Dallas is the baking capital of America, at least as judged by the James Beard Awards. The finalists for 2023’s awards were announced on Wednesday, and North Texas continued its strong showing across multiple categories.
Oak Cliff’s Kuluntu Bakery and Richardson’s La Casita Bakeshop are both finalists for Best Bakery. That’s nationally, not just in Texas, meaning two of the five top bakeries this year are North Texas locals. It’s especially impressive that Kuluntu, a cottage bakery with limited production, finds itself in such prestigious company.
Also up for national awards: Lucia, nominated for Outstanding Restaurant (the Beards’ highest honor, equivalent to a Best Picture Oscar), and Restaurant Beatrice, for Best New Restaurant. Among Beatrice’s competition in that category are two upscale Texas Mexican restaurants, Don Artemio in Fort Worth and Houston’s Tatemó.
North Texas’ sole contender for Best Chef: Texas is Reyna Duong of beloved bánh mì spot Sandwich Hag. Duong serves some of Dallas’ very best sandwiches, but the recognition also honors other themes of her career: her advocacy for better treatment of service industry workers (including Sandwich Hag’s famous “No Assholes” policy), and her support of workers with Down syndrome and other disabilities. She’s been an outspoken advocate for change in how the industry operates, and a mentor figure for younger Dallas-area chefs from a variety of backgrounds.
(Since bakeries are a theme, I would like to take a moment to shout out to Quoc Bao Bakery in Garland, from which Sandwich Hag buys its spectacular bread. I have nominated Quoc Bao for Beard Awards in the past, fruitlessly, and would like to use this opportunity to convey that love publicly.)
Elsewhere in Texas, Houston restaurant Nancy’s Hustle is a finalist for its wine and cocktail program, and a bar in Brownsville, Las Ramblas, is continuing an underdog-style quest to be named America’s best bar.
You can read the full list of nominations here, but here’s the full list of Texas contenders:
Best New Restaurant
- Restaurant Beatrice, Dallas
- Tatemó, Houston
- Don Artemio, Fort Worth
Las Ramblas, Brownsville
Best Wine and Beverage Program
Nancy’s Hustle, Houston
- Kuluntu Bakery, Dallas
- La Casita Bakeshop, Richardson
Best Chef: Texas
- Reyna Duong, Sandwich Hag, Dallas, TX
- Benchawan Jabthong Painter, Street to Kitchen, Houston, TX
- Emiliano Marentes, ELEMI, El Paso, TX
- John Russ, Clementine, San Antonio, TX
- Ernest Servantes and David Kirkland, Burnt Bean Co., Seguin, TX