The Oscars may be coming up this weekend, but for food nerds, the real gala of note is the annual James Beard Awards, which will take place this year on May 6 in NYC. To get the excitement started, the semifinalists in the restaurants and chef categories have been announced. You can download the whole list for yourself to see all the nominees, but here are a few things that caught our eye:

  • We’re excited to see Alex Stupak‘s Empellón Cocina in the running for Best New Restaurant (he’s also in the running for Best Chef NYC). Hopefully the committee knows about his nacho prowess.
  • We wish there were more, but at least beer bars are not completely ignored in the Outstanding Bar Program category—we see you Porter Beer Bar!
  • Speaking of beer, there’s solid representation in the Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional category, including the Three Floyds brothers and Tom Peters of Philadelphia’s Monk’s Cafe.
  • Danny Bowien is in the mix for Rising Star Chef of the Year. If he takes that home, it would cap off a pretty magical year of awards, press coverage, and public adoration. It would be kind of like completing the Triple Crown of food.

[via James Beard Foundation]