Apr 3, 2024 - Food and Drink

Nashville's Kisser is a James Beard nominee for best new restaurant

A selection of dishes from Kisser including noodles, soup and rice-wrapped sandwiches.

A selection of dishes from Kisser. Photo: Courtesy of Kisser

Kisser, one of the buzziest new restaurants in the country, is also Nashville's only finalist for a 2024 James Beard Award.

State of plate: The eatery specializing in Japanese comfort food was announced Wednesday as one of the 10 nominees for best new restaurant.

  • Nashville's other semifinalists, announced in January, were eliminated when the list was whittled down.

Why it matters: James Beard recognition can be big for the bottom line. Other Nashville restaurants that have been honored in recent years reported a dramatic boost in business.

  • Recognition in a nationwide category is particularly auspicious.

Zoom out: The husband-and-wife duo Leina Horii and Brian Lea launched Kisser after extensive careers in fine dining. The tiny East Nashville restaurant got raves before it even opened in March 2023.

What they're saying: "We just thought we'd be a quiet neighborhood lunch spot," Horii said, per the Tennessean. "We had no expectations of any sort of press or attention."

The big picture: Let's not forget the three other Nashville semifinalists who didn't make the final list of nominees this time.

  • D'Andrews Bakery & Cafe was a semifinalist for outstanding bakery.
  • Locust's Trevor Moran and the International Market's Arnold Myint were on the shortlist for best chef in the Southeast.

What's next: The winners will be revealed at an awards ceremony on June 10 in Chicago.


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