There are a number of things the RAMMY Awards could change to better represent the dining scene and add some credibility. For starters, they could make the awards open to all—not just paying members of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington—so that obvious contenders like Rose’s Luxury and Bad Saint aren’t conspicuously missing. They could also get rid of the requirement in several categories that restaurants must be open for at least two years to be nominated. The list would feel much more current, especially considering some of the best restaurants are the newer ones. (After all, why should All-Purpose only be eligible for best new restaurant and not best casual restaurant?)
But there’s one rule that really, really needs to change, and a lot of people don’t know it: If you win, you’re not eligible to be nominated in the same category again for five years. So, for example, because Minibar was named Formal Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year this year, it won’t even be considered for the award for half a decade. Never mind whether it remains the best fine dining restaurant in the interim.
The flaws of this nonsensical rule seemed particularly glaring in the best beer program category this year. Not to diminish Jack Rose Dining Saloon‘s win—despite being known for whiskey, it really does have an impressive beer list—but it wasn’t even competing against the city’s best beer programs. ChurchKey/Birch & Barley, Pizzeria Paradiso, and Right Proper Brewing Company have all won in recent years, so none were even in the running. It wasn’t a fair fight.
This isn’t tee-ball where you want to give all the kids a chance to earn a trophy. Can you imagine if Washingtonian decided to leave Pineapple and Pearls off our 100 Very Best Restaurant list just because it topped the list last year?
If you’re the best five years in a row, you should be named the best five years in a row. And if the RAMMYs are serious about recognizing those at the top of their game, it’s time to make a change.