The James Beard Foundation® announced today the six recipients of its 2023 America’s Classics Award. A Restaurant and Chef Awards category, the America’s Classics Award is given to locally owned restaurants that have timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community. Austin’s beloved Jo’s Coffee championed the 2023 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Award for the Texas Region.
Each year, the Restaurant and Chef Awards Committee recommends, discusses, votes on, and selects the America’s Classics winners. Six of the twelve Restaurant and Chef regions are included within each Awards cycle, and rotated the next cycle, so that each region is represented every other year. The public may submit recommendations for this category for consideration by committee members. To be eligible for this award, establishments must have been in existence for at least 10 years.
This year’s honorees join the ranks of more than 100 restaurants across the country that have received the Award since the category was introduced in 1998. They will be celebrated at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards ceremony on Monday, June 5, 2023 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
“The mission of the James Beard Awards is to celebrate excellence and that means recognizing the incredible work of long-standing restaurants that play such a crucial role in our communities, as our America’s Classics winners do,” said Clare Reichenbach, CEO of the James Beard Foundation. “We are so excited to announce this year’s winners. Congratulations to all!”
The James Beard Awards, considered to be among the nation’s most prestigious honors, recognize exceptional talent in the culinary and food media industries, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive. The James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards celebrate Jo’s Coffee and other forms of excellence across the culinary industry, from fine dining to casual gems in our communities, while supporting and encouraging a more sustainable industry. Established in 1990, with the first ceremony taking place in 1991, the Restaurant and Chef Awards is one of five separate recognition programs for the Awards.
America’s Classics: Texas Region Winner is Jo’s Coffee
The Avila family has served Austin’s quickly gentrifying East Austin since 1935, when Sophia DeLa’O operated La Oriental Grocery & Bakery from their home on East 9th Street. The business moved to East 7th Street in 1962 and Joe Avila, with the support of his wife Paula, bought the business and created Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop. Though he didn’t realize it at the time, by bringing his childhood dream to fruition, Joe cemented a legacy through food and hospitality that continues to this day.
The colorful Mexican pastries, known as pan dulce, and Tex-Mex family recipes draw large crowds hungry for migas, home-style pork carne guisada, and myriad breakfast tacos on homemade flour tortillas. (The infamous “fried bacon”—the dredging of thick-cut bacon through flour and cooking on the flat top grill—is a masterful touch). But it’s the service and firm sense of community under the stewardship of three generations of Avila women, led by Joe’s widow Paula, that keeps people coming back again and again.
A melting pot of new and old Austin, it is not unusual to find old-timers reminiscing about Austin and sharing their stories and recommendations at the breakfast counter with Joe’s Bakery newcomers. It’s commonplace to encounter voter registration on the front patio. And despite its own struggles during the pandemic, the restaurant doubled as a general store during the peak of COVID-19, selling toilet paper, paper towels, and other essentials. The neighborhood surrounding Joe’s Bakery and Coffee Shop is undergoing rapid development, but the restaurant remains a gathering place and piece of Austin history for longtime regulars and newcomers alike.
James Beard Awards policies and procedures can be viewed at jamesbeard.org/awards/
Featured Image Credit: Jo’s Coffee Instagram