New Jersey has no shortage of award-worthy dining thanks to some very celebrated chefs.

Among the 2024 James Beard Award semifinalists announced on Wednesday, a Monmouth County spot was up for Best New Restaurant against about two dozen competitors nationwide.

The James Beard Awards have been considered one of the most prestigious honors since their inception in the 1990s.

Lita restaurant in Aberdeen ( James Beard nominee restaurants chef 2024
Lita restaurant in Aberdeen (

Lita opened to instant buzz just off Route 34 in Aberdeen in spring 2023 — in a space once home to a bagel shop.

Executive Chef David Viana was also nominated for a James Beard award in 2018, stemming from Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge.

It was now been picked as a restaurant “that already demonstrates excellence in cuisine, seems likely to make a significant impact in years to come, and demonstrates consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, hospitality, and operations, while contributing positively to its broader community.”

Also among 2024 semifinalists are two first-time New Jersey nominees for Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic Region: Dane DeMarco of Gass & Main in Haddonfield and Nur-E Gulshan Rahman of Korai Kitchen in Jersey City. Winners would be announced at a ceremony in June.

There have been many James Beard Award nominees at New Jersey restaurants still open and thriving.

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Gallery Credit: Erin Vogt

Since the awards began in 1991, there have been two New Jersey winners for Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic Region (the area spans New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C).

Craig Shelton was the first in 2000 while at The Ryland Inn in Whitehouse. In 2012, Maricel Presilla was dubbed a James Beard winner while chef at Cucharamama in Hoboken. Presilla was nominated another four times.

Shelton has moved to New York as an event chef in the Hudson Valley.

Presilla closed Cucharamama in 2020, as the pandemic made its intimate dining unsustainable, as reportedly then by NJ Monthly.

Other James Beard nominees that have since closed their doors include Osteria Radici in Allentown, Thirty Acres in Jersey City, 17 Summer in Lodi and The Red Store in Cape May Point.

Also closed after previous nominations, Curiosity Doughnuts in Stockton and The Flaky Tart bakery in Atlantic Highlands.

New Jersey might lack any official Michelin stars — but there continues to be emerging culinary talent calling the Garden State home.

An amazing NJ restaurant in a historic building

If you've never been to Lambertville, you're really missing out on a true gem of a town in New Jersey.

And if you've never been to Lambertville Station you're missing out on a really great restaurant in a truly historic building.

It's housed in the building that acted as the Lambertville train station dating back to 1867.

The building and the town went through its tough times, but for the last 40 years, Lambertville Station has been serving diners in a casual upscale atmosphere with excellent food.

Last year a prominent restaurant group called Genesis Hospitality took over the historic dining spot and they've continued the excellence that has made this place a must-go-to spot anytime you're in town.

The menu consists of varied contemporary American favorites with plenty of options.

The food and the service are excellent and are a good fit for couples, families, and special occasions.

There is a first-class Inn on the property on the river across the parking lot if you want to stay over.

Gallery Credit: Dennis Malloy

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