The James Beard Foundation held its 2022 Media Awards ceremony on Saturday, June 11, in Chicago, its first after a two-year hiatus and for the first time in person since 2019
Three Chicagoans took home awards, two for books and one for journalism. Julia Momosé, the renowned bartender and creative engine the West Loop Japanese dining bar Kumiko, previously honored as one of the world’s best, and journalist Emma Janzen won in the Beverage with Recipes category for The Way of the Cocktail: Japanese Traditions, Techniques, and Recipes.
The award for Vegetable-Focused Cooking went to Joanne Molinaro, a trial lawyer and TikTok star, for The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes from Omma’s Kitchen. Molinaro brought her suburban immigrant parents, who feature largely in the cookbook, to the ceremony, according to Axios Chicago.
Eater reporter Ahmed Ali Akbar, a recent transplant to Pilsen, won the Feature Reporting award for “Inside the Secretive, Semi-Illicit, High Stakes World of WhatsApp Mango Importing,” which chronicles his search for highly prized Pakistani mangoes through the Meta-owned messaging platform WhatsApp.
A full list of the foundation’s media award winners is available via Eater.
The restaurant and chef awards categories will be announced at a gala at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on Monday. Nine local restaurants, bars, chefs, and bakers are in the running, including Filipino fine dining hit Kasama (Best New Restaurant), recently reopened Korean restaurant Parachute (Outstanding Restaurant), and queer cocktail spot Nobody’s Darling (Outstanding Bar Program).
Despite ongoing legal troubles, Parlor Pizza owners open new West Loop taco bar
Texan Taco Bar, a new West Loop restaurant from the owners of Parlor Pizza, which was shut down for two days last fall by investigators from the state revenue department and is currently facing lawsuits for sexual harassment, labor violations, and racial discrimination, is now open, five years after the initial announcement. The opening of the new restaurant is unaffected by the owners’ legal troubles, Block Club reports, because it’s filed as a different company from the one that runs Parlor Pizza. Customers seem unconcerned: as of Sunday afternoon, it appeared to be doing brisk business.
Old Irving Park Golden Nugget, once a 24-hour neighborhood hangout, closes
The pandemic changed the entire Chicago dining scene, but it seemed to hit late-night spots especially hard: with the labor shortage, managers had trouble filling shifts and some restaurants cut them entirely. The Old Irving Park location of the Golden Nugget chain, a neighborhood standby since 1980, was among them. Once open 24 hours, it began closing at 10 p.m. five years ago. Recently, its staff dwindled to five, and its owner, Cathy Guzman, decided to shut down altogether, Block Club reports. Its three longtime servers have transferred to other Golden Nugget locations; a sign in the window tells customers where to find them.
McDonald’s eliminates healthier foods in favor of speedier service
In an effort to cut back on customer wait times, Chicago-based McDonald’s has decided to eliminate some of its lowest-performing menu items, Crain’s reports. Coincidentally, most of these are the healthier options: salads, grilled chicken, fruit and yogurt parfaits, and the Egg White Delight McMuffin. (But not all: the higher-calorie McChicken biscuit is also gone.) Because who wants to wait for a salad when they can have a box of McNuggets 30 seconds sooner?
Panera eliminates humans in favor of complete automation
Panera Bread opened its first automated takeout-only location at 5320 N. Broadway in Edgewater on Friday, June 10, Nation’s Restaurant News reports. There’s no seating at all — just shelves from which customers and delivery drivers can retrieve orders. Heather Lalley, a Chicago-based senior editor at Restaurant Business magazine, tweeted last week that this might be “a splendid idea” since the increasingly-automated regular Paneras seem to be falling down on the human side, at least based on the cleanliness and customer service she experienced during a recent visit. “When fast-casual prices are approaching those of casual-dining restaurants (our bill, I think, was $27 for two entrees, a brownie and no beverages),” she added, “customers rightfully expect a certain level of service.”