Just a couple of days ago, the James Beard Foundation announced the finalists for the 2016 James Beard awards. They’re also called the “Oscars of Food,” so yeah, getting one of those bronze medallions is a pretty big deal.
Just like the Oscars, the categories are many and varied, from nominees for the best “Vegetable Focused and Vegetarian” cookbook to “Best Chef, Midwest.” And while the restaurants nominated are certainly some of the best in the U.S., if not the world, we wondered—what’s it like to actually eat at these places? Are customers satisfied? Are the meals as beautifully plated IRL as they are in glossy magazines?
We’ve virtually-visited six nominees for the Best New Restaurant category as best we can—by looking at each restaurant’s Yelp reviews and customer photos from Instagram.
Death & Taxes, Raleigh, N.C.
At 69 reviews, Death & Taxes comes in at a 3 1/2 star average rating. Users are often split on it. Yelp user Carly C. gave the restaurant five stars, saying:
We shared the chicken liver, bone marrow, pappardelle, and potatoes aligot. Everything was delicious and seasoned perfectly. The chicken liver pate was smooth and flavorful, served with pickled okra, grapes and I think daikon. The bone marrow was topped with crispy capers and shallots and served with crusty bread. I mean, you really can’t go wrong with bone marrow unless it’s overcooked. It’s the butter of meats!
The pappardelle was topped with Parmesan, truffle and a poached egg. The pasta was the perfect al dente with a little bite. The creamy egg yolk mixed with the pasta to create a sauce was what really made it. Mmmm. Then the potatoes, my favorite. I had seen something about potatoes agliot a while back and have been DYING to try them. These did not disappoint. Just what I imagined they would be. Gooey, creamy, cheesy potatoes.
Raul V., on the other hand, found his experience to be just average, giving it a 3-star review for the cost-to-satisfaction ratio:
The noise in this place was insufferable. They have a semi-open kitchen and the crowd of people joined with that had me close to walking out of the door. My girlfriend and I had to semi-yell to each other to communicate, no exaggeration.
Secondly, the price of total bill versus the taste of the dishes was really sub-par. After ordering 5 small plates which were split between two people, the bill ended up being over $150. No drinks were consumed, just food.
I realize the proprietor was on Iron Chef, she’s obviously extremely talented, but the cost versus reward ratio was pretty low. The food is great, but when the bill comes you might (understandably) feel underwhelmed.
Launderette, Austin, Texas
With 294 reviews, Austin’s Launderette has a solid four-star average. Stephanie S. gave Launderette five stars, saying:
The food was terrific! We only sampled some small plates, but we enjoyed every bit of what we had. The balsamico onions were delicious, the fried oysters were satisfying, but the real star of the show had to be the sticky brussels sprouts. Gosh, I can’t even describe it but just know that my mouth is watering just thinking about them. We ordered these three small plates but we both came out full and pleasantly surprised. People rave about this spot constantly for a reason. Just go already!
But Kyla N. had issues with the service, pointing out an awkward interaction with the hostess:
We got to the restaurant at 8 pm and knew that they dont take reservations. The hostess said twenty to thirty minutes before we could be seated. Cool, that was fine with us. When 8:50 rolled around my roommate asked about the status of our table and said something like, oh its been an hour, to which the hostess said “actually, it’s only been 38 minutes.” Awkward.
Liholiho Yacht Club, San Francisco
Liholiho Yacht Club is doing well on Yelp, with an average of 4 1/2 stars from its 720 reviews. User Jan P. declared it her new favorite restaurant, detailing every aspect of her meal:
**KABOCHA – this is the oxtail croquettes with sour cream. It reminds me of a yakitori. This one’s pretty soft. 4/5