It’s awards season, and not just in Hollywood. Nine Badger State restaurants compete for the culinary industry’s most prestigious honor.
Wisconsin will be well represented at the 2023 James Beard Awards, considered the oscar of the culinary world. Nine chefs, restaurants, and owners in the state were named semifinalists in six different categories:
- Best Chef- Midwest: Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite, Ester Ev, Milwaukee
- Best Chef- Midwest: Gregory Leon, Amilinda, Milwaukee
- Best Chef- Midwest: Francesco Mangano, Osteria Papavero, Madison
- Best Chef- Midwest: Itaru Nagano and Andrew Kroeger, Fairchild, Madison
- Best New Restaurant: Lupi and Iris, Milwaukee
- Emerging Chef: Jamie Hoang, Ahan, Madison
- Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker: Andrew Hutchison, Madison Sourdough, Madison
- Featured restaurant: Wickman House, Ellison Bay
- Featured Restaurateur: Amy and Jason Kerstein, Owners of Blackshoe Hospitality, Milwaukee & Shorewood
The James Beard Awards, considered among the nation’s most prestigious honors, are about more than just food. The annual honors recognize exceptional talent in the culinary and food media industries, as well as commitment to racial and gender equity, community and sustainability.
The list of semifinalists will be narrowed down on March 29, when this year’s finalists are revealed, and the winners will be announced June 5 at the 2023 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony in Chicago. Click here to see the complete list of semifinalists in 23 categories.
And because you can’t write a story about food without showing it off, we compiled a list of “must-see” dishes at each of the Wisconsin semifinalists’ restaurants.
Ester Ev, Milwaukee
EsterEv’s globally inspired menu changes with the seasons and includes eight courses for $95. (Wine pairings are available for an additional $45.) american wagyu is usually available, but What served changes frequently. Whether paired with risotto and mushrooms or paired with Benoit Daridan Cheverny, it’s always delicious.
Inspired by the flavors of Spain and Portugal, Amilinda’s menu changes so frequently (based on product availability) that it often varies by day. According to owner Gregory León, when Piri Piri Chicken It’s on the list, ask for it! A little sour, a little sweet and slightly salty, the sauce has a complex flavor, but is always a crowd pleaser.
Osteria Papavero, Madison
A rustic-casual Italian restaurant located a few blocks from Capitol Square, Osteria Papavero’s menu is packed with recipes from chef Francesco Mangano’s hometown of Bologna. Recommend newbies to try the Wild Boar Ragout with Pappardelle Pasta. And don’t forget the great piatoa large platter filled with local sausages and sausages, as an appetizer.
Fairchild specializes in elevated casual cooking, or as the trio of Wisconsin-raised chefs who run the place call it, “good food done right.” Like the other restaurants on this list, Fairchild’s menu is always evolving based on what’s in season, but its deviled eggs (topped with paprika and parsley) are a mainstay and the perfect start to any meal.
Lupi and Iris, Milwaukee
Close your eyes and you’ll feel like you’re in Europe when you dine at Lupi and Iris, a French and Italian Riviera-inspired restaurant with a menu focused on “refined simplicity.” try the Roasted Veal Chop: a wood-fired oven-roasted Strauss beef rib with grilled broccolini, caramelized anchovy, and roast potatoes. And don’t forget the olive oil cake With fresh lemon and honey cream for dessert!
Ahan, the Laotian word for food, joined the Madison food scene in 2020 as one of the rare restaurants in opened during the pandemic. Any of the noodle dishes on the menu, from drunken noodles with pork, tomato and bok choy, for red curry udon, with tofu, mushrooms and toasted coconut – make the perfect comfort food. And if you like spice, ask for a side of chili oil.
Madison Sourdough, Madison
A bakery, cafe, mill, and pastry shop all in one unassuming shop, Madison Sourdough makes everything from scratch. If you fancy something tasty, ask for the classic breakfast sandwich (egg, aioli and cheddar cheese served on a butter croissant). And if you’re craving something sweet, a slice of funfetti cake from the bakery menu is always a good idea!
Wickman House, Ellison Bay
Wickman House owner Mike Holmes not only say is committed to sustainable agriculture – he shows by sourcing many of his menu’s key ingredients from his restaurant’s own back garden. He Wickman cold cuts and cheese board and the Chef cut steakwith mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and red mole, they stand out.
Blackshoe Hospitality, Milwaukee
Blackshoe is the only name on this list that is an ownership group, not an individual restaurant. Amy and Jason Kerstein manage four hotspots in the Milwaukee area. At the cozy and casual Story Hill BKC, try the ham and cheese stuffing pancake sir. At the brunch-focused Blue’s Egg, order the Caramel Drizzled Separate Plate monkey bread. At the southern-inspired Maxie’s, choose from traditional Jambalaya (with shrimp, andouille, and chicken) or vegetarian (with smoked tofu, walnuts, and spinach). And at the exclusive Buttermint, don’t miss the 100 Acre Pesto Pasta with basil pesto, parmesan, marinated peppers and breadcrumbs.