Bento box at Cranes, a finalist for "Formal Fine Dining in a Box" Credit: Laura Hayes

Recognizing that superlatives like “best new restaurant” might be in poor taste after a year that pushed all hospitality businesses to the brink, the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington made significant changes to the 2021 RAMMY Awards. They ushered in what they believe to be pandemic-appropriate categories like “most innovative to-go packaging game” and “outstanding ghost kitchen or pop-up concept.”

Also notable, for this year only, nominees don’t have to be dues-paying members of RAMW. This significantly widens the field of contenders.

The finalists will be in the running to take home a RAMMY Award at the 39th annual celebration at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Sept. 19. It’s currently scheduled to be an in-person event. (A new model is showing that the current COVID-19 surge in the U.S. could peak in October.)

RAMW says its goal this year is to “honor the industry for the extraordinary ways in which its operators, distributors and suppliers, and industry partners were innovative, rethinking operations and navigating recent challenges in creative ways.”

Local diners should get ready to weigh in. Nine of the categories will be voted on by the public. Here are the 2021 RAMMY Award finalists:

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

Formal Fine Dining in a Box

Brasserie Liberté 
Bresca
Chloe 
Cranes 
Fiola
Mintwood Place 
Rasika
Rooster and Owl 
Saund and Snyder 
The Dabney

Most Innovative To-Go Packaging Game

Daikaya 
Jaleo
Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak, and Stone Crab 
Julii
Oyster Oyster
Rose’s Luxury/Rose’s At Home 
Stable DC
Sushi Taro 
Sushiko
The Duck & The Peach

Outstanding Covid-Safe Redesign (Indoors or Outdoors)

Ben’s Chili Bowl 
Clarity
Clyde’s Restaurant Group 
Equinox Restaurant
Fiola Mare 
Glover Park Grill
HalfSmoke 
Maydan
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
Officina
Seoulspice 
Thamee
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 honors:

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

***

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 
June
Shababi
The Red Hen – French Hen

Coolest Cocktails and Beverages To-Go

Astoria
Barmini
Cactus Cantina
Capo Delicatessen
Jack Rose Dining Saloon
Napoli Pasta Bar
Serenata
Service Bar
Seven Reasons
Tiger Fork

Standout Family Meal Packages To-Go

Albi
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. 
Hi-Lawn
Hook Hall 
La Famosa
Lauriol Plaza 
Le Diplomate
Lulu’s Winegarden
Mercy Me 
The Salt Line 

Technology Trailblazers

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

Splendid Holidays at Home Offerings

Centrolina 
Chef Geoff’s 
Ellē
Et Voila! 
JACKIE
Kinship
Lebanese Taverna 
Punjab Grill 
Ridgewells Catering 
Royal

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

AmperSandwich 
Bun Papa 
Compliments Only 
Fedwich
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 
Convivial
Duke’s Grocery 
Farmers Fishers Bakers 
Feast
I Egg You 
KitchenCray 
Seasons
The Fainting Goat