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James Beard Foundation honors Durham area restaurants and chefs

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.

The Magnolia Grill in Durham and Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill are both among the nominees for Outstanding Restaurant of 2010.

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.

Other local chefs nominated this year are Scott Howell at Nana's in Durham, and Andrea Reusing, chef at the Lantern in Chapel Hill. Both were semi-finalists last year as well.

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.

Magnolia Grill
www.magnoliagrill.net
1002 9th Street
Durham, NC 27705-4107
(919) 286-3609

Crook's Corner Cafe & Bar
www.crookscorner.com
610 West Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2318
(919) 929-7643

Nana's Restaurant
www.nanasdurham.com
2514 University Drive
Durham, NC 27707-2156
(919) 493-8545

Lantern Restaurant
lanternrestaurant.com
423 West Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2314
(919) 969-8846

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