2022 Finalists for DC’s Biggest Restaurant Industry RAMMY Awards

Caruso’s Grocery is a finalist for a 2022 RAMMY Award. Photography by Stacey Windsor

The 40th annual RAMMY Award season—aka the Oscars for Washington’s restaurant industry—is here. The finalists for DC’s highest hospitality accolades were announced on Tuesday evening from a party at the Hamilton in Downtown DC, and there were a lot of surprises.

The awards are going back to pre-pandemic practices, and holding an IRL soiree Sunday, July 24. Last year, as the industry fought for survival amidst another Covid wave, the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) moved to make the RAMMYS a more inclusive, feel-good affair. The biggest 2021 change was opening nominations to all restaurants—not just paying Restaurant Association members—for the first time ever. This year, the nominees for several categories are members only. RAMW also brought back competitive categories like “Best New Restaurant” and top “Formal Fine Dining,” versus relying on pandemic-born accolades such as “Most Innovative To-Go Packaging.” Categories highlight the traditional five finalists versus last year’s ten.

Still, there are some pandemic-born carryovers. In categories voted on by the public—some are open to non-members—you’ll find topics that are still pertinent to today’s diners like “Outstanding Pop-Up,” “Standout Family Meal Packages To-Go,” and “Splendid Holidays at Home.” There are also some new finalists in the mix. The Roost on Capitol Hill is the first food hall to be nominated as a “Casual Restaurant of the Year.”

The winners, selected by an anonymous panel of food and media professionals, will be announced at the July gala, held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Here’s the full list of finalists (*denotes a publicly voted category)

New Restaurant of the Year: A restaurant that must have opened between January 1, 2021, and December 31, 2021 and already distinguishes itself as a pacesetter in food, beverage and service. The nominee must be a current member of RAMW.

  • Caruso’s Grocery
  • Daru
  • Dauphine’s
  • L’Ardente
  • Oyster Oyster

Cocktail Program of the Year: The establishment is distinguished by the quality, diversity, clarity, and value of its craft cocktail program, evaluated separately from its beer, wine or other beverages. Nominees may be bars, restaurants, or any foodservice establishment with an exemplary cocktail program. The nominee continues to break new ground in the education of its staff. The nominee must be a current member of RAMW and must have been in business a minimum of one year by December 31, 2021.

  • bresca
  • Serenata
  • Service Bar
  • Silver Lyan
  • The Imperial

Beer Program of the Year: The establishment is distinguished by the quality, diversity, clarity, and value of its beer program. Brewery restaurants and brewpubs are eligible for this category and will be judged based on the diversity and quality of their craft beer. The nominee continues to break new ground in the education of its staff. The nominee must be a current member of RAMW and must have been in business a minimum of one year by December 31, 2021.

  • Boundary Stone
  • Caboose Tavern
  • Quarry House Tavern
  • Shelter
  • Sweetwater Tavern

Wine Program of the Year: The establishment is distinguished by the quality, diversity, clarity, and value of its wine program. The nominee’s wine program best suits the cuisine and style of the restaurant while enhancing the dining experience. Wine bars are eligible for this category and will be judged based on the diversity and quality of their offerings. The nominee continues to break new ground in the education of its staff. The nominee must be a current member of RAMW and must have been in business a minimum of one year by December 31, 2021.

  • Albi
  • Northside Social
  • Queen’s English
  • Reveler’s Hour
  • Slate Wine Bar

Rising Culinary Star of the Year: The nominee is an “up and coming” chef who demonstrates exemplary talent, shows leadership and promise for the future. The nominee must have been based in the Metropolitan Washington area for a minimum of two years. The nominee must be a current member of RAMW or be employed by a member business.

  • Will Fung, China Chilkano
  • Christian Irabien, Muchas Gracias
  • Kat Petonito, The Duck & The Peach, La Collina, The Wells
  • Suresh Sundas, Daru
  • Elias Taddesse, Mélange

*Favorite Gathering Place of the Year: This nominee is a restaurant rooted in its neighborhood where guests come to eat, drink, and get together with friends over and over again. The great atmosphere – indoors or outdoors – and good vibes are as important as the food and drink. The nominee must have been in business a minimum of one year by December 31, 2021.

  • Casta’s Rum Bar
  • Comet Ping Pong
  • Pennyroyal Station
  • st. Vincent Wine
  • The Pug

*Best Brunch of the Year: The nominee is a restaurant that demonstrates a high standard of dining excellence and service for its brunch in a formal, upscale, or casual environment. Brunch may be offered as a full-service, buffet, or prix fixe. The nominee must have been in business a minimum of one year by December 31, 2021.

  • A&J Restaurant
  • ala
  • Blend 111
  • Maialino Mare
  • Nina May

*Favorite Fast Bites: This nominee is a delicatessen, quick-serve restaurant, mobile food vendor, or coffee shop (with food menu) that demonstrates a dedication to good food and good service in a fast-casual environment. The nominee must have been in operation for a minimum of one year as of December 31, 2021.

  • Happy Gyro
  • Little Miner Taco
  • Little Sesame
  • Pogiboy
  • Sunday Morning Bakehouse

*Hottest Sandwich Spot: Creative and delicious sandwiches continued to be a talk-about food in the DC region this year, and they remained a pivot or side project of some fine dining spots. Whether it was burgers, subs, melts, breakfast sandwiches, tortas, cheesesteaks, or something in between, this nominee had serious sandwiches to write home about. The nominee must have operated the concept between January 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021.

  • Cracked Eggery
  • Mangialardo’s
  • Queen Mother’s
  • The Girl & The Vine
  • Your Only Friend

*Outstanding Pop-Up Concept: This nominee is a non-permanent pop-up foodservice concept without a physical space that is showingcasing a creative idea, new potential restaurant concept, bar, food truck or delivery menu. The nominee demonstrates a high standard of excellence, creativity, and execution. The nominee must have operated the concept between January 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021.

  • A Presto! Italian Foods
  • Bun Pap
  • Della Barba Pizza
  • JUNE
  • Tacos A La Madre

*Splendid Holidays at Home: Restaurants have a way of making special occasions feel extra special, and this year they continued to meet customers at their comfort level as Covid (and other interruptions during the year) uprooted holidays for many. This nominee went all out to create celebratory menus with all the bells and whistles to help guests have memorable holidays at home. The nominee must have offered special holiday menus to go between January 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021.

  • Bayou Bakery
  • Convivial
  • Kinship
  • Stellina
  • Unconventional Diner

*Standout Family Meal Packages To Go: Family meal packages – for two, four, or six – flourished when guests were deeply rooted in takeout, and in 2021 guests continued to enjoy the flexibility to dine out, while dining in. This nominee created wholesome and delicious family meal packages to keep families happy and coming back for convenience. The nominee must have offered Family Meals menus to go between January 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021.

  • 2Fifty Texas BBQ
  • Mintwood Place
  • Muchas Gracias
  • Neighborhood Provisions
  • Thompson Italian

Employee of the Year: The nominee is a non-managerial front or back of the house employee who serves as a model employee by displaying outstanding service, an excellent work ethic and a positive image. The nominee must be a current member of RAMW, or be employed by a member business.

  • Raphael Beltran, Et Voila
  • Amanda Bell, All Purpose – Shaw
  • Nicole Burdette, Taco Bamba – Springfield
  • Oscar Iglesias, Moon Rabbit
  • Herman Machado, The Salt Line – Navy Yard

Manager of the Year: The nominee is a non-owner manager or general manager in the food service industry who displays the highest level of professionalism and leadership. This person must be an inspiration and mentor to all his/her co-workers displaying outstanding service, an excellent work ethic and a positive image. The nominee must be a current member of RAMW, or be employed by a member business.

  • Gian Mario Cabiddu, Alta Strada, DC
  • Sylvain Frances, Et Voila Restaurant
  • Rob Heim, Shaw’s Tavern
  • Atul Narain, Rasika and Rasika West End
  • Laure Tartar, Bresca

Service Program of the Year: This nominee is a restaurant that demonstrates a high standard of excellence in service across the restaurant – from the reservation process, to the host station, to every element of the dining experience. The nominee must be a current member of RAMW and must have been in business a minimum of one year by December 31, 2021.

  • Chloe
  • Iron Gate
  • Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
  • Rose’s Luxury
  • Tail Up Goat

Casual Restaurant of the Year: The nominee is a restaurant that demonstrates a dedication to dining excellence, service, and value in a casual environment. The nominee must be a current member of RAMW and must have been in business a minimum of one year by December 31, 2021.

  • Baan Siam
  • La Famosa
  • Makan
  • Ruthie’s All Day
  • The Roost

Upscale Casual Restaurant of the Year: The nominee is a restaurant that demonstrates a high standard of dining excellence and service in an upscale casual environment. The nominee must be a current member of RAMW and must have been in business a minimum of one year by December 31, 2021.

  • Albi
  • Anju
  • Name
  • Rooster and Owl
  • Shilling Canning Company

Pastry Chef of the Year: The nominee is a restaurant pastry chef who prepares desserts and baked goods and demonstrates a high standard of excellence and culinary artistry. The nominee serves as an inspiration to other food professionals. The nominee must have been a pastry chef for the past five years with a minimum of two years based in the Metropolitan Washington area. The nominee must be a current member of RAMW, or be employed by a member business.

  • Rochelle Cooper, The Duck & The Peach, La Collina, The Wells
  • Tammy Saunders, Minibar
  • Katherine Thompson, Thompson Italian
  • Alicia Wang, No Goodbyes
  • Aude Buisine, Un Je Ne Sai Quoi

Formal Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year: The nominee is a restaurant that demonstrates a high standard of excellence in food, service and atmosphere and shows dedication to sophisticated culinary techniques in a fine dining environment. The nominee must be a current member of RAMW and must have been in business a minimum of one year by December 31, 2021.

  • Cranes
  • Jônt
  • Rasika West End
  • 1789 Restaurant
  • Xquet by Danny Lledó

Chef of the Year: The nominee is an executive chef or chef de cuisine who demonstrates consistent standards of culinary excellence. The nominee displays a dedication to the artistry of food and may be from any type of establishment. The nominee must have been a chef for the past five years with a minimum of two years based in the Metropolitan Washington area. The nominee must be a current member of RAMW or be employed by a member business.

  • Matt Adler, Caruso’s Grocery
  • Cedric Maupillier, Convivial
  • Shamim Popal, Lapis
  • Michael Rafidi, Albi
  • Rob Rubba, Oyster Oyster

Restaurateur of the Year: The nominee must be a working restaurateur or restaurant group who sets high standards in restaurant operations and entrepreneurship. Candidates must have been in the restaurant business for a minimum of 5 years in the Metropolitan Washington area. The nominee must be a current member of RAMW.

  • Michael Babin, Neighborhood Restaurant Group

  • Ashok Bajaj, Knightsbridge Restaurant Group

  • Mark Bucher, Medium Rare

  • Andrew Dana and Daniela Moreira, Call Your Mother, Timber Pizza, Turu’s Pizza, Mercy Me

  • Scott Drewno, Danny Lee, The Fried Rice Collective

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.

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