Chicago is proud to once again host the esteemed James Beard Foundation Awards Ceremony and Gala on May 1, 2017, at the Civic Opera House, named for the respected cookbook author/teacher and champion of American cuisine who passed away in 1985. The James Beard Awards recognizes culinary professionals for excellence in their fields from across the country, and is considered to be the top award in the industry.

With the James Beard Awards coming up in Chicago, you might be wondering how to experience some of the excitement for yourself. Make a reservation during James Beard Eats Week, held April 21-May 1, to enjoy special menus and dishes at nearly 100 top Chicago restaurants that will celebrate James Beard and his “American Classic” recipes.

Or, experience some of the best restaurants in Chicago with this roundup of 2016 James Beard Award winners and nominees.



Helmed by one of the most celebrated chefs in the world, Alinea is a stage by which Chef Grant Achatz performs his culinary theatrics: each dish a new scene, showcasing drama, romance, comedy or whimsy. Book a reservation for one of the multisensory, multi-course meals (anywhere from 10 to 18 courses) to experience the 2016 James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Restaurant.



Whimsical, quirky, imaginative—these are descriptors that not only describe the decor at Boka, with its moss-swathed walls, animal portraiture and walls paneled with vintage door locks, but they extend to the cuisine as well. Lee Wolen, who was the 2016 nominee for Best Chef - Great Lakes, turns out delectable dishes with artful presentations. Each dish is an effort of carefully arranged cuts of perfectly cooked meat, fresh seafood and colorful vegetables, all accented by a playful swirl or dollop of complementing sauce. The seasonal desserts are shown equal care, prepared by Meg Galus, who was the 2016 nominee for Outstanding Pastry Chef.

 Cherry Circle Room


With two restaurants nominated for Outstanding Restaurant Design in 2016, it’s indisputable that the historic Chicago Athletic Association Hotel has some serious style. Enjoy the fresh, seasonal interpretations of classic American dishes at the award-winning Cherry Circle Room, boasting a mid-century modern boardroom-meets-library aesthetic with rich woods, brass accents and dramatic mood lighting. For a bright, airy dining experience, head to the rooftop at Cindy’s, where panoramic views of Lake Michigan and Millennium Park; decor touting foliage and casual-yet-upscale picnic tables; and a menu of artisanal charcuterie and fresh seafood platters will have you feeling as though you’re dining alfresco.

Fat Rice 


A modern, whimsical take on traditional Luso-Asian cuisine, Fat Rice boasts a menu filled with playful dishes—all of them bursting with color and flavor. Take a seat in the small, bustling restaurant headed by Chef Abraham Conlon, nominated as 2016 Best Chef - Great Lakes. Try specialties like bacon-wrapped daikon cake and pork collar vindaloo, and be sure to order the Arroz Gordo (“Fat Rice”): a bountiful dish overflowing with jumbo prawns, char siu pork, curried chicken, Manila clams, sausage and much more.


A forward-thinking restaurant that completely transforms its prix fixe menu and dining experience every four months, it should comes as no surprise that one of its young chefs, Jenner Tomaska, was nominated for 2016 Rising Star Chef of the Year. Each iteration of the menu at Next reimagines a common culinary idea (think steakhouse classics, childhood favorites or modern Chinese food) into an avant-garde surprise, making it the perfect spot to discover new ideas and culinary vision.

Nico Osteria 


This welcoming eatery balances rustic and upscale elements, with brick walls, rich leathers, sumptuous velvets and sleek woods. And the menu at Nico Osteria also plays a delicate balance, between hearty and elegant dishes. Enjoy the labors of Erling Wu-Bower, a 2016 James Beard Award nominee for Best Chef - Great Lakes, as you dine on delicate slices of raw fish, meat-stuffed pastas, flavorful seafood and colorful salads.

north pond 


It could be the picturesque location amid lush foliage in Lincoln Park, or perhaps it’s the exemplary service that makes you feel right at home. Either way, dining at North Pond feels a bit like an escape from the city, even though it’s right in the midst of it. Enjoy seasonal, locally sourced dishes in this historic Arts and Crafts-style building overlooking a pond to experience the hospitality that received a 2016 James Beard Award nomination for Outstanding Service.



Step into Sepia, located in an 1800s building that formerly housed a print shop, to experience traditional dishes made with the freshest ingredients of the season. Andrew Zimmerman, who was nominated for a 2016 James Beard Award for Best Chef - Great Lakes, infuses classic dishes with contemporary flair. And the seasonal wine list curated by sommelier Arthur Hon expertly pairs with the menu’s ever-changing flavors—which is likely why Sepia was also nominated for a James Beard Award for its Outstanding Wine Program.



The contemporary Mexican menu at celebrity chef Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo is organized by categories like “Vibrant,” “Soulful,” “Unexpected” and “Luxurious,” but these words could also describe the service, which received (another) James Beard Award nomination for Outstanding Service.


See the list of all James Beard Award winners in Chicago. 

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