Life

This is the best restaurant in America according to 'the Oscars of food'—and it's not in NYC or LA

Zahav in Philadelphia, PA.
Michael Persico

The James Beard Foundation's annual awards — considered the "Oscars of the food world" — named its Outstanding Restaurant for 2019, and it's not in foodie meccas New York City or Los Angeles.

Zahav, which serves modern Israeli cuisine, is in Philadelphia.

"I remember thinking how during the first few months we were open, we thought there was no way we were going to make it to our anniversary," Zahav co-owner Steve Cook tells CNBC Make It of the restaurant, which celebrated its 11th anniversary on Sunday, the day before the award was announced.

"To go from nearly rock bottom to the absolute pinnacle is almost unbelievable."

The restaurant is helmed by chef Michael Solomonov, who was nominated for the Outstanding Chef category in 2016.

One of the signature dishes at Zahav (which means "gold" in Hebrew, according to Cook), is the whole-roasted lamb shoulder with pomegranate and chickpeas.

Whole-roasted lamb shoulder is a signature dish.
Alexandra Hawkins

The restaurant also does a tasting that is a "tour of the whole menu," according to Cook.

Popular tasting menu "Tayim," for example, includes salatim (small vegetable salads and slaws), hummus with laffa (Middle Eastern bread), two mezze (small plates), one al ha'esh (a grilled offering) and dessert for $48 per person.

Modern Isaeli dishes at Zahav.
Alexandra Hawkins

Other popular dishes include cherry tomatoes with anchovy dill tabbouleh, beef-heart shawarma and chicken liver pastilla with fig, tehina and Fresno chile.

Modern Israeli cuisine at Zahav.
Alexandra Hawkins

For the James Beard award, Zahav beat out French restaurant Balthazar in Manhattan; Southern restaurant Fig in Charleston, South Carolina; Spanish restaurant Jaleo in Washington D.C.; and contemporary Californian restaurant Quince in San Francisco.

The Best New Restaurant award went to French bistro Frenchette in Manhattan, and Ashley Christensen of Poole's Diner in Raleigh, North Carolina was named Outstanding Chef.

The James Beard Foundation has been giving top honors in the food and beverage industry since 1990. A win, or even nomination, can increase buzz for a business, according to CNN. So Zahav — which is already a notable restaurant in Philly, according to Cook — may be about to get even more popular.

"It's a good problem to have," says Cook.

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