Jun 10, 2024 - Food and Drink

Jewel of the South, Dakar NOLA win James Beard Awards

picture of all new orleans winners

From left: Serigne Mbaye and Effie Richardson of Dakar NOLA, and Chris Hannah of Jewel of the South. Photo: Chelsea Brasted/Axios

New Orleans' own Jewel of the South and Dakar NOLA won James Beard Awards on Monday night in Chicago, earning them the titles of the best bar and best new restaurant in America.

Why it matters: Much like the Oscars, winning a James Beard Award can be life-changing thanks to the attention and support that come along with the trophy.

photo of Shaun Williams and Chris Hannah of Jewel of the South.
Shaun Williams and Chris Hannah of Jewel of the South. Photo: Carrie Shepherd/Axios

Jewel of the South

Jewel of the South is a gorgeous French Quarter tavern where a visitor can stop in for a long, lazy dinner of English bites, or grab a perfectly made cocktail on the way to the nearby Saenger Theatre.

  • It opened in 2019, a product of Nick Detrich, John Stubbs and renowned bartender Chris Hannah.
  • Since then, Jewel has been recognized among the world's best bars.

Between the lines: Though the award didn't bear his name, Hannah is generally credited with the 2017 win for Arnaud's French 75.

  • Now, for Hannah to take home one of the industry's highest honors for a bar that he co-owns is a sweet victory indeed.

What he said: "I'm happy to be back," Hannah said. "People come into the bar and they ask, what do you really think about the James Beards? … It's the highlight of my entire career."

  • "To everybody working, we have two bottles of cognac at Black Penny ready for you when you get off work," he added.

Dakar NOLA

Dakar NOLA might be chef Serigne Mbaye's first New Orleans brick-and-mortar, but his accolades came rolling in even before it opened its doors.

  • He was a finalist for the James Beard Award's Emerging Chef in 2022 and 2023 before opening Dakar in November 2023 with co-proprietor Effie Richardson.
  • When the restaurant, which serves Senegalese cuisine infused with south Louisiana ingredients, opened in 2023, barely a month went by without it landing on another "best of" list.

Prior to opening Dakar, Mbaye cooked at Commander's Palace, Atelier Crenn, Atelier Joel Robuchon and worked as chef de cuisine at Melissa Martin's Mosquito Supper Club.

  • He also ran the Dakar NOLA concept as a pop-up.

What he said: "I always knew West Africa had something to say. That kept me going," Mbaye said. "Our food [Senegalese] is at the root of what is often considered the best food of North America, Creole and Cajun food. … Our food doesn't have to be filtered through Creole food to taste good."

  • Mbaye, who brought every member of his staff who was able to come with him to Chicago for the awards, noted it was the first time some of them had left New Orleans.

Catch up quick: The James Beard Foundation named 10 New Orleans-area chefs to its 2024 list of semifinalists in January.

  • That got whittled down to the list of nominees in April, which included Dakar NOLA (Best New Restaurant), Saffron NOLA (Arvinder Vilkhu for Best Chef: South) and Jewel of the South (Outstanding Bar).
  • The winners were announced in Chicago in a star chef-studded event, complete with a red carpet and a reception with plates and plates of delicious bites.

What's next: It'll be harder than ever, at least for a little while, to score a table at either spot.

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