The James Beard Foundation Just Named These Restaurants 'America's Classics'

Six restaurants around the country earned the honor this year.

Casa Vega restaurant in Sherman Oaks, California
Photo: Jim Steinfeldt / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

For the past 24 years, the James Beard Foundation has sought out American restaurants that might've flown under the radar, if not for the love, support, and fantastic menu items that they've given to their local communities. The Foundation has recognized dozens of eateries that have "timeless appeal," designating them as America's Classics.

On Wednesday, the James Beard Foundation announced the six restaurants that have earned the 2022 America's Classics Awards, and this year's honorees include a beloved Mexican restaurant in California's San Fernando Valley, a world-famous Wisconsin diner, and an Atlanta cafe that was a favorite of a civil rights icon.

The 2022 James Beard America's Classics Award winners are:

Casa Vega, Sherman Oaks, CA

The James Beard Foundation says that this 66-year-old family-run Mexican restaurant turned "countless diners" on to founder Rafael "Ray" Vega's enchiladas, tamales, and tostadas.

Corinne's Place, Camden, NJ

Corinne Bradley-Powers opened her namesake restaurant in 1989 and, in the years since, it has become "an enduring touchstone for home-style soul food." Last spring, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy praised the restaurant for its community-focused efforts during the pandemic, which included turning a nearby vacant lot into an outdoor dining space, and providing meals to frontline workers.

Solly's Grille, Milwaukee, WI

There are other restaurants — both in and out of Wisconsin — that serve the state's signature Butter Burger, but Solly's Grille is where the butter-drenched, onion-topped, downright irresistible sandwich originated some 86 years ago.

Wo Hop, New York, NY

Ming Huang, who took over this 86-year-old Chinatown icon from his uncle, describes its menu as "old-fashioned, chop suey-style food." The Beard Foundation is less modest in its praise, calling a meal at Wo Hop one you "couldn't experience anywhere else in the world."

The Busy Bee Café, Atlanta, GA

In decades past, Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders regularly stopped into the Busy Bee for its unrivaled soul food. (King was apparently fond of the ham hocks.) Current chef and owner Tracy Gates has been in charge since 1987 and prides herself on the restaurant's ability to blend the traditional and the contemporary. "I like to read old cookbooks from the 1800s from African-Americans and reading the history of culture to experiment with how they cooked food back then to now," she previously told Chowhound.

Florence's Restaurant, Oklahoma City, OK

When Florence Jones Kemp opened her restaurant in 1952, she said she didn't have more than "two chickens and a prayer." In the 70 years since, she has turned those "two chickens" into a must-visit spot for what she calls "Good, Country Food for the Soul." And with the restaurant's America's Classic designation, Florence's Restaurant has also earned Oklahoma's first — and so far only — James Beard Award.

The restaurants above will be formally celebrated at this year's James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards ceremony, which will take place on Monday, June 13.

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