The James Beard Foundation announced today the six recipients of its 2022 America's Classics Award. A Restaurant and Chef category, The America's Classics Award is given to locally owned restaurants that have timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community. This year’s honorees join the ranks of over 100 restaurants across the country that have received the Award since the category was introduced in 1998. They will be celebrated at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards ceremony on Monday, June 13, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
The 2022 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Award winners are:
13301 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA
Owner: Christy Vega
When Rafael "Ray” Vega opened Casa Vega restaurant in 1956, he helped popularize Mexican food in the San Fernando Valley. Countless diners discovered albondigas, enchiladas, sweet corn tamales, and tostadas in the tufted red leather booths. From its opening night, Casa Vega has been a family-run business where everyone is welcome, and every patron is made to feel at home. Rafael passed in 2021 from complications due to COVID-19, but his legacy lives on through his daughter Christina "Christy" Vega, who worked side-by-side with her father for 15 years before taking over the business in 2012. With her restaurant, Christy helps support the greater Latin American community in Los Angeles and beyond, partnering with organizations such as No Us Without You, a nonprofit that provides support for undocumented hospitality workers.
1254 Haddon Ave, Camden, NJ
Owner: Corinne Bradley-Powers
Corinne Bradley-Powers has been keeping Haddon Avenue festive since 1989 with a birthday-pink dining room and a devoted post-church Sunday rush. It could be the Cajun-spiced turkey wings, the picnic-perfect black-eyed peas, the tender pig’s feet in zesty sauce, the smothered pork chops, or the sweet potato pie. But there’s no doubt her classic fried chicken—its simply seasoned crust fried to a golden, heat-bubbled cracker shell concealing juicy meat—is also a prime reason this restaurant has remained an enduring touchstone for home-style soul food. Over the past three decades, it has become a pillar of community at the heart of one of America’s lowest-income cities. Bradley-Powers’ longevity as a business owner remains a beacon of hope that continues to inspire. During the pandemic, she transformed a vacant lot beside her storefront into a tented gathering space for tranquil outdoor dining. Known as “the oasis,” complete with a trickling fountain and warm hospitality to go along with Corinne’s irresistible soul food platters, it lives up to its name.
4629 N Port Washington Rd, Milwaukee, WI
Owners: Glenn Fieber
Minnesota might be home to the juicy lucy, but its neighbor Wisconsin is home to the butter burger. While there may be claims as to who invented this rich, creamy, and meaty sandwich that pays tribute to Wisconsin’s dairy heritage, it’s Solly’s Grille that put it on the map. Created in 1936 by Kenneth “Solly” Salmon, this sandwich features ground sirloin with stewed onions with the crowning glory of farm-fresh Wisconsin butter that overflows onto the plate. People from far and wide make the pilgrimage to this family-owned Milwaukee restaurant, an institution that boasts the use of over 130 pounds of butter per week.
17 Mott St, New York, NY
Owners: Huang Family
For the city that never sleeps, it’s hard to imagine a restaurant that better suits New York City’s hunger for delicious food any time of day. Wo Hop has inhabited the basement level of 17 Mott Street since 1938, serving a distinct brand of Chinese American food through a uniquely New York lens. Ming Huang took over the independent eatery from his uncle and describes the menu at Wo Hop as “old-fashioned, chop suey-style food,” a cuisine that Huang says is disappearing from many American Chinatowns. A trip to Wo Hop is the perfect end to any night, one that you couldn’t experience anywhere else in the world.
The Busy Bee Café
810 Martin Luther King Jr Dr, SW Atlanta, GA
Owner: Tracy Gates
When Lucy Jackson opened the Busy Bee Café on what was then called Hunter Street in 1947, it was one of only two streets in the city of Atlanta open to Black entrepreneurs after the race riots pushed the community from downtown Atlanta. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights icons frequented Busy Bee to enjoy a hearty meal of fried chicken, ham hocks, catfish, collard greens, macaroni cheese, cornbread, and other soulful dishes. Today, the cafe is owned by the Gates family with Tracy Gates at the helm. Tracy has worked hard to revive the restaurant to Jackson’s standard of providing excellent service and consistent food preparation. It remains a community gathering spot, as well as a tourist destination, where locals, regional and international celebrities, and a bastion of comforting soul food for generations past and present come to roost.
1437 Northeast 23rd Street, Oklahoma City, OK
Owner: Florence Kemp
Florence Jones Kemp was born in 1931 in Boley, Oklahoma, a town that was founded in the 19th century by Black pioneers. From her mother, she learned strength and grit, as well as how to plant and harvest tomatoes, onions, and okra, how to milk a cow and churn butter, and how much better farm-fresh food tastes. In 1952, she had saved enough money as a server to open her own restaurant in Oklahoma City. All she had was "two chickens and a prayer." In the words of the Oklahoman, she "hunkered down and cooked her way through the longest odds to become a local institution on a long, slow, word-of-mouth campaign through social injustices and catastrophes man-made and fate-ordained." Today, the restaurant is nearly 70 years old, and Florence Kemp is still proudly working—along with her daughter Victoria—serving the same recipes her mother taught her, with a few new ones sprinkled in, and all of it what she calls "good country food for the soul."