The annual James Beard Awards recognize the best and the brightest of the nation’s dining scene. These prestigious accolades honor not only chefs and restaurants that demonstrate excellence in quality, but those who contribute positively to their communities.

As the official home of the James Beard Awards, Chicago also has a fair share of semifinalists this year. Check out the full list of Chicago semifinalists below. The winners will be announced at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony on June 5, 2023 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

National James Beard Award semifinalists

Smyth + The Loyalist; photo by Galdones Photography LLC

Smyth: Nominated for Outstanding Restaurant 

One of the James Beard Awards’ highest honors, Outstanding Restaurant recognizes establishments that “demonstrate consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, and hospitality.” Helmed by husband-and-wife duo John Shields and Karen Urie Shields, this tasting menu spot is grounded in pristine products and produce grown in close collaboration with small farms. The menu, which evolves constantly, is served in a welcoming atmosphere with an open kitchen, so guests can watch the chef’s creativity in action.

Damarr Brown, Virtue: Nominated for Emerging Chef

Last year, executive chef Erick Williams of Virtue took from the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes. This year, his chef de cuisine Damarr Brown is being recognized for displaying “exceptional talent, character, and leadership ability”. Brown, a fan favorite on Top Chef, has been demonstrating his culinary expertise in Virtue’s kitchen in the Hyde Park neighborhood, composing elegant versions of classic Southern American dishes.

Khmai Cambodian Fine Dining: Nominated for Best New Restaurant

A hidden gem no more, Khmai has received local and national acclaim for its authentic Cambodian cuisine. Executive chef Mona Sang draws on her Cambodian heritage to compose the restaurant’s weekly menus, which are all served family style for the entire table to enjoy. Khmai is located in the Rogers Park neighborhood — be sure to make a reservation before you go.

Obélix: Nominated for Best New Restaurant

Chicago is home to a plethora of excellent French restaurants, but Obélix has still managed to stand out from the pack. The intimate space in River North serves up elevated takes on modern French fare. Diners will find favorites like french onion soup, escargots, and steak frites, alongside creative dishes like foie gras macarons, lobster crepes, and confit squab.

Sepia: Nominated for Outstanding Hospitality

A longtime favorite in the West Loop neighborhood, this venerable institution has earned this nomination for “fostering a sense of hospitality among its customers and staff that serves as a beacon for the community”. The menu melds rustic and refined elements in a way that’s both classic and approachable. The four-course tasting menu offers various options, including sourdough cavatelli, truffle fried chicken, dry-aged beef striploin, and more.

All Together Now: Nominated for Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program

This funky space in the West Town neighborhood is a jack of all trades — wine shop, cheese counter, intimate restaurant, and community gathering space. You can grab some small plates at happy hour, enjoy a weekend brunch, load up on ingredients for the perfect charcuterie board, or just kick back with a glass of wine and enjoy the laidback vibes.

Regional James Beard Award semifinalists

Virtue

These regional accolades recognize chefs who set high standards in their culinary skills and leadership abilities, while contributing positively to their broader community. The following Chicago chefs have been nominated for Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2023: