The Big DC-Area Restaurant Awards Are Here: Meet the 2020 RAMMY Finalists

Despite all odds, awards season in the hospitality industry returns.

Pineapple and Pearls makes its first appearance at the RAMMYs. Photograph by Scott Suchman

It’s a huge day for the hospitality industry, both locally and nationally. Even with businesses closed or drastically altered due to the health crisis, the finalists for two major bar and restaurant awards are being announced. First up: the 38th annual Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washingtonian RAMMY Awards (known as the James Beards for DC). And then at 4 PM, the James Beard Association will announce the finalists for their 2020 awards (a.k.a. the Oscars of the hospitality biz). Both honor big names and rising stars in the industry.

“Rather than continue to postpone the good news, our community needs some moments of celebration to remind everyone why we are in this incredible industry,” said RAMW President Kathy Hollinger in the award announcements via YouTube. “It’s full of creative, innovative, determined individuals, who’ve shown more than ever that they’re resilient warriors who can get through anything.”

There are some surprises on the list of this year’s RAMMY finalists. Chef Aaron Silverman is making his first appearance—in a big way. The local chef is nominated in four categories for all three of his Capitol Hill ventures:  Outstanding Service (Rose’s Luxury), Formal Fine Dining (Pineapple and Pearls), Casual Restaurant (Little Pearl), and Restaurateur of the Year. Previously Silverman had been excluded from consideration because his restaurants were not paying RAMW members—a RAMMY requirement. 

In case you’re wondering why your favorite spot isn’t on the list, here are some other pieces of fine print: RAMMY winners are not eligible to be nominated again in the same category for five years, and many categories stipulate that a restaurant or bar be in business for at least two years to qualify.

In addition to big-name chefs and fine-dining heavy hitters you’ll find a few less buzzy nominees. Take the 34 year-old, family-owned Georgetown spot Ristorante Piccolo, which is in the running for Service Program of the Year. On the list of Rising Stars is new Maydan chef Marcel Afram, Faiz Ally of Poca Madre, and Thamee co-owner Jocelyn Law-Yone. Law-Yone spent 15 years as an art history teacher before career-changing to the restaurant industry and opening her H Street Burmese hotspot with daughter Simone Jacobson.

As of now, winners will be announced at an awards gala at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Sunday, July 26 (though date and venue are subject to change). The public will also be invited to vote in four categories: Favorite Gathering Place of the Year, Upscale Brunch of the Year, Casual Brunch of the Year, and Favorite Fast Bites of the Year.

In the meantime, here are the 2020 RAMMY finalists:

Formal Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year:

  • Gravitas
  • Pineapple and Pearls
  • Rasika West End
  • The Conservatory at Goodstone Inn
  • Three Blacksmiths

New Restaurant of the Year: 

  • Anju
  • Cane
  • Emilie’s
  • Punjab Grill
  • Rooster & Owl

 Chef of the Year:

  • Matt Baker, Gravitas
  • David Deshaies, Unconventional Diner
  • Haidar Karoum, Chloe
  • Ryan Ratino, Bresca
  • Kevin Tien, Emilie’s

Restaurateur of the Year: 

  • Victor Albisu, Poca Madre, Taco Bamba Taqueria
  • Bo Blair, Georgetown Events (The Bullpen, Due South, Jetties, Millie’s, Surfside)
  • Mark Fedorchak, Stephen Fedorchak, and Brian Normile, The Liberty Tavern Group
  • Yama Jewayni, Katsuya Fukushima, and Daisuke Utagawa, Daikaya Group
  • Aaron Silverman, Rose’s Luxury, Pineapple and Pearls, Little Pearl

Service Program of the Year: 

  • Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
  • Ristorante Piccolo
  • Rose’s Luxury
  • St. Anselm
  • The Red Hen

Casual Restaurant of the Year:

  • Bantam King
  • CHIKO – Capitol Hill
  • Duke’s Counter
  • Little Pearl
  • Stable

Upscale Casual Restaurant of the Year:

  • Centrolina
  • Chloe
  • Maydan
  • Poca Madre
  • Unconventional Diner

Rising Culinary Star of the Year: 

  • Marcelle Afram, Maydan
  • Faiz Ally, Poca Madre
  • Angel Barreto, Anju
  • Jocelyn Law-Yone, Thamee
  • Yuan Tang, Rooster & Owl

Pastry Chef of the Year: 

  • Caitlin Dysart, Centrolina
  • Olivia Green, Rooster & Owl
  • Katherine Thompson, Thompson Italian
  • Meagan Tighe, Trummer’s
  • Paola Velez, Kith/Kin

Wine Program of the Year: 

  • Clarity
  • Field & Main
  • Primrose
  • St. Anselm
  • The Wine Kitchen – Frederick

 Beer Program of the Year:

  • B Side
  • Caboose Brewing Co. – Vienna
  • Franklin Hall
  • Roofers Union
  • Sweetwater Tavern – Centreville

Cocktail Program of the Year: 

  • China Chilcano
  • Colada Shop – DC
  • Officina
  • Royal

Service Bar

Regional Food and Beverage Producer of the Year: 

  • Arcadia Farm
  • Atlas Brew Works
  • Ayrshire Farm
  • Bluejacket
  • Logan Sausage Co.

 Employee of the Year: 

  • Yesenia Neri Diaz, Espita Mezcaleria
  • Isael Granados, Roofers Union
  • Yasmin Orozco, Taco Bamba Taqueria – Springfield
  • Kyare Turner, Right Proper Brewing Co.
  • Jose Ventura, Rasika

Manager of the Year: 

  • Jamal Flowers, Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Co. – Alexandria
  • Charlie Idol, Mission Navy Yard
  • Rizza Leguro, Founding Farmers Tysons
  • Jeremy Mancuso, Old Ebbitt Grill
  • Bethany Wagener, Alta Strada – Mosaic

Favorite Gathering Place of the Year:

  • Brookland’s Finest
  • Lapis
  • Quarry House Tavern
  • Stomping Ground
  • The Salt Line

Upscale Brunch of the Year: 

  • Bindaas – Cleveland Park
  • Estadio
  • Seasons at the Four Seasons DC
  • St. Anselm
  • Trummer’s

 Casual Brunch of the Year:

  • All-Purpose Shaw
  • Casolare Ristorante + Bar
  • Liberty Barbecue
  • Pearl Dive Oyster Palace
  • The Tavern at Ivy City Smokehouse

Favorite Fast Bites of the Year: 

  • Call Your Mother Deli – Park View
  • Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly
  • RASA
  • Shouk
  • Sloppy Mama’s BBQ


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.