Last week's 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards ceremony honored the best of the best in the American food and beverage industry. The list features some of the biggest names in hospitality who have proven -- through their skill and passion for service and food -- they truly are at the top of the game. But you don't have to drop a fortune to eat well. Here’s where you can find the best value for your money with this year’s winners.
Shaya, New Orleans
Rising Star Chef of the Year, Zachary Engel, uses modern technique and inspiration from North Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Mediterranean to blend traditional Israeli dishes with Southern flavors at Shaya. The result is an eclectic menu that also focuses on seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients. Sharable plates for the table offer diners a chance to sample a myriad of wonderful flavors, and priced at $15 for three plates or $23 for five, it’s a tasting that won’t break the bank. Hummus range from $9 for traditional tahini to $15 for a hearty lamb ragu version. Ordering from the small plates menu is what you'll find most locals doing, and with a $20 foie gras serving as the priciest item, it's a steal.
Le Coucou, New York City
When acclaimed chef Daniel Rose opened Le Coucou last year in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood, scoring a dinner reservation was almost impossible. Now, after winning the Best New Restaurant award, it’s going to get even harder to get in. Secure a slightly easier lunch ressie, instead, and opt for the two-course prix-fixe menu at $48; a bargain for such an outstanding classic French dining experience. Notable dishes from the lunch menu include the poireaux: poached leeks served in a vibrant vinaigrette and topped with hazelnuts, along with the anguille frite au sarrasin: the surprising dish of Montauk eel fried to a light and crisp perfection then served with a subtle curry vinaigrette.
Philadelphia’s Michael Solomonov of Zahav wins Outstanding Chef for his modern take on Israeli cuisine. Diners are encouraged to sample a wide variety of flavors and textures with a menu broken down into three sections: salads and hummus, small plates, and from the grill. A large portion of hummus is just $13, small plates are all $10, and the grill selections are $14. Standout dishes include the branzino served with tzatziki, fennel, and chickpeas; brisket kofte served with a Turkish pepper salad, apricots and olives; and the fried cauliflower with garlic and mint.
Miller Union, Atlanta
Simple, yet sophisticated Southern fare makes it home at Atlanta’s Miller Union under the watchful eye of Best Chef: Southeast winner, Steven Satterfield. Lunch here is extremely palatable with not a single menu item priced above $16. If you’re having trouble deciding, go for the fried oyster sandwich smothered in remoulade, champagne mignonette, and a side of fries ($16) or the creamed rice with roasted mushrooms, sweet vidalia onions, turnips, and a poached egg ($15). The rich house-made ice cream sandwich ($6) is not to be missed.
Bread Furst, Washington DC
Get your fill of delicious pastries and breads from the Outstanding Baker award winner, Mark Furstenberg’s aptly named Bread Furst the next time you visit the nation’s capital. Fresh-baked bread sells by the pound at roughly $7, triple-chocolate cookies run you $1.75, a small-sized classic apple pie will set you back $7, a cup of banana pudding costs $4, and the jambon buerre sandwich is the cheapest escape to Paris you’ll ever find at $10.
La Taqueria, San Francisco
It’s easy to breeze past this casual Mexican outpost in San Francisco’s Mission District, but for the absolute best in value for a James Beard America’s Classic award-winning fare, you can’t beat La Taqueria. The barebones menu features tacos starting at $4 and gut-busting, no-rice burritos for just $8.50.