If you’re the kind of traveler who prefers seeking out the local mom and pop diner to making reservations at the Michelin star restaurants in town, here are five spots to add to your list. The winners of the James Beard Foundation’s 2019 America’s Classics awards range from a family-owned pho shop in Orange County, California, to a bakery in the small town of McCook in southwest Nebraska. Since the category was introduced in 1998, these awards have gone to over 100 regional establishments that exemplify local character, lasting appeal, and quality food. Here, find out more about this year’s winners, who will be honored in May 2019 at the James Beard Awards Gala in Chicago.
When Tong Trần and Liễu Trần opened Pho 79 in Orange County, California in 1982, it was one of the first restaurants in the area to serve these rich bowls of rice noodles served in beef broth with brisket, tripe, meatballs, or oxtail. Now a part of a vibrant Vietnamese American community in southern California, the next generation of the Trần family operates this restaurant as well as a few others in the area, including Pho 101. 9941 Hazard Avenue, Garden Grove, California, pho79.com
Jim’s Steak & Spaghetti House
The spaghetti part of Jim’s Steak & Spaghetti House became the main focus of this establishment ever since a local Italian immigrant gave founder Jim Tweel his recipe and told him to open a spaghetti house in 1945. Now run by his three children, this establishment also draws crowds for its strawberry pie that is only sold for one week each year for Mother’s Day. 920 Fifth Avenue, Huntington, West Virginia, jimsspaghetti.com A&A Bake & Double and Roti Shop
Even as Brooklyn gentrifies, Trinidadian natives Noel and Geeta Brown stay true to Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Caribbean history by serving long lines of customers doubles, a Trinidadian dish made of curried chickpeas between deep-fried flatbreads for just $1.50. After opening their restaurant in 2002, the Browns recently moved it to a larger space nearby to accommodate more customers and hopefully cut back on those lines. 1337 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, New York, aandabakedoublesandrotishop.com
Sehnert’s Bakery & Bieroc Café
According to the James Beard Foundation, “Bieroc is as essential to the fabric of Nebraska as is Husker football.” But if you haven’t heard of it before, it’s a savory yeasted pastry stuffed with seasoned ground beef and cabbage or sauerkraut that originated with 19th-century German-speaking Russian immigrants in the state. Walt and Jean Sehnert opened a bakery to make bierocs in the town of McCook in southwest Nebraska all the way back in 1957, and now the fourth generation of Sehnert bakers have run the business since 1991. 312 Norris Avenue, McCook, Nebraska, sehnerts.com Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse
Founded in 1948 by George Katinas, a first-generation Greek American and U.S. army veteran, Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse has been known as much for being a welcoming space for D.C.’s LGBTQ community as it has for its burgers, steaks, and cocktails. While it’s moved locations and is currently run by George’s son, Paul, it has remained a strong supporter of the Gay Men’s Chorus, Whitman Walker Clinic, and the Pride parade throughout the years. 1609 17th Street NW, Washington, D.C., facebook.com
>> Next: 5 Culinary Bookstores in the U.S. That Offer More Than Just Recipes
Lyndsey Matthews Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at AFAR who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.