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Here Are Chicago’s James Beard Finalists and Spirited Awards Semifinalists

Eight of 19 nominees advanced to the final round of the Beards, with nine local bars and bartenders picking up nods

Spirited Award Bar Mentor semifinalist Paul McGee, right, at Lost Lake. The Logan Square tiki spot was nominated for a Beard and two Spirited Awards today.   Photo: Peter Ranvestel

The nominees for two major industry awards were announced today: the finalists for James Beard Foundation Awards and the top 10 for the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards.

Despite strong showings on the semifinalist list announced earlier this spring, Chicago chefs, bars, and restaurants earned just eight nominations in the Beards. For the Spirited Awards, local bars and bartenders picked up nine nominations.

But there was a big winner locally, with Lost Lake picking up three nods across both awards. The Logan Square tiki bar was nominated for the James Beard for Outstanding Bar Program, as well as the Spirited Award for Best Bar Team. Meanwhile, co-owner Paul McGee picked up a Spirited Award nomination for Best Bar Mentor.

The Beard Award ceremony had been scheduled for tonight at the Lyric Opera, but has since been moved to September 25. After holding off a few weeks on unveiling the finalists, which had been slated to happen during a ceremony on March 25, the Beards made the decision to announce the finalists today.

Fewer than half of Chicago’s 19 semifinalists advanced to the final round. Chicago chefs swept the Best Chef Great Lakes category, with Lula Café’s Jason Hammel, Momotaro’s Gene Kato, Oriole’s Noah Sandoval, Smyth and the Loyalist’s John and Karen Shields, Virtue’s Erick Williams, and Boka’s Lee Wolen comprising the nominations.

There were only two other Chicago nominations, both on the beverage side: Spiaggia for Outstanding Wine Program and Lost Lake for Outstanding Bar Program. That shut out a lot of worthy semi-finalists, including Boka for Outstanding Restaurant, Monteverdere’s Sarah Grueneberg for Outstanding Chef, and both Thattu and Tzuco for Best New Restaurant.

The Spirited Awards are typically announced during the annual Tales of the Cocktail festival, which is held each July in New Orleans. (It won’t happen this year, but organizers are hoping to hold much smaller events in cities around the country instead).

The awards, however, are going ahead virtually. Besides Lost Lake’s nominations, Best Intentions was nominated for Best American Cocktail Bar alongside bars like Boston’s Drink and San Francisco’s Trick Dog. Heaven Hill brand educator Lynn House was nominated for Bar Mentor, as was Bridget Albert of Southern Glazer Wine & Spirits. Other nominations include Bad Hunter for Best American Restaurant Bar, The Office for World’s Best Spirits Selection, Julia Momose for American Bartender of the Year, and Robin Nance for Best American Brand Ambassador for her work with Beam Suntory. The finalists will be announced on June 1, with a digital awards ceremony slated for July 25.

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