If Jack and Rose Arnold seemed a little distracted today during the lunch rush, it's probably because a film crew from the James Beard Foundation was lurking by the buffet, filming the daily ritual at Arnold's Country Kitchen
. The 28-year-old meat-and-three on Eighth Avenue has been chosen as one of America's Classics by the venerable keepers of culinary tradition. Each year since 1998 the James Beard Foundation Awards Committee has identified small regional restaurants, watering holes, shacks, lunch counters and down-home eateries that have carved out a special place on the American culinary landscape. The Arnolds will join this year's four other America's Classics winners in New York on May 4 for the James Beard Awards Gala at Lincoln Center. "It still doesn't seem real," a breathless Rose said on the phone [March 11] during a break in the filming, though she sounded almost as emotional about having all three sons working together in the kitchen. At the black-tie ceremony--the food world equivalent of the Oscars--the video tribute to Arnold's will air, and Jack and Rose will receive the coveted James Beard Foundation medallion. Other winners: Breitbach's Country Dining, Sherrill, Iowa; Totono's, Coney Island, N.Y.; Mustache Bill's Diner, Barnegat Light, N.J.; Yank Sing, San Francisco, Calif.