Mita’s, Nolia Kitchen, and Café Mochiko’s Chef Are Finalists for James Beard Awards

Two Cincinnati restaurants and a local pastry chef and restaurateur have made the shortlists for some of the culinary world’s most prestigious awards.

It’s a historic day for Cincinnati’s restaurant scene: for the first time, three Queen City restauranteurs are James Beard Foundation award finalists. The foundation’s ceremony is akin to the Oscars of the culinary world, and critics all across the globe are taking note of our local food scene. Two Cincinnati restaurants and the pastry chef of another remain on the shortlists for the prestigious annual awards.

Jose Salazar

Mita’s, Jose Salazar’s downtown Latin American restaurant that topped our 2023 Best Restaurants list, is a finalist for Outstanding Restaurant. Salazar and his restaurants have been nominated for James Beard Awards numerous times before, but this year marks his first time as a finalist. Mita’s goes up against Copine in Seattle, Coracora in West Hartford, Connecticut, Friday Saturday Sunday in Philadelphia, and Lucia in Dallas for the coveted prize.

Nolia Kitchen, an Over-the-Rhine restaurant specializing in New Orleans cuisine, is a finalist for Best New Restaurant alongside several eateries in cities with rich culinary scenes like New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C. Cincinnati Magazine spoke to Nolia head chef Jeff Harris in August about culinary incubators helping local chefs “make an indelible mark on our local and even the national food scene.” You can see Harris in action on Tuesday, April 11 at Cincinnati Magazine‘s signature culinary series Savor Chef’s Table.

Elaine Uykimpang Bentz of Café Mochiko celebrates her second straight year as a nominee and first time as a finalist for the Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker award. The Asian American restaurant, which was a twice-monthly pop-up in 2019 and opened its brick-and-mortar location in 2021, serves coffee, pastries, and Yōshoku café fare. Mochiko also made an appearance on Bon Appetit’s “50 Best New Restaurants 2022” list, and their chili ramen was named one of the “best bites of 2022” by Food & Wine magazine.

Elaine Uykimpang Bentz and Eric Bentz of Cafe Mochiko.

Photograph courtesy of Mochiko

Five Cincinnati restaurants or chefs were announced on January 25 as semi-finalists for James Beard Awards, including Francisco Alfaro of Mid-City and Hideki and Yuko Harada of Kiki for Best Chef: Great Lakes Region.

Award winners will be celebrated at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony on June 5 at the Lyric Opera in Chicago.

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