The finalists for the 2013 RAMMY Awards were announced on Tuesday. The Post's Tom Sietsema, Tim Carman and Fritz Hahn offer their thoughts on the nominees:
Tom Sietsema, restaurant critic:
Casual Restaurant: C.F. Folks, a draw for Washington titans of business, secretaries and tourists alike, has decades of consistency, quirky charm and solid cooking going for it. Plus, the James Beard Foundation is celebrating Art Carlson’s downtown luncheonette as one of its America’s Classics this year. How can it not win?
Beverage: It’s fun to see a sleeper on this list. When I interviewed a group of Washington’s top mixologists recently, Room 11 was mentioned as one of their go-to watering holes.
New Restaurants: Why is a branch of a New York restaurant [Boqueria] in this collection?
Chef of the Year: Excellent roster of talent. I’d be happy to eat anything any of these chefs made for me.
Tim Carman, $20 Diner columnist:
I think it’s hard to fairly evaluate these nominations for one main reason: You have to be a member of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington to earn a nod. So restaurants that you think are a lock for a nomination are nowhere to be found, like Izakaya Seki in the New Restaurant of the Year category.
With that said, I do like a number of the nominees this year, specifically Room 11 in the Beverage/Mixology Program category, which seems like a nice vote of confidence for the smaller restaurateur. I also like that Marjorie Meek-Bradley, who performed admirably at Graffiato in an often chaotic situation, got a fast nomination for her work at Ripple. I think the Restaurateur of the Year category represents some of the best minds in the local hospitality business.
I’d like to see RAMW not include chains based in other cities, whether Boqueria (which I like) and Nando’s Peri-Peri (which runs hot and cold for me). It just doesn’t seem very Washington to me. The Beverage/Mixology Program category also strikes an odd note: The EatGoodFood Group is the only one among the nominees that’s a restaurant group; I mean, we all know Todd Thrasher is a mixology genius, but shouldn’t the category differentiate between the kinds of work he does among the different restaurants in the group?
Fritz Hahn, bars & clubs reporter:
Beverage/Mixology Program of the Year: The Washington area's cocktail scene is so strong that we could easily argue that any of 15 different bars deserve to be one of the five nominees. That's why I'm surprised to see that four of the five nominees in this category are exactly the same as last year's, with Rasika taking the place of Estadio. That substitution's definitely a head-scratcher.
It's great to see recognition of D.C.'s burgeoning beer scene with the nomination of ChurchKey (only Birch & Barley was mentioned last year) and continued plaudits for the mixologists at Room 11, even though the staff has changed quite a bit over the last two years.
The glaring omissions to me are the Columbia Room and the Passenger, which remain among the city's top bar experiences, whether you're going for the $60 bespoke cocktail treatment or just want a quirky variation on a Manhattan. (The problem is that they're not members of the Restaurant Association.)
Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene of the Year: This is always an odd category – a mix of buzz, a lively happy hour, some decent cocktails and one token nomination from the Virginia suburbs. I do like that there's always such variety here: The scene-y rooftop deck at Jack Rose; the cramped, loud and delicious Hank's on the Hill; and the revamped Bar Pilar, where it's hard to beat the people-watching on a Saturday night.
I've visited all the nominees fairly recently, and all were bustling, though I wonder if Fiola would have been better served in the Beverage/Mixology Program (I'm an unabashed fan of their cocktails and wine) instead of being nominated for its buttoned-down bar.