Texan Taco Bar, a new West Loop restaurant, is now open, five years after the initial announcement. The restaurant was developed by the owners of Parlor Pizza, which was shut down for two days last fall by investigators from the state revenue department and faced allegations of labor violations and racial discrimination in 2021 based on reporting by Block Club. While it appears that no legal action has been taken since then, Block Club reports that city officials are “gathering evidence and negotiating with attorneys” representing Parlor Pizza. The owners of Parlor Pizza dispute all of these allegations. The new restaurant was formed under a new LLC, separate from Parlor Pizza.

Update, Wednesday, June 15, 1:25 p.m.: This story has been updated to reflect that the operators of Parlor Pizza dispute the allegations of labor violations and racial discrimination originally reported by Block Club.

Clarification, Tuesday, June 14, 5:42 p.m.: This story has been updated to reflect that there are no current pending lawsuits against Parlor Pizza.

Old Irving Park Golden Nugget, once a 24-hour neighborhood hangout, closes

The pandemic changed the entire Chicago dining scene, but it seemed to hit late-night spots especially hard: with the labor shortage, managers had trouble filling shifts and some restaurants cut them entirely. The Old Irving Park location of the Golden Nugget chain, a neighborhood standby since 1980, was among them. Once open 24 hours, it began closing at 10 p.m. five years ago. Recently, its staff dwindled to five, and its owner, Cathy Guzman, decided to shut down altogether, Block Club reports. Its three longtime servers have transferred to other Golden Nugget locations; a sign in the window tells customers where to find them.

McDonald’s eliminates healthier foods in favor of speedier service

In an effort to cut back on customer wait times, Chicago-based McDonald’s has decided to eliminate some of its lowest-performing menu items, Crain’s reports. Coincidentally, most of these are the healthier options: salads, grilled chicken, fruit and yogurt parfaits, and the Egg White Delight McMuffin. (But not all: the higher-calorie McChicken biscuit is also gone.) Because who wants to wait for a salad when they can have a box of McNuggets 30 seconds sooner?

Panera eliminates humans in favor of complete automation

Panera Bread opened its first automated takeout-only location at 5320 N. Broadway in Edgewater on Friday, June 10, Nation’s Restaurant News reports. There’s no seating at all — just shelves from which customers and delivery drivers can retrieve orders. Heather Lalley, a Chicago-based senior editor at Restaurant Business magazine, tweeted last week that this might be “a splendid idea” since the increasingly-automated regular Paneras seem to be falling down on the human side, at least based on the cleanliness and customer service she experienced during a recent visit. “When fast-casual prices are approaching those of casual-dining restaurants (our bill, I think, was $27 for two entrees, a brownie and no beverages),” she added, “customers rightfully expect a certain level of service.”

Parachute

3500 North Elston Avenue, , IL 60618 (872) 204-7138 Visit Website

Lyric Opera

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

Golden Nugget

3234 W Irving Park Rd, Chicago, IL 60618 (773) 267-1987 Visit Website

Panera Bread

605 Mall Ring Circle, , NV 89014 (702) 434-4002 Visit Website

Nobody's Darling

1744 West Balmoral Avenue, , IL 60640 Visit Website

Kasama

1001 North Winchester Avenue, , IL 60622 (773) 697-3790 Visit Website

Kumiko

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