New York, NY (May 5, 2003) - Each year The James Beard Foundation Awards presents the Coca-Cola America’s Classics to four locally owned and operated regional restaurants that have withstood the test of time and are beloved in their communities. These restaurants are more than likely casual, offer a very distinct menu and atmosphere and are a slice of American culinary history. Following are profiles of each recipient written by members of The James Beard Foundation Restaurant Awards Committee.
Duarte's Tavern, 202 Stage Road (at Pescadero Road), Pescadero, CA
PH: 650-879-0464, Owners: The Duarte Family
Frank Duarte (pronounced dew-art) brought his first barrel of whiskey to Pescadero, California in 1894 and sold it at his bar for 10 cents a shot. Today, four generations later, the Duarte family … Ron, Lynn, Tim and Kathy … is still pouring shots and serving up just-caught fish and garden produce in Pescadero, a dusty coastal town of 670 on the San Mateo County coast, about 30 miles south of San Francisco.
Over its 109-year history, the saloon has morphed into a cafe. Frank's adjoining barbershop and poolroom closed, the victims of the restaurant expansion. Frank's original bar still remains and the other three dining rooms are chockablock with rickety antique tables and a Formica counter that's seen so many elbows that the wood-grain pattern has worn to yellow.
Since Duarte's began serving food, the family-tended garden has supplied much of the produce. Pescadero is also a prime fishing spot and the Duarte's continue to work with local fishermen for their daily catches, including the much-coveted abalone. Another signature item, cioppino, a once-popular seafood stew that was served all over the Bay Area, harks back to the family's Portuguese roots.
In the 1930s, the Duarte women started baking fruit pies, and in the 1960s Emma Duarte discovered the olallieberry … a local type of blackberry … which quickly became the best seller. Now the Duarte's make at least 30 pies a day to feed the townspeople and nursery workers, and tourists stopping by on their way down the coast. Pescadero is also in the heart of artichoke country, and in the 1970s the Duartes created their now-famous cream of artichoke soup. In the 1980s, they added the delicately crunchy fish and chips to the repertoire.
Each decade seems to bring improvements to this 117-seat bar and restaurant. Even with a dwindling town population, the business has thrived and continues to draw new generations of fans.
---Michael Bauer, San Francisco Chronicle
Anchor Bar, 1047 Main Street, Buffalo, NY
PH: 716-884-4083, Owner: Ivano Toscano
Few cities or restaurants are as closely associated with a dish as Anchor Bar is with Buffalo Chicken Wings. The origins might be slightly disputed, but the famous birthplace thankfully intact--down to the 30 seats, beer signs, and wall of license plates from customers who moved away.
The official story of the birth of the wing: One Friday night in October of 1964, Teressa Bellissimo--who had emigrated from Sicily with her husband, Frank, and gone into the restaurant business in 1935--rummaged around the kitchen for a late-night snack for peckish regulars. The cupboard was bare save for some chicken wings for soup. Bellissimo deep-fried them and dipped them in hot sauce and butter, and served them with celery sticks and blue cheese dip. The late-night part is integral to the legend: Friday was still a no-meat day, so the wings were permissible only past midnight.
Of course, the story has those who take issue: an African-American cook named John Young said he popularized deep-fried wings in the Buffalo of the same time. But there's no disputing the fact that the no-holds-barred snack took off in bars and restaurants cross-country--and took over the country every Super Bowl Sunday. Today Ivano Toscano, a manager for thirty years working alongside the Bellissimo family, owns and lovingly maintains the Anchor Bar and its winged legend.
--Corby Kummer, The Atlantic Monthly
The Shed, 113 ½ East Palace Avenue, Santa Fe, NM
PH: 505-982-9030, Owners: The Carswell Family
A restaurant begun in a burro shed on a dusty alley in a then-sleepy little town might not sound as if it would be – 50 years later – hailed as a venerable institution. The Shed, though, has become the standard-setter for northern New Mexican fare, Santa Fe charm, and warm hospitality.
Thornton and Polly Carswell founded The Shed after homey meals they offered to area skiers proved popular. Their son, Courtney, thought a career in Latin American business lay ahead for him, but Polly’s passion for food and cooking was too deeply ingrained. Courtney stayed on to help the growing enterprise flourish, in the roles of cook, host, dishwasher, and eventually, manager. He was joined by his wife Linnea, now the business’s financial officer.
Courtney and Linnea helped refine the reputation for exceptional cooking. While a great burger and salad have long been staples here, the stacked blue corn enchiladas with red chile sauce, green chile stew, soft tacos, white-corn posole, and long-simmered pinto beans are the heart of the menu. The “number five” plate of enchiladas, bathed in brick-red chile, distills Santa Fe cooking to its core.
To assure the quality of the remarkable chile sauces, the Carswells purchase the entire production of two specific southern New Mexico chile fields each year. Meals here are capped by luscious desserts, among them mocha cake and fresh lemon soufflé.
Today, the third generation of Carswells has joined their parents in skillfully running The Shed. Sarah oversees the floor, Kristin greets guests, and son Kenji is a waiter. Josh apprenticed for several years in the kitchen, before becoming head chef. He is adding new classics to the menu, such as a green-chile-flecked corn chowder.
The Shed today sits two blocks from the original burro shed location. A rambling 17th century adobe hacienda now houses the restaurant, complete with a courtyard oasis framed by graceful trumpet vines. Like the town plaza just steps away, The Shed represents the soul of Santa Fe. The restaurant celebrates its fiftieth birthday on the Fourth of July, making it not just a Santa Fe institution but also one of America’s Classics.
--Cheryl Alters Jamison
The basketball rivalry among Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State is among the keenest in the country. But it's nothing compared to the age-old controversy between partisans of the state's two styles of barbecue. Not at all eager to get trampled beneath angry Tar Heels for choosing one over the other, we honor a favorite of each persuasion.
The Skylight Inn, South Lee Street, Ayden, NC
PH: 252-746-4113 Owners: Walter B. “Pete” Jones and Family
"Down East," as they say in Carolina, they cook the whole hog, pick the meat off the bone, chop it and serve it with a thin, hot, vinegar-based sauce. No tomatoes in there, and no ketchup. Never. One of the oldest family traditions in the state is the barbecue business in the little town of Ayden, between Greenville and Kinston, owned and operated by Walter B. "Pete" Jones and his family. Known as the Skylight Inn, it is the lineal descendant of the enterprise started by Pete's great-great grandfather, Skilton Dennis, in 1830, when Ayden was known as Otter Town. Skilton Dennis cooked pigs over hard wood coals in a pit in his backyard and took his barbecue to town on a covered wagon.
Today, when gas cookers have replaced wood fires in most barbecue joints, Pete Jones stands with tradition. "If it's not cooked with wood," he says, "it's not barbecue". In 1979, the National Geographic magazine proclaimed that "The Skylight Inn has the best barbecue in the nation," and the local folks like it fine, too. In 1960, at the age of 9, Pete's son, Bruce, started working in the business, and has worked with his father ever since. Bruce's son, Samuel, born.
in 1980, is up to his elbows in barbecue, too. The Joneses, who serve their meat with flat cornbread, say they aim to keep the tradition of Down East 'cue alive way past their bicentennial in 2030.
Lexington #1, 10 Highway 29-70S, Lexington, NC
PH: 336-249-9814 Owner: Wayne Monk
The other Carolina barbecue style is named after the town of Lexington, which is located in the Piedmont, far to the west, between Winston-Salem and Charlotte. You'll know why when you drive into town; the whole place smells sweetly of wood smoke and roasting pork. A few years ago, a barbecue historian calculated that Lexington had 16 barbecue emporia, one for every 982 people. Cholesterol city, you might say. Wayne Monk is the king of barbecue in Lexington, the proprietor of Lexington Number One. He, too, can trace his culinary lineage, though not his family roots, back to the very beginnings of barbecue in the region. He learned from Warner Stamey, who bought the business of a certain Jesse Swicegood, who began cooking under tents pitched on a lot across from the Davidson County courthouse, about the time of World War I. Lexington 'cue, you'll have noticed, is newer than Down East 'cue. It is a whole different proposition, made from pork shoulder only, daubed with a red sauce that includes sugar, vinegar, hot peppers and ketchup, and served on a bun with a special cole slaw that includes some of the sauce. Most of the customers order hushpuppies on the side, and they're smart. You'll find no better hushpuppies anywhere. No wonder the parking lot starts to fill up with pickups at 10 a.m.
-- R.W. Apple, Jr., The New York Times