It’s a good time to be Edouardo Jordan. On Wednesday, the chef and owner of Salare and Junebaby, two revered restaurants in the quiet Seattle neighborhood of Ravenna, was named as a finalist for not one but two James Beard Awards. Then Thursday, New York Times critic Pete Wells, who only reviews restaurants outside of New York City every few months, gave Junebaby a glowing three-star review, calling Jordan’s latest effort “a celebration of black Southern food.”
As Eater contributor Korsha Wilson pointed out on Twitter, Jordan appears to be the first black chef in 20 years to score such high marks, following Ruth Reichl’s three-star review in 1995 of Aquavit helmed by Marcus Samuelsson:
It isn’t just the “sheer pleasure of the cooking” that led critic Pete Wells to praise the restaurant, though Jordan’s ode to his mother’s deeply flavorful oxtails, his grandmother’s chitterlings, and his crisp semolina-fried catfish, “free of bottom-feeder muddiness” and served with “fluffy” grits are a good starting point. (The secret to clean-tasting catfish, as Jordan revealed recently, is actually to buy farm-raised).
But Junebaby is all those delicious dishes and more: Unexpected items like hog maw, rich in historical significance as well as flavor, pull the diner in deeper, offering up a celebration of Jordan’s personal history and weaving it with the South’s unheralded history of black cooks and black food. Wells found the restaurant’s growing online encyclopedia of Southern food helpful as it “nudged me to consider what I was eating.”
Junebaby’s set the food world abuzz since its conception, when Jordan announced that the restaurant would “tell the story of my ancestors,” and has since earned glowing reviews from The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, The Stranger, Eater’s roving restaurant critic Bill Addison, and more. Junebaby was also Eater Seattle’s 2017 restaurant of the year and Eater’s 2017 best new restaurant of the year nationally.