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Your very Rhode Island guide to the 2024 James Beard restaurant and chef award semifinalists

Rhode Island’s restaurant scene punches well above its weight. The rest of America has finally caught up

A spread at Gift Horse in Providence, R.I., which includes smoked fish dip, Sicilian crudo, monkfish toast, scallop crudo. The restaurant’s chef is Sky Kim, who was named as a semifinalist for the 2024 Emerging Chef award.Catherine Dzilenski

The James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalists for its 2024 Restaurant and Chef Awards this week, and let me say this: Rhode Island has a lot to celebrate.

The awards are often called the Oscars of the food world, because winning one can elevate a great restaurant or chef onto a national stage. In all, 10 of Rhode Island’s best restaurants, bars, and chefs made the cut — including, for the first time, one in the tiny, minority-majority city of Central Falls. That’s huge.

Boston may feel like they’ve been snubbed but, from my perspective, it’s about time more cities got this level of recognition. I started this newsletter nearly two years ago because Rhode Island’s restaurant scene punches well above its weight. I’m just glad that the rest of America has finally caught up.


Here are the people and places in Rhode Island that made the cut.

Bywater's executive chef Luke Mersfelder (left), with owner Katie Dickson.Matthew Healey for The Boston Globe

Which restaurants made the 2024 James Beard award semifinalist list for the national awards?

Outstanding Restaurant: Bywater, Warren: When Katie Dickson opened the seafood-focused Bywater in Warren in 2015, it was an instant hit. But then Luke Mersfelder (formerly of Birch, Persimmon, and Local 121) returned to Rhode Island from his kitchen days in some of Chicago’s greatest restaurants, and took over as Bywater’s executive chef. He’s focused on long-term fermentations, delicious crudo, and house-pickled seasonal vegetables.

Emerging Chef: Sky Kim, Gift Horse, Providence: Oberlin owner and chef Ben Sukle opened Gift Horse, a raw bar in downtown Providence, along with his sommelier and manager Bethany Caliaro in the summer 2023. They tapped Sky Kim to run the kitchen, and she’s made quite the mark on Rhode Island’s dining scene, creating innovative New England seafood dishes influenced by her own Korean roots.

Best New Restaurant: Tuxpan Taqueria, Central Falls: I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: If you want tacos, you must make your way to Tuxpan Taqueria in Central Falls. Owned by chef Diego Alcantar and his family, Tuxpan’s name on this list marks the very first time that a Central Falls restaurant has been recognized by the Beard awards. As I previously shared, Alcantar is also opening a new restaurant — Cielito Mexican Kitchen — in Oberlin’s former space in Providence.


A chef at Giusto in Newport shreds truffles on fried ricotta balls.Discover Newport

Outstanding Hospitality: Giusto, Newport: Chef and owner Kevin O’Donnell opened Giusto in Newport in 2020, where he and the team are dishing out delicious plates while also giving back to the community in all sorts of ways. I recommend this place to everyone, but be sure to order the calamari, which is wrapped in a squid ink tempura on a bed of chili sauce I could eat with a spoon.

Outstanding Bar: Courtland Club, Providence: There are bars. And then there are cool bars that vibe to the beat of the city they’re located in. That’s Courtland Club — a stellar cocktail bar that brings in resident DJs and chefs to host pop-ups. I recommend heading there for their Sunday Jazz nights.

Ramen at Yagi Noodles, a Newport restaurant that began as a pop-up by chef Basil Yu.DISCOVER NEWPORT

Which restaurants made the 2024 James Beard award semifinalist list for the New England awards?

Rhode Island took home the Best Chef: Northeast award in Chicago last year when chef Sherry Pocknett of the Sly Fox Den Too in Charlestown won. This year, a record-breaking five Rhode Island-based chefs are among New England’s top 20. Here’s who made the list:

Maria Meza, Dolores, Providence: So many people have said it’s “about time” Dolores ended up on this list. There’s a saying among some in the industry that I’ve heard before: When you sit at the bar there, you get “Dolores’ed.” Meaning, you’re getting an education in small-batch mezcals, tequilas, and the culinary traditions and flavors from the Mixteca region of Puebla and Oaxaca. Maria Meza is the matriarch of this effort.


Basil Yu, Yagi Noodles, Newport: Basil Yu has an impressive resume, with experience at places like The Vanderbilt, The Break Hotel in Narragansett, and other restaurants around the country. Now, at his pop-up turned full-time restaurant, Yagi Noodles, he’s one of the only chefs in Rhode Island making hand-pulled ramen daily.

"Beet Roses" at Foglia, served with feta, pickled red onion, beet-pistachio crumble, and beet emulsion.Olivia Lecumberry Photography

Peter Carvelli, Foglia, Bristol: For years, Peter Carvelli served as an attorney who was dreaming of cooking full time. He started a fully vegan pop-up where he hosted tasting menus around Providence. Most recently, Carvelli went all in and opened Foglia where he’s breaking the mold on what it means to be a plant-based restaurant.

Subat Dilmurat, Jahunger, Providence: Alongside his wife and co-owner Nadia Parhat, Subat Dilmurat has been spearheading the kitchen efforts at Jahunger since it opened in 2017. It’s said to be New England’s only Uighur restaurant, specializing in noodles, stews, and dumplings.

Andy Teixeira, Newport Vineyards, Middletown: Chef Andy Teixeira is a person to watch in 2024. He’s helped build out Newport Vineyards’ culinary offerings, launching a farm-to-table scratch program and dinners where he cooks over an open fire among the vines, among other things. I’ve heard he’s got more big plans ahead.


What are the next steps in the James Beard award process?

A final list of nominees (there will be five per category) will be released April 3. Winners will be announced during the JBF Awards ceremony on June 10 in Chicago. I attended the ceremony (and afterparties) last year, and this is what it was like.

Disclosure: Some Boston Globe Media staff members and contributors are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.

This story first appeared in Globe Rhode Island’s Food & Dining newsletter, a free weekly email about Rhode Island’s restaurant industry that also contains information about local events, Q&As with chefs, dining guides, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail each Thursday, you can sign up here.

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.