In 2017 Portland restaurants scored more semifinalists for the prestigious James Beard food awards—named for legendary Portland-born chef James Beard—than our city's ever had. The semifinalists were announced today in New York City.

This year's crop of 16 semifinalists ties us with much bigger food markets like Los Angeles, Manhattan and Washington, D.C.—although we netted one fewer nod than Seattle.

The highest-profile nomination is for Le Pigeon's Gabriel Rucker—the restaurant we named the best in the city in our 2016 restaurant guide—is again a semifinalist as as Outstanding Chef. That award is given to the best chef in the country. This would be is the last step in a progression of Beards for Rucker: He received a Beard as Rising Star Chef in 2011, and another for Best Chef Northwest in 2013.

Maya Lovelace, the former Beast sous chef whose heavenly southern fare at Mae made her our pop-up restaurant of the year, is a semifinalist for the Rising Star Chef award, given to chefs under 30 who have all sorts of potential.

Among other national semifinalists, Peter Cho's nouveau-Korean spot Han Oak is up for Best New Restaurant. Ken Forkish makes a repeat appearance as a semifinalist for Outstanding Baker at Ken's Artisan Bakery.  Clyde Common, led by startender Jeffrey Morgenthaler, continues its residency vying for the throne of Outstanding Bar Program, and Kristen Murray of Maurice is up for Outstanding Pastry Chef.

In an intriguing turn, Monique Siu of Castagna and neighboring Castagna Cafe is up for Best Restaurateur—a category less-monied Portland has not always excelled at.

And seven different Portland chefs have been nominated for Best Chef Northwest—the most of any city. They are as follows: Jose Chesa of Ataula, Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton of Ox, Ha (Christina) Luu of Ha VL, Joshua McFadden of Ava Gene's, Katy Millard of Coquine, Sarah Pliner of Aviary, Ryan Roadhouse of Nodoguro, and Justin Woodward of Castagna.

Lots of nominees is no guarantee of an award—categories have up to 25 nominees apiece, and Portland was shut out last year after receiving a then-best 15 semifinalist nods. But given this year's strong crop, consider us guardedly optimistic.

And, dude, Ha VL. That's great.

Anyway, finalists will be announced March 15, with winners feted in a grand ol' ceremony in New York May 1.