By Joshua Huff, sports editor
BIRMINGHAM — The James Beard Foundation released its list of 2020 Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists on Thursday and several Birmingham-area establishments heard their name called for the top honor for chefs, restaurants, journalists, authors and other leaders in the food and beverage industry.
Representing Birmingham in the “Best New Restaurant” category is Automatic Seafood & Oysters, in the Lakeview community.
The restaurant opened its doors in April 2019 behind the culinary masterminds of chef Adam Evans and designer Suzanne Humphries Evans. The restaurant “aims to blend fine dining with a friendly atmosphere where everyone is welcome, always.”
According to their website, the menu consists of a variety of seafood dishes, featuring fish primarily sourced from the Gulf of Mexico, oysters from waters along the Southern and Eastern coastlines, as well as a selection of land-based produce and proteins.
Atomic Bar & Lounge was nominated as a semifinalist in the “Outstanding Bar Program.” The bar finished as a 2018-19 James Beard Award semifinalist.
“Feizal Valli and Rachael Roberts are two ridiculous people who met in 2013 and got married three years later,” the bar said on its website. “As long time fans of mid century modern design and owners of several full body costumes they decided to marry the two ideas to their love of craft cocktails and dive bars. The result is The Atomic Lounge. It’s a labor of love they hope you’ll enjoy.”
Chez Fonfon, which is located near Five Points South, was nominated as a semifinalist for the “Outstanding Hospitality category.”
According to the website, “Chez Fonfon is that cozy, casual French bistro that we hope transfers you to Paris, Lyon or Nice. Opened in 2000 by Frank and Pardis Stitt, it is a bustling place serving classic, hearty French fare: steak tartare, moules et frites, sauted trout with brown butter, escargots, and homemade charcuterie. We offer the most delicious wines, chosen for their value and quirkiness, from the Loire, Rhone and Languedoc.”
Nominated for the “Best Chef: South” category is Johnny’s Restaurant’s Timothy Hontzas.
Hontzas’ bio states that his “path into cooking professionally came naturally due to his Greek heritage. His grandfather, Johnny Hontzopolous, migrated to New Orleans in 1921 with seventeen dollars in his pocket. He went on to open three successful restaurants, in Mississippi, the last being his namesake.”
Hontzas has worked for multiple chefs in his time in the culinary industry: John Currence, Erling Jensen, Chris Nasons and Rick Kangas.
The menu at Johnny’s consists of comfort of classic “Meat & Three” dishes, as well as Greek specialties, such as Spanakopita, Souvlaki, Rolo Kima (Greek Meatloaf w/Lamb) and House Made Yiaourti Cheesecake.
The 2020 James Beard Awards Gala will take place on Monday, May 4, 2020, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.