Here Are the Restaurant and Bar Winners of the 2023 RAMMY Awards

Moon Rabbit's Kevin Tien is named Chef of the Year. Causa is best new restaurant.

The scene at the 2023 RAMMY Awards. Photograph by Dan Swartz.

DC’s Chef of the Year doesn’t currently have a sit-down restaurant. Moon Rabbit‘s Kevin Tien took home one of the top honors at last night’s RAMMY Awards—recognizing the region’s best food and drink talent—just weeks after his modern Vietnamese restaurant at the Wharf abruptly closed amid union-busting accusations against the hotel in which it resided. (The InterContinental Hotel later voluntarily recognized its hospitality workers’ union.)

“I’m not really cooking too much right now,” Tien said upon taking the stage at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center gala. “I’ve had a lot of time to really think about things in the past month. I’ve had a lot of free time now. This award says ‘Chef of the Year,’ but to really be up here, it’s not just me being a chef. It’s my team that’s been there supporting me. We’ve had a lot of highs, and we’ve had a lot of lows.”

Tien, though, already has more restaurants in the works, and he recently revived his hit debut restaurant Himitsu as a pop-up in collaboration with Little Vietnam, which occupies Himitsu’s former Petworth space. Tien is also a co-founder of Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate and operates Hot Lola’s, his fast-casual fried-chicken sandwich spots.

Kevin Tien with his award for Chef of the Year. Photograph by Jessica Sidman.

Peruvian hotspot Causa in Shaw’s Blagden Alley was another big winner—it took the coveted title of “New Restaurant of the Year,” and U Street’s Service Bar, from two of Causa’s’ owners, was named best cocktail program. One of the biggest standing ovations of the night, however, went to veteran chef Ris Lacoste of West End restaurant Ris. She won the Duke Zeibert Capital Achievement Award for her “excellence and community leadership.” In her 36 years feeding DC, Lacoste says she’s learned many great tricks of the trade: “But the most important thing I’ve learned is to love your staff, take care of your vendors, take care of the delivery guys. You know, give them a Coke! Give them some hot chocolate!”

The majority of RAMMY winners are determined by an anonymous panel of food and media professionals, while the public votes on five categories, including best brunch, hottest sandwich shop, and—new this year—best bar. Restaurants that aren’t dues-paying members of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington are only eligible for these publicly voted categories.

Unfortunately, the ballroom where the awards ceremony took place had mostly cleared out before some of the biggest honors of the night were announced. A party was bumping downstairs and nearly everyone left early to drink.

MSNBC’s Symone Sanders-Townsend with chef and honoree Ris Lacoste. Photograph by Dan Swartz.

Onto the full list of winners…

(*denotes a publicly voted category)

New Restaurant of the Year: Causa/Amazonia

Cocktail Program of the Year: Service Bar

Beer Program of the Year: Shelter

Wine Program of the Year: Reveler’s Hour

Rising Culinary Star of the Year: Marcelle Afram, Shababi Palestinian Rotisserie Chicken

*Favorite Gathering Place: Tiki on 18th/The Game Sports Pub

*Best Brunch: Urban Roast

*Best Bar: Exiles

*Favorite Fast Bites: Rasa

*Hottest Sandwich Spot: Compliments Only

Employee of the Year: Nabil Moussa, Le Diplomate

Manager of the Year: Brittany Dye, Circa Foggy Bottom

Service Program of the Year: Lutèce

Casual Restaurant of the Year: Pennyroyal Station

Upscale Casual Restaurant of the Year: L’Ardente

Pastry Chef or Baker of the Year: Teresa Velazquez, Baked and Wired, A Baked Joint

Formal Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year: Xiquet by Danny Lledó

Chef of the Year: Kevin Tien, Moon Rabbit

Restaurateur of the Year: Rose Previte, No White Plates: Compass Rose, Maydan, Kirby Club

Joan Hisaoka Allied Member of the Year: Saval Foodservice

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.