7 Chefs and Restaurants That Were Missing From the RAMMY Awards

Here's what the awards might look like if they were open to everyone without all the rules

Himitsu serves "new Japanese" fare and an ambitious cocktail program to Petworth. Photography by Farrah Skeiky.

Last night’s RAMMY Awards gala was like prom for Washington’s restaurant industry—and not just because the proliferation of tuxes, gowns, and Michael Jackson tunes. The awards ceremony felt a little dated and out of touch, with restaurants that have been open since 2015 eligible for New Restaurant of the Year, and gaping omissions in certain categories (no mention of the Columbia Room a.k.a. the “Best American Cocktail Bar” for best cocktail program?).

Blame the rules. Nominees must be paying members of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington—a group that many top restaurants and bars haven’t joined. In several cases, a restaurant must have been open for two years to qualify. And in one of the more under-the-radar conditions, no winners can be nominated again within five years.

So what would Washington’s biggest hospitality awards look like if you pulled all the restrictions and opened it up to all? Here’s a sampling of our alternate reality: 

Chef of the Year: Aaron Silverman

A conversation about the best chefs in Washington without mentioning chef/owner Aaron Silverman of Rose’s Luxury and Pineapple and Pearls seems odd. Neither restaurant is a paying RAMW member so has never been included. Still, we think the Rockville native has paid his fair dues in putting his hometown on the culinary map.

New Restaurant of the Year: Himitsu

We love Hazel (the real winner of this category), but when the conversation is about what’s new and hot, a year-plus old eatery doesn’t feel quite as relevant. What about Himitsu, which is just less than nine months old and already garnered a James Beard nod and a place on Eater’s “12 Best New Restaurants in America” list? (Also: it’s where we want to be eating right now.)

Formal Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year: Mirabelle

If there’s a stately newcomer that embodies this category, it’s chef Frank Ruta’s nouvelle-French dining room by the White House.

Casual Restaurant of the Year: All-Purpose

The Shaw pizzeria is too new to be considered for this category. (However, it was a nominee for best new restaurant). That’s a shame, because it seems like this year’s best casual restaurant to us (that chili honey pizza, those garlic knots…).

Upscale Casual Restaurant of the Year: Tail Up Goat

Honestly, we don’t even know what “upscale casual” really means. Is it the mullet of restaurants (business in the front, party in the back)? Maybe it’s somewhere you can wear jeans, but still do it up with an incredible bottle of wine. And for that, we’d go Goat (not a RAMW member) any day. 

Rising Culinary Star of the Year: Tom Cunanan

Bad Saint chef Tom Cunanan isn’t eligible for an award because the restaurant isn’t an RAMW member, but he’s certainly a talent on the rise. 

Restaurateur of the Year: Mike Isabella

Isabella won Restaurateur of the Year last year, but in this lawless land, we’ll argue that he’s worthy of the title again—maybe even more so than 2016. With the recent arrival of finer-dining Arroz, his diverse portfolio spans over five cuisines, from Asian to Mexican, and varies in concepts from Nationals Park kiosks to casual eateries and, dare we say, “upscale casual” places. The fact they’re all solid-to-excellent is a feat.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.