Chicago Chefs Get Some Love as James Beard Award Semifinalists

Plus, a new king is crowned among Chicago’s power chefs, dinner comes to the Winchester, and there are diet-friendly burgers in the ‘burbs.

Nico Osteria, one of Chicago's semifinalists for Best New Restaurant in the James Beard Awards   Photo: John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune

Openings

Open now: Humboldt Park’s Bullhead Cantina has set up a second outpost, this time in Rogers Park (1406 W. Morse Ave., 872-208-5001), and they brought their $6 “No Bullshit Special” of a taco, a shot of whiskey, and a PBR tallboy with them.

Monday, February 24: The second location of BIG and Little’s (1034 W. Belmont Ave., Lake View) soft-opened over Valentine’s Day weekend to monster crowds, but they tell us the official, for-real opening date will be Monday.

Tuesday, February 25: The revolution will be health-ified. Rev Burger (415 S. Schmale Rd., Carol Stream, 630-221-1790) will serve burgers, shakes, and fries—though the burgers will be grass-fed, the shakes will be made with frozen yogurt, and the fries will be baked.

Morsels

Starting tomorrow, the Winchester (1001 N. Winchester Ave., Ukrainian Village) will be open for lunch and dinner. They’re taking reservations tomorrow night from 6 to 8:30 p.m.—but from then on, it’s walk-ins only.

The James Beard Foundation (the givers of the food-world Oscars, for the uninitiated) announced its annual award semifinalists, and these are the highlights of how Chicago fared: Brindille and Nico Osteria got nods for Best New Restaurant, and the closed-for-renovations Spiaggia is our only representative for Outstanding Restaurant. People-wise, Carrie Nahabedian (Naha) is up for Outstanding Chef, Dana Cree (Blackbird) got a nomination for Outstanding Pastry Chef, and Chicago-based importers Vanberg & DeWulf and the crew at Three Floyds for Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professionals. Chicago chefs were most prevalent in the Rising Star Chef of the Year (Jimmy Bannos, Jr., at Purple Pig, Matthew Kirkley at L2O, and David Posey at Blackbird) and the regionally focused Best Chef: Great Lakes, where 11 of the 20 nominees are from here. See a full list of who’s up for what here—finalists will be announced March 18, and winners get crowned May 5.

Absent from that above list is Grant Achatz and the Alinea empire—maybe because Achatz has already won just about every James Beard Award possible to win except for Outstanding Restaurant, which you can’t get nominated for until your restaurant has been open for 10 years. (Alinea in 2015!) Until then, Epicurious did a nice Chicago dining tour with Achatz—and now you, too, can eat the same cheap pho he does at Tank Noodle.

The most powerful chef in Chicago is Paul Kahan, according to our newly released Power 100 list (you can see it in print in our March issue or check it out online). Kahan clocks in at number 33, with Rick Bayless behind him at 41, Grant Achatz at 63, and Protein Bar CEO Matt Matros at 99.

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