In Austin, we don't need an excuse to celebrate our beloved local staples. Nonetheless, outside recognition never hurts, especially when it comes from the James Beard Foundation, which just named Joe's Bakery & Coffee Shop a 2023 American Classic.
On the heels of the recently revealed 2023 James Beard Award nominees, the James Beard Foundation announced this year's six recipients of its 2023 America's Classics Award. A different process than the annual restaurant and chef wards, the America's Classics designations are awarded to more casual, family-owned places that are staples of their community.
According to a press release, award winners "have timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community." Restaurants must have been existence for at least 10 years to be eligible for the award, and winners are chosen by region — meaning Joe's Bakery & Coffee Shop is this year's winner for all of Texas.
Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop is owned by the Avila family, which the announcement praised for serving "Austin’s quickly gentrifying East Austin since 1935, when Sophia DeLa'O operated La Oriental Grocery & Bakery from their home on East 9th Street. The business moved to East 7th Street in 1962 and Joe Avila, with the support of his wife Paula, bought the business and created Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop."
"Though he didn't realize it at the time, by bringing his childhood dream to fruition, Joe cemented a legacy through food and hospitality that continues to this day," the release continues. "The colorful Mexican pastries, known as pan dulce, and Tex-Mex family recipes draw large crowds hungry for migas, home-style pork carne guisada, and myriad breakfast tacos on homemade flour tortillas. (The infamous "fried bacon"—the dredging of thick-cut bacon through flour and cooking on the flat top grill—is a masterful touch). But it's the service and firm sense of community under the stewardship of three generations of Avila women, led by Joe’s widow Paula, that keeps people coming back again and again."
The announcement goes on to describe Joe's as a "melting pot of new and old Austin," and praises the family business for the ways it serves the Austin community, whether hosting voter registration drives or doubling as a general store during the peak of the pandemic:
"The neighborhood surrounding Joe’s Bakery and Coffee Shop is undergoing rapid development, but the restaurant remains a gathering place and piece of Austin history for longtime regulars and newcomers alike."
As one of this year's honorees, Joe's joins more than 100 restaurants across the country that have received the Award since the category was introduced in 1998. The Avila family will be celebrated alongside the 2023 Best Chef and Restaurant nominees at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards ceremony on Monday, June 5, 2023 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
“The mission of the James Beard Awards is to celebrate excellence and that means recognizing the incredible work of long-standing restaurants that play such a crucial role in our communities, as our America’s Classics winners do,” said Clare Reichenbach, CEO of the James Beard Foundation. “We are so excited to announce this year’s winners. Congratulations to all!”