Here Are the Restaurant and Bar Industry Winners for DC’s 2021 RAMMY Awards

This year's Covid-minded awards were open to all and included categories like "prime pandemic patio scene."

A lunch better at one-star Cranes. Photograph by KnowPR

The 39th annual RAMMY Awards, the biggest local accolades for Washington’s hospitality industry, were bestowed on Sunday night. Despite new pandemic-era honors and rules—including a requirement that all participants show proof of vaccination for the glitzy gala—the show went on in-person at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (versus 2019’s virtual awards).

A panel of anonymous food and media professionals voted on most of the award categories, which were designed to be more inclusive and timely than in the past given the pandemic’s devastating impact. Arguably the biggest change: honors were open to all, not just paying members of the RAMW. That meant contenders like the team behind Komi’s Happy Gyro pop-up were in the running (though they lost to DC Ghostburger by Espita). In the past, businesses also had to be in operation for a year to quality, whereas this year’s winners included newer faces like plant-focused takeout-turned-tasting room Oyster Oyster, which won for “most innovative to-go packaging.”

The RAMW also ditched normal-times accolades like “chef of the year” for others that nodded to the current climate and challenges facing the hospitality industry. Others were tweaked, such as the award for best “formal fine dining restaurant,” which instead honored “formal fine dining in a box” (congratulations to Spanish-Japanese kaiseki spot, Cranes). Publicly voted categories fell in step with awards like “prime pandemic patio scene” (no shock: Le Diplomate and its streetside “chateaus”) or “coolest cocktails to-go” (frozen swirls from Cactus Cantina stole the show).

The number of nominees and winners were also different this year. RAMW doubled the capacity of nominees in most categories from five to ten, and bestowed honors on all in community and service-minded awards such as a “employee of the year” or the “good neighbor award,” which went to a myriad of local and national industry initiatives such as Hook Hall Helps and Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate.

Though there were some winners (and de facto losers), the RAMMYS also included new honorary mentions. The “honorary milestone RAMMY Award” was given to long-standing restaurants like 45 year-old La Chaumière and 30 year-old Pizzeria Paradiso. Honorable mentions were also given in two unofficial categories that “the judges felt deserved a special moment of recognition:” wine to go and baking/pastry to go. 

See the full list of winners and honors below. 

The winners of the 2021 RAMMY Awards are (*denotes publicly voted category*)

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

Finer Dining in a Box: Cranes

Most Innovative To-Go Packaging Game: Oyster Oyster

Outstanding Covid-Safe Redesign (Indoors or Outdoors): Clarity

Most Impressive Pivot to Provisions or Market: Neighborhood Restaurant Group/Neighborhood Provisions

Good Neighbor Award, Individual Honors:

Erik Bruner-Yang, Power of 10
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
Jonathan Krinn, A Taste of DC in VA and To Community and Beyond: Crossing Culinary Bridges Guest DC Chef Series
David, Guas, Bayou Bakery Coffee Bar & Eatery, Chefs Feeding Families
Micheline Mendelsohn and Spike Mendelsohn, National Guard Inauguration Program, and More
Edward Lee, The LEE Initiative

Good Neighbor Award, Company/Organization Honors:

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

*Outstanding Ghost Kitchen or Pop-up Concept*: DC Ghostburger

*Coolest Cocktails and Beverages To-Go*: Cactus Cantina

*Standout Family Meal Packages To-Go*: Ristorante i Ricchi

*Prime Pandemic Patio Scene*: Le Diplomate

*Technology Trailblazers*: Silver Diner

*Splendid Holidays at Home Offerings*: Chef Geoff’s

*Festive Foodie Experiences*: Eva Kronenburg, YouTube Cooking Series

*Hottest Sandwich Shop*: Roaming Rooster

*Stellar Brunches at Home*: Call Your Mother

Wine To Go Program – Honorable Mention

Dio Wine Bar
Flight Wine Bar
Grand Cata
La Jambe
Maxwell Park
Sonny’s Pizza
Squash Club DC
Tail Up Goat/Reveler’s Hour
The Girl and The Vine

Sweet Relief: Baking and Pastry To Go – Honorable Mention

Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken
Baker’s Against Racism
Buttercream Bakeshop
Bread and Water Co.
Donut Run
Pluma by Bluebird Bakery
Sunday Morning Bakehouse
The Dapper Fox

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.