Don’t despair, local food lovers. Even though no chef or restaurant from Lakeland made the recently announced list of semifinalists for the 2024 James Beard Awards, there are plenty of culinary stars in our city shining bright.
That’s why we asked you to be the judge. Which restaurants or chefs deserve more love? You told us who would get your vote under the following James Beard categories based on the organization’s criteria of excellence and other factors like commitment to community.
Here are a couple of your noms, plus a few of our own.
🏆 Outstanding Chef
Chef Marcos Fernandez, Nineteen61 | City Editor Rilee’s pick | The Latin and Spanish-inspired dishes at this fine dining restaurant keep us coming back for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Chef Marcos continues to plan big things for Nineteen61, including an upcoming rooftop bar space.
Award-worthy dishes: Empanadas, filet mignon, and Grand Marnier crème brulée
Jeremy Brumley, LoveBird Almost Famous Chicken | Nominated by Reader Varrick N. | Owner Jeremy Brumley was the People’s Choice winner at the 2023 Catapult Awards, and this reader thinks he deserves a James Beard Award too. Brumley’s hot chicken joint will open a Winter Haven location soon.
Award-worthy dishes: The G.O.A.T. sandwich, citrus grilled tenders, and So Gouda mac and cheese
🏆 Outstanding Bakery
Born & Bread Bakehouse | City Editor Connor’s pick | Fresh bread and flaky cruffins put this local bakery on the map. Now, foodies flock from out of town to get a taste of the baked goods dreamed up by owner Jennifer Smurr — it’s gotten so popular that it’s now open Wednesday-Saturday.
Award-worthy dishes: Traditional croissants, cruffins, and Benton’s breakfast sandwiches
🏆 Best New Restaurant
Jessie’s Gourmet Sandwich Cafe | City Editor Rilee’s pick | This small shop has made a big impact. Run by Jessie Scarpa, it specializes in twists on classic sandwiches. Our followers lauded the cafe on Instagram, with @sharong1054 saying, “The sandwiches are above board and Jessie is always in the mood to chat.”
Award-worthy dishes: Chicken parm sandwich, The Scarpa’s Italian, and Jessie’s Girl salad
Street Cafe | Nominated by Reader Neva M. | Indulge in food from this Egyptian restaurant, where dining feels like sitting around the family table. As owner Marianne Garas says, “Come a little early, stay a little late.”
Award-worthy dishes: Shakshuka, shawarma, and kofta
🏆 Outstanding Bar
Revival | Nominated by multiple readers | With an extensive menu of craft cocktails, old fashioneds, and tiki drinks, this upscale downtown bar swept the nominations. Jeannie Weaver Lopez and Ryan Lopez of Revival will soon open the Peach House near Lake Morton.
Award-worthy drinks: Chai Re-fashioned, Faux-spresso Martini, Shark Attack