Feb 12, 2024

THE JOURNAL

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Travel Inspiration

My 2024 James Beard Award Semifinalist Picks (& Where to Stay in Each Foodie City)

Fora Author Henley Vazquez

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Henley Vazquez

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a close-up shot of a white bed in front of an artwork covered with black flowers

Image courtesy of Hotel Grand Stark

One of my favorite parts about travel is the food. And I'm not ashamed to say that I’ve planned a significant number of itineraries around the restaurants I intend to visit. The James Beard Foundation recently announced its 2024 semifinalists, which means I'm already planning my pilgrimages to cities all over the US, so I can get a taste of the country’s best cuisine. 

The only thing better than a spectacular restaurant, of course, is a spectacular hotel to pair with it. Read on for the James Beard Award semifinalists I'm most excited about, and where to stay to maximize the entire experience. Because it matters where you eat, and it matters where you stay.

Sushi in Atlanta (trust)

I have my eyes on Hayakawa, who's chef, Atsushi Hayakawa, was nominated for this year's Outstanding Chef award. Expect meticulously sourced fish served in a tranquil space that honors Japan’s traditional sushiyas. As for where to rest your head, I love Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta, a luxe, perfectly located Midtown stay perfect for families and brimming with local art.

  • Fora Perks: When you book Four Seasons with me, you'll enjoy exclusive Four Seasons Preferred Partner amenities. I'll be pleased to give you more details.

Farm-to-table fare in Detroit

If you haven't heard, Detroit is back, with a bevy of eateries and cool hotels to boot. Once you land, make a beeline for Selden Standard, a semifinalist for 2024's Outstanding Restaurant award, where you'll enjoy farm-to-table food and local brews served a light, sleek atmosphere with a side of good vibes. Stay at the Shinola Hotel, a design-forward Downtown stay with a keen eye for art.

Modern Asian mastery in Houston

Houston is one of the United States' most diverse cities, which means its restaurant game is fierce. There are numerous amazing options, but Jūn, nominated for Best New Restaurant, makes the top of the list. Here, self-described New Asian American food is paired with good vibes and served in a stylishly minimalist space. The Thompson Houston is the perfect hotel pairing: it's a cool, discreet hot spot within the city’s former City Hall, with an unmatched collection of vibrant, globally inspired art.

  • Fora Perks: $75 hotel / resort credit, welcome amenity, breakfast daily, upgrade & early check-in whenever possible.

cozy hotel room with a stone fireplace

Image courtesy of Amangani

Mountain elegance in Jackson Hole

Downtown Jackson Hole is a great place to visit during any time of year, and the Snake River Grill, right in the town's heart, is an elegant mainstay beloved by locals for special occasions and casual get-togethers alike. The restaurant was nominated this year for Outstanding Hospitality, and I agree: expect warm, five-star service with views of the Tetons. Although it's a bit removed from downtown, Amangani offers bucket-list, exclusive luxury with sleek understated design, plus more views of the Tetons, which is always a plus.

  • Fora Perks: $100 food / beverage credit, breakfast daily, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Argentinian in Minneapolis

Don't sleep on the Midwest — specifically, Minneapolis, a cosmopolitan destination in its own right. We're pining for a table at Porzana, a hip Argentinean steakhouse with a leafy courtyard flanked by brick, whose chef, Daniel del Prado, was nominated for the Foundation's Outstanding Chef award this year. Book a stay at the Four Seasons Hotel Minneapolis, where light-filled rooms fill a modern glass building, steps from the riverfront.

  • Fora Perks: When you book Four Seasons with me, you'll enjoy exclusive Four Seasons Preferred Partner amenities. I'll be pleased to give you more details.

Japanese comfort food in Nashville

Nashville is always abuzz, with a slate of outstanding restaurants that are casual, high-end and everything in between. Let me help you narrow down your options. Eat at Kisser, a Best New Restaurant nominee, where Japanese comfort food is paired with breezy California vibes. Then, stay at the ever-playful Virgin Hotels Nashville, whose cheekiness, contagious positive energy and eclectic decor will keep you coming back.

  • Fora Perks: $100 food / beverage credit, breakfast daily, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

a rooftop pool surrounded by red lounge chairs and red-and-white striped umbrellas

Image courtesy of Virgin Hotels Nashville

Prix-fixe Senegalese in New Orleans

New Orleans is trending in 2024, and there's a new cool kid on the block: Dakar NOLA, a Best New Restaurant nominee. Here, a thoughtful tasting menu features Senegalese food prepared with the best local ingredients. Prepare to be blown away. Speaking of which, a stay at Maison de la Luz is always special. It's a cool, discreet hot spot within the city’s former City Hall, with an unmatched collection of vibrant, globally inspired art.

  • Fora Perks: $100 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Burgers in NYC's East Village

New York's East Village neighborhood still maintains a punk, gritty edge, which is why I love it. And the beloved, deceptively divey Superiority Burger fits its home like a glove. Chef Brooks Headley cut his teeth as the executive pastry chef at Manhattan's swanky Del Posto, which explains his current restaurant's out-of-this-world desserts. Everything on the menu is vegetarian, and everything is mind-blowingly delicious. Even better, the Outstanding Restaurant nominee is a short walk away from the hip, vibey Standard, East Village, a local landmark in its own right.

  • Fora Perks: $100 food / beverage credit, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

stools line a swanky, dimly lit bar with a large collection of glass bottles

Image courtesy of the Standard, East Village

Filipino flavors in Florida

There's more to Orlando than Disneyworld. Exhibit A: Kaya, a warm, inviting restaurant (and Best New Restaurant nominee) where homemade Filipino food is prepared with love and passion. Stay in the soon-to-open Conrad Orlando. It's sophisticated and sexy, with a sprawling lagoon (in which guests can kayak), cozy outdoor fire pits and a prime location for watching Disney’s fireworks displays. There's a different vibe here compared to the area's hotel counterparts, and I'm here for it.

Puerto Rican in Philly

In Philly, I'm a big fans of Emerging Chef nominee Yun Fuentes. At his colorful restaurant Bolo, Puerto Rican cuisine shines. Don't miss its top-notch rum bar. After a fun, satisfying meal (and a rum cocktail or two), rest up at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, which boasts funky, vibrant rooms and lively common areas in Downtown Philly.

  • Fora Perks: $50 hotel / resort credit, welcome amenities, upgrade & late check-out whenever possible.

Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix often doesn't get the attention it deserves, which is part of why I'm thrilled Espiritu, which is actually in Mesa (close enough), made the list this year: Roberto Centeno earned a nomination for Best Emerging Chef. His fun, intimate restaurant serves great cocktails and Mexican food with a welcome dose of humor. Pair a night here with a stay at the Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows for modern seclusion amid the desert at the base of Camelback Mountain.

  • Fora Perks: $100 hotel / resort credit, welcome amenity, breakfast daily, upgrade & early check-in whenever possible.

Pizza in Portland

The locally loved Lovely’s Fifty Fifty, has me drooling over their sourdough pizza crust. Don't sleep on the locally sourced produce and homemade ice cream, courtesy of the restaurant's Outstanding Chef nominee Sarah Minnick. Opt for stylish boutique charm at Hotel Grand Stark, in PDX’s happening Central Eastside neighborhood.

  • Fora Perks: Welcome amenity, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

a wooden lobby area dotted with chic tan couches and chairs

Image courtesy of 1 Hotel San Francisco

Michelin Stars in San Francisco

Sometimes Michelin-Starred restaurants are overrated, and come with a stuffy, cold vibe. Not so at Outstanding Hospitality nominee Lazy Bear, whose seasonal dinner parties are served in a contemporary, casual space, and have two Michelin Stars, no less. Stay at the 1 Hotel San Francisco, where sustainable luxury meets an eco-chic design in SF’s Embarcadero.

  • Fora Perks: $100 food / beverage or spa credit, $50 daily breakfast credit, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Oysters in Seattle

I'm booking a table at Outstanding Restaurant nominee The Walrus and the Carpenter, a fun, marine-chic neighborhood spot where the oysters are absolutely mandatory. Also mandatory is a stay at Palihotel Seattle, which combines bold patterns, warm service and a cozy vibe, just across from the famed Pike’s Place Market.

  • Fora Perks: Welcome amenity, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Michelin-Starred Middle Eastern in Washington, DC

I'm dreaming of the trendy, ultra-cool Albi and its Outstanding Chef nominee Michael Rafidi's expert cooking. Here, locally sourced Middle Eastern cuisine is prepared with love in the restaurant’s wood-burning hearth. After a meal to remember (trust me on this one), stay at Rosewood Washington, D.C., a sophisticated five-star oasis housed in a handsome collection of brick townhouses.

  • Fora Perks: $100 food / beverage credit, welcome amenity, breakfast daily, upgrade whenever possible.

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