Rocking Out With Restaurants
Last night was the 2006 RAMMY Awards Gala presented by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. It was a rock star-style black-tie affair recognizing favorites in the local restaurant scene. As I reported in March when the nominees were announced, the categories were divided between ones where the winner was selected by the public and ones where the winner was chosen by a panel of judges.
The big winners are listed in bold below and I've added my comments.
I was thrilled to see Evening Star Cafe pick up an award. This remains one of my favorite places to drop in for brunch or a burger. I love its versatility as a place that is both kid- and parent-friendly. However, as a "Neighborhood Gathering Place," Busboys and Poets deserves special recognition. The food is not great and the service is often frazzled, but this is a community hub that draws people in for its book events, independent film festivals, dialogues on race or just coffee breaks.
I wouldn't say any of these places are my idea of the hottest local bar scene, but I would give the nod to Tabaq simply for its panoramic backdrop.
I'd settle in for a power lunch of steak at the Capital Grille any day of the week. Though I love the old-fashioned appeal of Prime Rib, there's no better spot than the Grille for talking Beltway business.
My vote in this category goes to Hank's Oyster Bar. I love the casual atmosphere and the unwavering focus on deliciously fresh seafood specials and weekly Americana specials of pork chops with sides of mac and cheesy. Plus, the unbeatable lobster roll and the intimate bar are enough to lure me back.
The following were evaluated by a panel of judges:
With a shared focus on fresh seafood, BlackSalt and Hank's Oyster Bar both splashed onto the restaurant scene with plenty of fare for seafood-lovers. BlackSalt is more seasonally focused, and the changing menu keeps diners returning to discover new pleasures on their plates.
Maestro is a local dining treasure. It certainly enhances the local dining scene, but my ultimate favorite fine dining destination remains Restaurant Eve. With an unparalleled wine and beverage selection, a focus on seasonal, local farm ingredients and the choice of two different, but equally pleasing dining choices in the bistro and tasting room, Restaurant Eve never fails to charm me with its elegance and superior service.
To me, this category recognizes a restaurant that is budget-friendly and suitable for basic after-work dining. I love Zaytinya as an easy-on-the-wallet way to dine with friends and enjoy great food. Though chastised for brusque and sometimes rushed service, it's accommodating to groups and often runs well under $20 per person for plenty of food.
It's not often that such talent is lumped together in one spot. Each chef has done his share to greatly enhance our local dining scene, but Jose Andres deserved this award. As a pioneer in the Chinatown area, Andres continues to dazzle diners with the inventive and experimental tastes at his Minibar. Though he is assisted by a denizen of chefs at Jaleo, Zaytinya, Oyamel and Cafe Atlantico, his restaurants are fresh, fun and popular destinations around the Washington area.
This was another strong category, but I was unabashedly pulling for Anthony Chittum of Notti Bianche to win. Chittum is a wizard with pasta and his restaurant is a cozy destination that never ceases to delight me with its simple, but transcendent fare.
Those are the primary winners and my personal preferences. What do you think? Does Clyde's of Gallery Place rock your bar world? Are you basking in the glow of Johnny Monis's star status? I'm curious to hear your thoughts.
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