Four Birmingham restaurants and bars named James Beard Award Semifinalists, including Chez Fonfon

If someone made me food like that, I’d nominate them for a James Beard Award too. Photo via Chez Fonfon on Facebook

The James Beard Award Foundation just announced their 2020 Semifinalists, and four Birmingham & Homewood restaurants, bars and chefs have made the cut. Here’s who!

Best New Restaurant—Automatic Seafood & Oysters

A mouthwatering plate from Automatic Seafood. Photo via Automatic Seafood on Facebook

Since they opened their doors in 2019, Automatic Seafood & Oysters has made a big splash in Lakeview. In fact, Esquire Magazine recently named Automatic as #8 on their list of 22 Best New Restaurants in America. Although it’s no surprise to see Automatic as a James Beard Semifinalist, we are absolutely thrilled for them!

Best Chef of the South—Timothy Hontzas, Johnny’s Restaurant

Chef Timothy Hontzas in 2018. Photo via Johnny’s Restaurant on Facebook

Johnny’s Restaurant in Homewood is one of those special places. You walk in, and you feel like family. With that family atmosphere, and all the Southern comfort food you could ever want, it’s no surprise that Johnny’s is up for a James Beard Award. In fact, for four years in a row, Chef Timothy Hontzas of Johnny’s Restaurant has been nominated as a James Beard Award Semifinalist.

Outstanding Hospitality—Chez Fonfon

This casual, chic French bistro is right in the heart of Five Points South. Photo via Chez FonFon on Facebook page

Chez Fonfon is the brainchild of Frank Stitt, legendary Birmingham chef and restaurateur. Located in the heart of Five Points South, the Chez Fonfon experience makes you feel like you’ve been transported away to a chic French bistro. It’s no surprise that this restaurant made the James Beard Award list.

Best Bar Program—The Atomic Lounge

If you’ve been to The Atomic Lounge, you know exactly why they’re up for Best Bar Program. With delicious speciality cocktails, costumes and nostalgic 60s decor, The Atomic is unlike any bar you’ve ever visited before. Oh, and they have popcorn.

Now, The Atomic has been a James Beard Award Semifinalists three years in a row—so they must be doing something right.

2020 James Beard Awards

The James Beard Foundation will announce their 2020 Finalists on March 25, so keep your fingers crossed that these Birmingham establishments make it to the next round!

Afterwards, the James Beard Foundation will announce the winners at the annual awards gala on May 4. Previous winners of James Beard Awards include:

Excited to see Birmingham represented on the national stage? Share your thoughts by tagging @bhamnow on social media!


  • Tennessee native who fell in love with Birmingham during college. Graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2019. Passionate about Birmingham and its continued growth.