Pandemic Dominates 2021 RAMMY Award Nominations


Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington announced finalists for the 2021 RAMMY Awards, the winners of which will be announced on Sunday, September 19, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. 

Special for this year only, RAMW categories that speak to 2020 and the myriad of challenges, unforeseen hurdles, and opportunities that arose to let creativity shine.

Georgetown gets a big shoutout in the Milestone category for longtimers La Chaumiere (45 years), Peacock Cafe (30 years), Pizzeria Paradiso (30 years), and Ristorante Piccolo (35 years).

The following are the listings from the restaurant association for this year’s awards.

Recognizing that it would not be fair to assess the industry on performance in 2020, RAMW, the panel of RAMMYS judges, and the 2021 RAMMYS Chairs Committee, created timely categories that speak to all the ways the region’s industry uniquely met those challenges. Also unique to this year, membership was not a prerequisite for nomination and nearly half of the honors bestowed will be voted on by the public. Votes for these categories will be available online from Monday, August 2, to Thursday, Sept. 2.

The 2021 RAMMY Awards Finalists are (*denotes publicly voted category*):

Managers of the Year: Every year The RAMMYS honor a few finalists and one winner as the Manager of the Year. Looking back at 2020, every manager across the region worked so hard to support employees, to execute Covid safety plans, to implement new regulations and restrictions overnight, and in many different phases. This was the most challenging year for operations and every manager is a hero. While we recognize all managers, with this category we are highlighting the stories of some who really went above and beyond.

  • Otgontuya Davaasuren, All Set Restaurant & Bar
  • Khawla Gasmi, Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar, & Eatery
  • Autumn Harriger, Destination Unknown Restaurants/Espita
  • Jordan Lee, Thamee Restaurant
  • Tylyn Mallon, Right Proper Brewing Company
  • Brian McGahey, Modena Restaurant
  • Gilbert Mejia, Nobu DC
  • Robert Micheli, Dirty Habit
  • Daurio Passaia, Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse
  • Karina Wilkey, Sunnyside Restaurant Group

Employees of the Year: Every year The RAMMYS honor a few finalists and one winner as the Employee of the Year. Looking back at 2020, every employee across the region worked so hard to keep guests safe and comfortable, to provide a positive dining experience whether at the restaurant or at home. Employees navigated so much, learned new protocols seemingly daily, and did it all with a smile albeit under their masks. They all deserve applause, but this category will help tell the stories of a few who were anchors of the industry and helped their fellow employees keep going through a hard year, but doing what they love.

  • Gabriela Araujo, Bresca
  • Ruben Avila, PassionFish Reston
  • Freddy Bastidas, Blue Duck Tavern
  • Adrian Godinez, RPM Italian
  • Rosa Martinez, Alta Strada & Nama
  • Mileyda Montezuma, Immigrant Food
  • Fredy Nataren, Tryst Trading Co.
  • Celina Nava, Estadio
  • Alicia Ramos, Convivial
  • Maria Serrano, Sababa

Formal Fine Dining in a Box: While we all depended on and appreciated delicious takeout and delivery from local restaurants this past year, we definitely missed those special occasions to get a little dressed up and experience the finest service, ambiance, and incredible food and wine. These formal fine dining nominees took on a great challenge and demonstrated how special and celebratory a meal in a takeout package can still be.

  • Brasserie Liberté
  • Bresca
  • Chloe
  • Cranes
  • Fiola
  • Mintwood Place
  • Rasika
  • Rooster and Owl
  • Saund and Snyder
  • The Dabney

Most Innovative To-Go Packaging Game: From beautiful bento boxes to sustainable sippy cups, restaurants of all types strived to keep crispy food crisp, explore tamper-proof packaging, bundle meal kit components, and make everything look good along the way. These operations really demonstrated they had the to-go game down in 2020.

  • Daikaya
  • Jaleo
  • Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak, and Stone Crab
  • Julii
  • Oyster Oyster
  • Rose’s Luxury/Rose’s At Home
  • Stable DC
  • Sushi Taro
  • Sushiko
  • The Duck & The Peach

Outstanding Covid-Safe Redesign (Indoors or Outdoors): When restaurants were able to reopen after the initial shutdown last spring, they came back strong with innovative ways to keep guests safe so they could enjoy dining out again. We’ve seen everything from plexiglass dividers to plastic igloos, outdoor lounges and glass greenhouses. Fine dining restaurants added grab and go windows, and operators redesigned the floor to function in a unique time. Here are some standout redesigns created to keep guests and employees safe.

  • Ben’s Chili Bowl
  • Clarity
  • Clyde’s Restaurant Group
  • Equinox Restaurant
  • Fiola Mare
  • Glover Park Grill
  • HalfSmoke
  • Maydan
  • St. Anselm
  • The Park at 14th

Most Impressive Pivot to Provisions or Market: Acting fast to keep the business afloat, many restaurant operators shifted their focus to operate as neighborhood markets with groceries, provisions packages, and basic supplies available for takeout, curbside pickup, or delivery. From their fresh baked bread to paper towels, and from meal kits and meat to pasta sauce and cleaning products, restaurants became a go-to for many homebound people early on in the pandemic shutdown, and many kept it going throughout the year. These nominees had exemplary pivots as they packaged provisions.

  • ANXO Cidery
  • Bar Charley, El Chucho, and Little Coco’s
  • Coconut Club
  • Founding Farmers
  • Hank’s Oyster Bar/Current Catch
  • Neighborhood Restaurant Group
  • Officina
  • Seoulspice
  • Thamee
  • Walters Sports Bar

Good Neighbor Award: Our local restaurant industry is known for being incredibly giving, and this past year many true community champions stepped forward to lead efforts that helped feed communities, support hospitality workers, show appreciation to frontline workers, and so much more. While nearly every restaurant and industry business stepped up in these ways, there were a few companies or individuals who not only supported, but also created and led one-of-a-kind programs and initiatives that made a big impact and engaged others to join their effort. Here are some of those hometown heroes.

Individual Honors:

  • Erik Bruner-Yang, Power of 10 Initiative
  • Willa Pelini, Paola Velez, and Rob Rubba, Bakers Against Racism
  • Anna Valero, Hook Hall Helps
  • Mark Bucher and Medium Rare, Feed The Fridge
  • Danny Lee, Support of Immigrant and AAPI Community
  • Kevin Tien and Tim Ma, Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate – DC
  • Jon Krinn, Chefs Feeding Northern VA, Taste of DC in VA
  • David Guas, Bayou Bakery Soup Kitchen, BEAN-EFIT
  • Micheline Mendelsohn and Spike Mendelsohn, National Guard Inauguration Program, and More
  • Edward Lee, The LEE Initiative

Company/Organization Honors:

  • Coconut Club
  • Immigrant Food
  • Keany Produce & Gourmet
  • KNEAD Hospitality + Design
  • Little Sesame
  • Peruvian Brothers
  • Pizzeria Paradiso
  • RASA
  • Saval Foodservice
  • World Central Kitchen

*Outstanding Ghost Kitchen or Pop-up Concept*: Creativity flourished, out of need and innovation, and led to many chefs and restaurateurs experimenting with “Ghost Kitchens” and “Pop Ups” or restaurant concepts without a physical space. Many operators ran new food concepts out of their existing restaurants to meet the needs of what consumers had a taste for, or just to try out a new restaurant idea without opening a new restaurant. Some popped up in new locations to try out a neighborhood or to partner with a beverage concept. All in all, there were so many new flavors, fun options and ways for customers to shake up their takeout. These nominees had some of the region’s most notable and delicious Ghost or Pop Up concepts in 2020.

  • Ama Ami “homakase”
  • DC Ghostburger
  • Denizen’s Brewing Co., Sunday Gravy
  • Fat Choi Hot Pot
  • Ghostline/Social Beast
  • Happy Gyro
  • Little Sesame @ Sugar Fox
  • June
  • Shababi
  • The Red Hen – French Hen

*Coolest Cocktails and Beverages To-Go*: Cocktails to go may be, hands down, the coolest trend born out of necessity in 2020, and restaurants and their very talented bar teams had fun creating unique beverage pairings with to-go menus, curated cocktails in jars, pouches, and batched for the weekend. And then there were beautiful cocktail kits that made you feel like a star mixologist at home. These nominees had the coolest overall cocktails and beverages to-go program rocking in 2020.

  • Astoria
  • Barmini
  • Cactus Cantina
  • Capo Delicatessen
  • Jack Rose Dining Saloon
  • Napoli Pasta Bar
  • Serenata
  • Service Bar
  • Seven Reasons
  • Tiger Fork

*Standout Family Meal Packages To-Go*: Restaurant guests were stuck at home quite a bit last year and after the sourdough starters and project cooking fads wore off, they just needed to feed a family of four dinner in a flash. They turned to their local restaurants for easy takeout options and restaurants delivered with wholesome and delicious family meal dinners packaged for two, four, or six with all the favorites to keep families happy and coming back for convenience and smiles. These restaurants had some of the region’s top family meal menus.

  • Albi
  • Cork Wine Bar & Market
  • Liberty Tavern
  • Muchas Gracias
  • Oohh’s & Aahh’s
  • Pennyroyal Station
  • Ristorante i Ricchi
  • Taco Bamba
  • Thompson Italian
  • Unconventional Diner

*Prime Pandemic Patio Scene*: Dining al fresco has always been fun, but 2020 proved that it was also a lifeline for restaurants and a go-to for diners. Whether it was for a summer dinner delight or a dead of winter bring-your-own-blanket “but I just have to go out!” moment, our local restaurants strived to create incredible outdoor dining experiences for guests. These nominees had some of the area’s most desirable outdoor dining digs.

  • Caboose Brewing Co.
  • Hi-Lawn
  • Hook Hall
  • La Famosa
  • Lauriol Plaza
  • Le Diplomate
  • Lulu’s Winegarden
  • Mercy Me
  • The Salt Line

*Technology Trailblazers*: Restaurants had to act very fast to get their technology game going to support virtual menus, online ordering, contactless ordering and pickup, delivery platforms, group ordering as neighborhood’s looked to support restaurants, and even air purification technology. This was no small feat. While all restaurants navigated these waters, these nominees utilized technology in very unique ways to support customer experiences or embrace safety precautions.

  • DC To Go-Go
  • Ensemble
  • GoTab
  • Great American Restaurants
  • Rumi’s Kitchen
  • Silver Diner
  • Stellina Pizzeria
  • The Roost
  • Think Food Group
  • TTT

*Splendid Holidays at Home Offerings*: The holiday season had a different feel in 2020 as so many stayed local, kept it small, and looked for a little dining decadence to-go to make their holidays sparkle at home. There were a lot of holidays spent at home last year, but from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve, local restaurants went all out to create celebratory menus with all the bells and whistles, and some even came with a show! Here are some shining stars who helped guests have memorable holidays at home.

  • Centrolina
  • Chef Geoff’s
  • Ellē
  • Et Voila!
  • JACKIE
  • Kinship
  • Lebanese Taverna
  • Punjab Grill
  • Ridgewells Catering
  • Royal

*Festive Foodie Experiences*: Virtual programming was THE programming in 2020 and we saw so many creative ways in which restaurants produced dinner and a live music performance, virtual cooking classes, interactive activities for kids, interactive cooking kits, virtual trivia nights, remote wine tastings, mezcal master classes and so much more. These local restaurants and foodservice businesses had some true highlights of the year.

  • Baker’s Daughter, CSA Box Cooking Classes
  • Carlie Steiner, Various Virtual Classes
  • Catoctin Creek, The Art of the Cocktail
  • Eric Adjepong, Cooking with Eric
  • Eva Kronenburg, YouTube Cooking Series
  • Louise Salas and Gina Chersevani, Designated Drinker Show
  • Kwame Onwuachi, Eat Clean While Quarantined
  • Mess Hall DC, Some Disassembly Required
  • Sticky Fingers, Virtual Baking Classes
  • Xiquet, Cooking with Chef Danny Lledó

*Hottest New Sandwich Shop*: In the D.C. region, everyone was talking (online of course) about sandwiches. They were the focus of many a ghost kitchen, the pivot of some fine dining spots, and just part of the sustenance required by consumers to get through 2020. Whether it was burgers, subs, melts, breakfast sandwiches, tortas, cheesesteaks, or something in between, these nominees had serious sandwiches to write home about.

  • AmperSandwich
  • Bun Papa
  • Compliments Only
  • Fedwich
  • Fight Club
  • Itty Bitty Sandwich City
  • Queen Mother’s
  • Roaming Rooster
  • Sandi Buns
  • Your Only Friend

*Stellar Brunches at Home*: The DMV really loves to brunch. The weekend brunch scene in a normal year is fierce and filled with fluffy Belgian waffles, bottomless mimosas, extravagant buffets, and bountiful eggs benedicts (with Maryland blue crab crabcakes of course). People were missing their weekend brunches last year and turned to brunch-at-home options to fill the void. Here are some nominees who packaged the brunch fun, complete with beverages (that you could enjoy bottomless at home if you chose to!).

  • All Purpose – Navy Yard
  • Call Your Mother
  • Convivial
  • Duke’s Grocery
  • Farmers Fishers Bakers
  • Feast
  • I Egg You
  • KitchenCray
  • Seasons
  • The Fainting Goat

The 2021 Honorary Milestone RAMMY Award will be given to Glory Days Grill (25 years), La Chaumiere (45 years), Peacock Cafe (30 years), Pizzeria Paradiso (30 years), and Ristorante Piccolo (35 years), dining staples celebrating a significant number of years serving locals and visitors in Metropolitan Washington. Honorable mentions were also given at the RAMMY Nominations Announcement for Wine To Go Program and Sweet Relief, focused on pastry/baked goods to go.

The winners will be announced at the 39th Annual RAMMY Awards Gala on Sunday, Sept. 19, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. For more information regarding the awards and its finalists, email therammys@ramw.org. Follow RAMW’s industry blog for regular updates and resources for the region’s restaurant and foodservice community.

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