Best new restaurant? This North Carolina dining spot gets prestigious James Beard nod

·2 min read
Screengrab from nengjrs on Instagram

A North Carolina restaurant is just getting its start — and received a nod from the prestigious James Beard Foundation.

Neng Jr.’s in Asheville was named one of the James Beard Award finalists for best new restaurant, according to a March 29 news release.

Neng Jr.’s describes itself as an intimate Filipinx eatery in the popular mountain tourist town. Silver Iocovozzi started the restaurant with a menu of shareable dishes in July 2022, Bon Appétit magazine reported.

“Silver is a second-generation Filipino immigrant who grew up in the cross section of the American South and Metropolis Manila Philippines,” the restaurant said on its website.

At the recently opened 17-seat restaurant, customers have a chance to experience the chef’s takes on traditional dishes from two different parts of the world.

“There’s okra, a Southern must-have, but served in an umami-rich gravy with stewed tomatoes,” Bon Appétit wrote in August 2022. “Lowcountry shrimp find their way into Sinigang, a Filipinx sweet and sour soup. And fried chicken’s on the menu — but Iocovozzi smokes it before frying, a nod to the smoke-kissed, open-fire cooking found across the Philippines.”

Neng Jr.’s became North Carolina’s only 2023 James Beard nominee for new dining spots after it was one of two places in the state to be named a semifinalist in that category. The other was Heff’s Burger Club in Winston-Salem, The News & Observer reported.

To be eligible for recognition as a top new restaurant, the James Beard Foundation said a place must have launched between January and September 2022. The award is given to a restaurant that “already demonstrates excellence in cuisine and seems likely to make a significant impact in years to come and demonstrates consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, hospitality, and operations while contributing positively to its broader community.”

Also in the running for a James Beard Award is Charlotte’s Sam Hart, a nominee for best chef in the Southeast.

Last year, Ricky Moore, a chef who owns Saltbox Seafood Joint in Durham, won Best Chef: Southeast.

James Beard Award finalists announced, featuring one notable Charlotte chef

Here are the nation’s other nominees for best new places to eat:

  • Causa in Washington, D.C.

  • Dept of Culture in New York

  • Don Artemio in Fort Worth, Texas

  • Kann in Portland, Oregon

  • Lupi & Iris in Milwaukee

  • Nolia Kitchen in Cincinnati

  • Obélix in Chicago

  • Restaurant Beatrice in Dallas

  • Tatemó in Houston

The winners of the James Beard Awards will be announced June 5.

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