Foodflash: Bar Leather Apron Wins Hawai‘i’s First National James Beard Award
The win for Outstanding Bar was announced Monday afternoon in Chicago.
Bar Leather Apron, the bar that brought world-class cocktails and cocktail culture to Downtown Honolulu, became the first Hawai‘i entity to win a national James Beard Award when it was named Outstanding Bar at the awards ceremony in Chicago on Monday. Five bars from around the country made the finals from an initial list of 20 semi-finalists.
Tom Park and mixologist Justin Park, the owners of Bar Leather Apron, were in the audience and accepted the award. Justin Park gave a shoutout to the other four finalists, “all our friends’ bars who equally deserve this award”: Drastic Measures of Shawnee, Georgia; Garagiste of Las Vegas; La Ramblas of Brownsville, Texas; and Rob Roy of Seattle.
“When we started Bar Leather Apron seven-plus years ago, we didn’t do it to chase any awards or anything like that. We just wanted to show and share with the world along with our friends in the industry that our small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean could do something special,” Justin Park said from the awards stage.
“We put our heads down and did what we did, and with the help of our friends and family, all of our guests and supporters, [we showed] everyone back home in Hawai‘i, the keiki and anyone coming up in the industry, that anything’s possible.
“So believe and keep going.”
The two Parks—one the owner of the high-end men’s shoe boutique Leather Soul and the other a veteran of national and international cocktail competitions at which he’s won numerous awards—opened Bar Leather Apron in the lobby of the Topa Financial Center in 2015. Last year, in the same week Fête’s Robynne Maii won Hawai‘i’s first James Beard Award in 19 years (Best Chef: Northwest & Pacific), Bar Leather Apron was named one of the country’s 50 best bars.
At the same ceremony Monday in Chicago, Hawai‘i Island’s Manago Hotel was recognized as one of the James Beard Foundation’s 2023 America’s Classics, a designation awarded to only six longtime local businesses across the country. Famous for its legendary pork chops, the restaurant was represented onstage by members of the Manago family, who opened it in 1917 and still run it today. The America’s Classics awards were announced in February.