Considered the Oscars of the culinary world (according to Times Magazine), the James Beard Foundation's annual awards this year include several Durham area restaurants and chefs among the semi-finalists.
Maybe this will be the year for the Magnolia Grill. The Barker's excellent venue has been nominated many times over the years, including a finalist berth for Outstanding Restaurant in 2007. Ben Barker was named Best Chef in the Southeast in 2000, while Karen Barker won the top award as Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2003. Magnolia is also nominated for its Outstanding Service in the 2010 awards.
Crook's Corner chef Bill Smith is a semi-finalist for Best Chef in the Southeast this year. He was a finalist in 2009, so maybe he'll hit the top rung in 2010.
We wish all the local restaurants and chefs best of luck in the Beard Awards. Finalists will be announced on March 22, with the awards ceremony scheduled for May 3, 2010. We'll keep you posted.
Meanwhile, we plan visits to the nominated restaurants. In keeping with our Cheap Eats budget, we'll probably sit at the bar and stick to ordering a couple of appetizers, or coffee and dessert, since none of these spots serve lunch.
At Crook's, we'll try the Sunday Brunch menu (served 10:30 am until 2:00 pm), where we can order Fried Oysters and Eggs for $10.95; a Gumbo Omelette for $8.50; or the Feathered Eggs with grilled asparagus, pimentos, goat cheese and quark (a fresh curd cheese), plus applesauce and cheese grits for under $7.
1002 9th Street
Durham, NC 27705-4107
Crook's Corner Cafe & Bar
610 West Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2318
2514 University Drive
Durham, NC 27707-2156
423 West Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2314