Food & Drink

These Seattle and Portland Restaurants Are 2022 James Beard Award Semifinalists

Mama Đút, Musang, and More
February 23, 2022
Musang chef Melissa Miranda is up for a Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific award from the James Beard Foundation. (Musang)

The prestigious James Beard Foundation (named after the late, great Portland-born chef and food writer) announced the semifinalists for its annual awards this week, and many Pacific Northwest chefs and restaurants made the cut. Check out the list of Washington and Oregon semi-finalists below. The next round of finalists will be announced on March 16, followed by an awards gala in Chicago on June 13—stay tuned for more updates.


Archipelago List
This high-end Filipino restaurant from chef Aaron Verzosa (formerly of Modernist Cuisine and Harvest Vine) and his wife Amber Manuguid, which opened in the former space of Eyman’s Pizza, focuses on a Pacific Northwest approach to Filipino cooking, using local and seasonal ingredients, and offers a nine- to 12-course tasting menu, with two seatings per night. Reservations book up months in advance; April and May reservations open March 1 at 2 pm.
Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific (Aaron Vezosa)

Bar del Corso 
List This convivial neighborhood pizzeria is perpetually packed with Beacon Hill locals getting their wood-fired pizza fix. (If there’s a wait, avail yourself of one of the bar’s excellent Negronis.) Those blistering pies are indeed delicious, but the Italian small plates, such as grilled octopus or burrata with rapini, are what gives this place the edge. The specials board is always a knockout: A recent visit yielded a mouthwatering potato pizza topped with a sheaf of Prosciutto di Parma, as well as the unbeatable tonno del chianti—pork shoulder braised in olive oil and served on a bed of crunchy radicchio. Earmark one of the light and crumbly polenta cakes before they sell out. JENN CAMPBELL
Outstanding Hospitality

Communion List
Chef Kristi Brown of That Brown Girl Cooks and her son and business partner Damon Bomar opened their much-anticipated "Seattle soul food" restaurant Communion in the Central District in late 2020. The fact that the restaurant and bar is located in the former site of Liberty Bank lends even more meaning to the opening of a Black-owned business in a heavily gentrified neighborhood: The building was home to the region's first Black-owned bank, opened in 1968 to offer financial support to African-American homeowners and counteract racist housing segregation practices. Brown derived inspiration for the menu from her food memories of the Central District as well as Chinatown-International District. Offerings include barbecue shrimp and grits, chicken wings, berbere grilled chicken, po' mis (a combination of a po' boy and a banh mi) with fried oyster mushrooms and catfish, and fried catfish "hood sushi." There's also a retail area with jarred cocktails and Brown's beloved black-eyed pea hummus for sale. Aside from James Beard, Communion also was named Seattle Met's Restaurant of the Year 2021 and Eater Seattle Awards' Best New Restaurant 2021, landed a spot on Condé Nast Traveler's Best New Restaurants in the World 2021 and the New York Times' Restaurant List 2021, and received a rave review from Meg van Huygen in The Stranger.
Emerging Chef (Kristi Brown)

Delancey List
Delancey is a Ballard pizzeria with pie in the thin-crust mode of the (rightly) revered Di Fara in Brooklyn. The waits are long and the spare-chic interior gets loud, but if you are willing to dedicate three hours to dinner out, the pizza is mighty fine.
Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific (Brandon Pettit)

Eight Row 
List Chef David Nichols, who previously worked as the executive chef at Queen Anne Beer Hall and Rider, now runs Eight Row, his debut solo venture, in the former location of Lucia in Green Lake. The restaurant, named in tribute to Nichols's family's cherry orchard in Wenatchee, serves "Pan American" cuisine with a menu centered around the tree fruit seasons and food cultures of Central Washington. The restaurant incorporates elements from Nichols' family's farm, like the antique pruners repurposed as bar taps, and is lined with jars containing various pickles and ferments. On the weekends, there's also a five-course family-style tasting menu.
Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific (David Nichols)

The Flour Box List
Originally a pop-up, Pamela Vuong's cult-favorite brioche doughnut pop-up The Flour Box is now a bright and airy brick-and-mortar bakery offering doughnuts in flavors like everything bagel, cold brew cream, and lemon lime curd. Besides doughnuts, Vuong also serves cinnamon rolls, brownies, cookies, plus coffee from Anchorhead Coffee.
Outstanding Baker (Pamela Vuong)

Joule List
In 2017, then-Stranger food editor and current bestselling author Angela Garbes wrote, "There are dishes that get under the skin—they intertwine with our senses and emotions, nestle deep into our bodies and memories. The spicy rice cakes with chorizo and pickled mustard greens at Joule is my favorite plate of food in town.... I'm not the only one who loves these rice cakes. According to chef Rachel Yang's recently published cookbook My Rice Bowl: Korean Cooking Outside the Lines, on any given night, one out of every three customers orders it.... For many, Yang's food is their first introduction to both Korean ingredients and the boldly flavored, boundary-pushing food that defines much of American dining now. She understands innately that elements such as kimchi, fermented tofu, and fish sauce aren't novel ingredients poised to 'arrive' on the food scene, but ingredients that have always been here, part of so many people's history and everyday lives."
Outstanding Chef (Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi)

Kamonegi List
Mutsuko Soma's soba tiny soba restaurant has received great acclaim nationwide and from The Stranger, including earning a spot on the list of the best restaurants of 2018. As Naomi Tomky wrote, "Mutsuko Soma creates magic in the form of soba noodles and tempura. She didn't set out to be a soba noodle making master, but when she discovered that the buckwheat used to make her beloved grandmother's dish was mostly grown in her adopted home state of Washington, she leaned in to fate and headed to soba school. Now she marries the old-school noodle-making technique with local ingredients, and uses her own wildly creative culinary mind to produce dishes like sake poached shrimp on foie gras tofu and curry mozzarella soba bowls."
Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific (Mutsuko Soma)

Lil Red Takeout and Catering List
This local gem earned a spot on a list of the top 20 Black-owned barbecue spots in the nation, compiled by James Beard Award-winning author and barbecue expert Adrian Miller in his new book Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue(Considering that Miller sampled barbecue at over 200 restaurants across the country to research his book, this is no faint praise.) The restaurant is run by husband-and-wife team Erasto “Red” Jackson, who specializes in soul food and a style of barbecue that incorporates influences from Texas, Memphis, and Kansas City, and Lelieth Jackson, who is of Jamaican descent and the mastermind behind the restaurant's Jamaican dishes. Fans love the ribs, the mac and cheese, the jerk chicken, the brisket, the rum cake, and the banana pudding. 
Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific (Erasto Jackson)

Musang List  
When this Beacon Hill restaurant opened in early 2020, Kara Tiernan wrote for The Stranger, "If you've stood in line at one of her pop-ups, seen the growing number of accolades she's earned, or watched her walk chef Marcus Samuelsson through the Seattle Filipino restaurant scene on No Passport Required, you've probably been patiently anticipating the opening of chef Melissa Miranda's restaurant Musang for a long time. The wait is finally over. Main dishes such as the beef mechado are a must-try, a comforting steamy stew of beef and roasted vegetables swimming in a red pepper tomato sauce, as is the smoked steelhead trout tinapa with fennel, bitter greens, and a roasted tomato vinaigrette that one of the staff described as crack sauce (which is accurate AF). The ginataan was hands down my favorite dish, and can easily be added to any order. It's traditionally cooked with shrimp and shrimp paste; however, at Musang, they've created a savory vegan version with winter squash, mushrooms, roasted root vegetables, turmeric, and ginger with a garnish of pickled mushrooms and herbs on top."
Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific (Melissa Miranda)

Rupee Bar List
This Sri Lankan spot comes from Manolin veterans Joe Sundberg, Rachel Johnson, and Patrick Thalasinos. Inspired by Johnson's travels through Sri Lanka and India through her twenties, the menu focuses on small plates such as mutton rolls, kohlrabi salad, naan, and pork curry ribs, along with drinks like the mezcal-based "Crazy Jumper" with tamarind-date chutney and a "Curry Leaf Gimlet" with ghee-washed gin.
Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific (Liz Kenyon)

Earlier this year, Meg van Huygen wrote for The Stranger, "Since it opened in September last year, everyone's creamed their jeans over former Canlis wunderkind Brady Ishiwata Williams' new White Center spot, which is so fancy, it doesn't even have a sign because you're just supposed to know.... Look, if you want to pull a Dr. Frasier Crane on date night and you have the cash to drop on the prix fixe at TOMO, hey, why not—you'll have a fine, fancy time learning about esoteric squashes and unidentified sauce puddles. Once you do it, you probably won't need to again. The food's lovely to eat, but it's mostly about style and concept and novelty, which, y'know. We knew this going in, we get it, we enjoyed it, but… we were still kinda hungry when we left. But if you don't feel like going in for a C-note and a half per head after drinks, tax, and gratuity, here is what you do. There are six seats at TOMO's bar, and you can't reserve them. You have to just show up. You'll have everything you need for an enchanted evening at TOMO right there."
Outstanding Wine Program

The Walrus and the Carpenter 
List The wait at this acclaimed Renee Erickson oyster bar in Ballard, which doesn't accept reservations, is famously long, and rightfully so. To kill time and prepare your belly for all the bivalves you're about to slide down your gullet, go sip an aperitivo made with one of the many amaros from the bar's extensive collection at Erickson's Barnacle next door. Once you're back, get ready to glut yourself on a parade of chubby, buttery oysters from Hama Hama and other local suppliers, along with sourdough bread from the excellent local Sea Wolf Bakery. Cap it all off with an order of salty roasted medjool dates for dessert.
Outstanding Restaurant


Matia Kitchen & Bar (Orcas Island)
List Best New Restaurant 

Ursa Minor (Lopez Island)
List Best chef: Northwest and Pacific (Nick Coffey)

Zona Blanca (Spokane)
List Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific (Chad White)


Berlu List
Chef Vince Nguyen earned acclaim for his unpretentious, Pacific Northwest-influenced tasting menus when he opened Berlu in 2018. Rather than close during the advent of the pandemic, he used the opportunity to delve deeper into his Vietnamese roots, running a takeout-only bakery and turning out irresistibly chewy treats like bành bò nướng and pandan waffles. Last fall, the restaurant reopened for dine-in with an innovative Vietnamese street food-inspired tasting menu.
Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific (Vince Nguyen)

List This charming James Beard-nominated restaurant serves French-inflected fare from chef Katy Millard, made with sustainable, locally sourced ingredients. They're also known for their coveted chocolate chip cookies—Suzette Smith writes, "The dark chocolate and almonds of Chef Katy Millard’s chocolate chip meld perfectly with their recipe's brown sugar and sea salt...A Coquine cookie is definitely a dessert and meant to sit atop a meal with finality: You are now full."
Outstanding Hospitality

List One of a couple restaurants run by nominee Earl Ninsom, this Thai barbecue restaurant has received no shortage of local acclaim after its opening in 2019 (in addition to nabbing the top spot in the Mercury's roundup of best new restaurants, it was also chosen as Restaurant of the Year by The Oregonian and Portland Monthly). As Andrea Damewood wrote for the Portland Mercury, "Eem is the restaurant equivalent of Lizzo: infectious, critically and commercially acclaimed, and addictive AF. You cannot go wrong in ordering, from the hot fried cauliflower to the divine brisket in white curry to the fried rice with burnt ends. And both the cocktails and mocktails are some of the best in town—my favorite piña colada, made with coffee and salt to keep it from being too cloying, is on the menu again." 
Outstanding Restaurateur (Akkapong "Earl" Ninsom)

Hat Yai
Another highly praised restaurant from Earl Ninsom, this fast-casual Southern Thai-style fried chicken place has been written about thusly by Andrea Damewood for the Portland Mercury: "I think the argument can be made that fried chicken in all its forms (nugget, strip, on-the-bone, etc.) is the best food in the world. Every country has a version, and each one is finger-lickin’ good. And the perfect bird at Hat Yai could put anything the Colonel ever made to shame."
Outstanding Restaurateur (Akkapong "Earl" Ninsom)

Langbaan List
The third of three restaurants from Earl Ninsom named in the James Beard semifinalist announcement, this one is on the opposite end of the spectrum from fast-casual Hat Yai, above. As Andrea Damewood has written, "From the sidewalk on SE 28th, all you can see of Langbaan are the tops of succulents in rough wood planters; a shade obscures the activity within. A top-knotted waitress ushers your party to the back, pulls a handle on a false bookshelf and leads you into the open kitchen and tiny dining room, where PaaDee's Akkapong "Earl" Ninsom is already laying out the betel leaf for the first course. This is where you and a select few will spend the next two hours of your life sampling 10 to 13 courses of Thai tastes and textures rarely seen outside of Siam. While PaaDee is billed as Thai comfort food, its hidden jewel, Langbaan, is pushing far outside of those cozy confines and into the exciting realms of refined and challenging plates. Like a salmon ceviche with Thai eggplant and orange, Langbaan is the kind of thing Portland didn't know it needed until it was served to us, perfectly spiced."
Outstanding Restaurateur (Akkapong "Earl" Ninsom)

Magna Kusina List
It’s never easy to open a restaurant, but the opening of Magna Kusina—the new intensely personal restaurant from Carlo Lamagna celebrating his Filipino heritage—is a particular triumph. Filipino food, long difficult to find outside major cities and often disregarded by mainstream food media, is coming into its own nationwide—as a result, Lamagna’s restaurant was making most-anticipated lists across the country. ANDREA DAMEWOOD
Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific (Carlo Lamagna)

Mama Đút 
List Thuy Pham's Vietnamese pop-up, which she started at the beginning of the pandemic while unable to continue her usual job as a hairdresser, specializes in vegan Vietnamese food, with remarkably realistic plant-based versions of crispy pork belly, chicken wings, and other meats. Now she's opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant, serving mushroom bao buns, jackfruit banh mi sandwiches, turmeric waffles, and other delights.
Emerging Chef (Thuy Pham)

Oma’s Hideaway List
Gado Gado owners Thomas and Mariah Pisha-Duffly's pandemic-friendly "stoner food" spinoff serves a menu inspired by Malaysian-Chinese street food, like rice bowls and cheeseburgers with chili onion jam and lime leaf coconut butter, plus Fruity Pebble Rice Crispy Treats. They've recreated the ambiance of a lively night market with a live cooking station, and Eric Nelson, owner and bartender of Shipwreck and co-owner of Eem List , brings his playful cocktail prowess to the drinks list, with fun beverages like Mai Tai slushies and Jell-O shots with boba.
Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific (Thomas Pisha-Duffly)

List Last February, Suzette Smith wrote for the Mercury, "Like the name suggests, there's not one single voice to Republica PDX. I'm a fan of their food, but you might just as easily come to love the cafe for its curation of Mexican wines, or for Bartruff's ever-changing selection of pastries. The cafe opened in November, and it's already one of my favorite places to eat in the Pearl District. On nicer days, they're able to open the cafe doors to an outdoor patio and take advantage of the overgrown beauty of the Ecotrust Building's courtyard."
Best New Restaurant


Epilogue Kitchen & Cocktails (Salem)
List Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific (Jonathan Jones)

Hiyu Wine Farm (Hood River)
List Outstanding Wine Program

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