DC’s Big Restaurant Industry Awards Take on a Pandemic Twist With No Best New Restaurant or Chef of the Year

This year's RAMMY Awards include categories such as most innovating to-go packaging and best pandemic patio scene

Unconventional Diner is a RAMMY nominee in the category of "Standout Family Meal Packages To-Go." Photograph by Evy Mages

For the first time this year, DC’s big restaurant industry awards are open to all—not just members of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington. The change, just for 2021, will help make the annual RAMMY Awards more representative of the dining scene as a whole while bringing a spotlight to local favorites and talent that are typically ignored.

“This is not a year and winners and losers. It’s a year of, oh my God, can we all be together and celebrate?,” RAMW President Kathy Hollinger recently told Washingtonian. “People have just done remarkable things, so it’s finding away to recognize a whole bunch of people.”

That said, there are actually winners and losers, though the award categories have changed to be more pandemic-minded this year. Instead of declaring the best new restaurant or rising culinary star, the RAMMYS’s anonymous panel of food writers and other industry professionals will recognize the “most innovative to-go packaging” and “most impressive pivot to provisions or market.”

Publicly voted categories also have a Covid twist, including coolest cocktails to-go, best pandemic patio scene, and outstanding ghost kitchen or pop-up. Voting will go live from Aug. 2 through Sept. 2.

RAMW has also doubled the number of nominees in each category to a total of 10, so there are even more new faces than usual. Thanks to this year’s more inclusive rules, the team behind Komi is being recognized at the RAMMYS for the first time ever for their Greek-inspired vegetarian carryout Happy Gyro, a nominee for outstanding ghost kitchen/pop-up. Meanwhile, small non-restaurant operations like Saund and Snyder, which began delivering luxe chirashi boxes at the start of the pandemic, are also getting some attention (in the category of “formal fine dining in a box”).

After presenting awards virtually last year, RAMW will hold its gala in-person again on Sunday, Sept. 19 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Here’s the full list of finalists:

Formal Fine Dining in a Box
Brasserie Liberté
Mintwood Place
Rooster and Owl
Saund and Snyder
The Dabney

Most Innovative To-Go Packaging Game
Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak, and Stone Crab
Oyster Oyster
Rose’s Luxury/Rose’s At Home
Stable DC
Sushi Taro
The Duck & The Peach

Outstanding Covid-Safe Redesign (Indoors or Outdoors)
Ben’s Chili Bowl
Clyde’s Restaurant Group
Equinox Restaurant
Fiola Mare
Glover Park Grill
St. Anselm
The Park at 14th

Most Impressive Pivot to Provisions or Market
ANXO Cidery
Bar Charley, El Chucho, and Little Coco’s
Coconut Club
Founding Farmers
Hank’s Oyster Bar/Current Catch
Neighborhood Restaurant Group
Walters Sports Bar

Good Neighbor Award
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
Saval Foodservice
World Central Kitchen

Managers of the Year
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
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

Publicly Voted Categories:

Outstanding Ghost Kitchen or Pop-Up Concept
Ama Ami “homakase”
DC Ghostburger
Denizen’s Brewing Co., Sunday Gravy
Fat Choi Hot Pot
Ghostline/Social Beast
Happy Gyro
Little Sesame @ Sugar Fox
The Red Hen – French Hen

Coolest Cocktails and Beverages To-Go
Cactus Cantina
Capo Delicatessen
Jack Rose Dining Saloon
Napoli Pasta Bar
Service Bar
Seven Reasons
Tiger Fork

Standout Family Meal Packages To-Go
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
Caboose Brewing Co.
Hook Hall
La Famosa
Lauriol Plaza
Le Diplomate
Lulu’s Winegarden
Mercy Me
The Salt Line

Technology Trailblazers
DC To Go-Go
Great American Restaurants
Rumi’s Kitchen
Silver Diner
Stellina Pizzeria
The Roost
Think Food Group

Splendid Holidays at Home Offerings
Chef Geoff’s
Et Voila!
Lebanese Taverna
Punjab Grill
Ridgewells Catering

Festive Foodie Experiences
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 Spot
Bun Papa
Compliments Only
Fight Club
Itty Bitty Sandwich City
Queen Mother’s
Roaming Rooster
Sandi Buns
Your Only Friend

Stellar Brunches at Home
All Purpose – Navy Yard
Call Your Mother
Duke’s Grocery
Farmers Fishers Bakers
I Egg You
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.”

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.