As local restaurants near their second month without dine-in service, some are celebrating being nominated for a RAMMY, a food honor from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.

Though Monday’s announcement was made in a YouTube video rather than a glitzy celebration at the Hamilton, as in years past, it still included plenty of praise for local restaurants.

“We decided that our community needs some moment of joy and celebration to remind everyone of why we are in this industry, which is full of creative, innovative, determined individuals who have shown—now more than ever—that they are resilient warriors who can get through anything,” said Kathy E. Hollinger, president of RAMW.

The restaurant industry is one of the ones being hit hardest by COVID-19 and regional measures to ensure social distancing. Many are pivoting to takeout or delivery service, or facing the reality of layoffs. Even local icons, such as Ben’s Chili Bowl, say they would be near closing entirely if not for government aid.

At Monday’s RAMMYs announcement, three restaurants tied for most nominations: Upscale Mexican restaurant Poca Madre received nods for Rising Culinary Star of the Year for chef Faiz Ally, Upscale Casual Restaurant of the Year, and Restaurateur of the Year for chef and owner Victor Albisu. Columbia Heights prix-fixe restaurant Rooster & Owl also snagged three nominations: for Rising Culinary Star of the Year for chef Yuan Tang, Pastry Chef of the Year for Olivia Green, and New Restaurant of the Year. And Union Market-adjacent tavern St. Anselm was tapped for Wine Program of the Year, Upscale Brunch of the Year, and Service Program of the Year.

While the RAMMYs are among the city’s best metrics for recognizing restaurant achievement, not every food business is included. To be eligible, restaurants must be a paying member of the RAMW—only two achievement honors can be won by non-members. Additional caveats: Previous winners cannot be nominated in the same category for five years, and for most categories, restaurants must have been open for a year to be eligible. (Nominees for the New Restaurant of the Year award must have opened in 2019.)

An anonymous panel of judges made up of area food journalists, educators, and experts decides the nominees in the competitive categories, and chooses the winners in all restaurant categories. Four categories decide their winners by public vote: Favorite Gathering Place of the Year, Brunch of the Year (Upscale and Casual), and Favorite Fast Bites of the Year.

The RAMW executive committee decides the winners in a trio of honorary awards, two of which were announced Monday. The Duke Zeibert Capital Achievement Award will be given to Randy Norton of Great America Restaurants, a group whose 12 restaurant brands include Carlisle, Coastal Flats, and Sweetwater Tavern.

The Honorary Milestone Award goes to longstanding area restaurants. This year’s recipients are Mrs. K’s Toll House, a 90-year-old Silver Spring brand; Rockland’s Barbecue and Grilling Co. which opened its original location 30 years ago; and Vace Italian Delicatessen, which has been in Cleveland Park for 44 years.

Last year’s big winners included Unconventional Diner, which took home prizes for Upscale Brunch of the Year and its Pastry Chef of the Year, Ana Deshaies. Spoken English, meanwhile, won for Best New Restaurant of the Year, and Kyle Bailey of The Salt Line won for Chef of the Year. Kith and Kin chef Kwame Onwuachi won Rising Star Chef of the Year.

As of now, the 38th annual RAMMY Awards are scheduled for July 26 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, where festivities have been held in previous years. According to a release, RAMW “is considering an unspecified date later in the year” to celebrate. Hollinger seemed to indicate an in-person event was still in the works, saying during the announcement, “While we know the RAMMYs may look different this year, know we are dedicated to celebrating with all of  you in the biggest way we can at the safest time to do so.”

Here’s the full list of nominees. Starred categories indicate those voted on by the public.

Service Program of the Year

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