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Posted at 1:04 PM ET, 06/26/2006

Rocking Out With Restaurants

By Erin

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.

Neighborhood Gathering Place of the Year: Billy Martin's Tavern, Busboys and Poets, Cashion's Eat Place, Chef Geoff's and Evening Star Cafe

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.

Hottest Bar Scene: Clyde's of Gallery Place, Degrees Bar, Sonoma, Tabaq Bistro and Zaytinya

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.

Power Spot: Bistro Bis, The Capital Grille, Charlie Palmer Steak, the Caucus Room and Prime Rib

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.

Favorite Restaurant: Ceiba, Hank's Oyster Bar, King Street Blues, Lebanese Taverna and Sweetwater Tavern

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:

New Restaurant: Acadiana, BlackSalt, Hank's Oyster Bar, IndeBleu and Willow

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.

Fine Dining Restaurant: 2941, Colvin Run Tavern, Equinox, Maestro and Restaurant Eve

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.

Informal Dining Restaurant: Bangkok 54, Circle Bistro, Indique, Kaz Sushi Bistro and Zaytinya

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.

Chef of the Year: Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve, Jonathan Krinn of 2941, Jose Andres, Robert Wiedmaier of Marcel's and Todd Gray of Equinox

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.

Rising Culinary Star: Anthony Chittum of Notti Bianche/Dish, Brendan Cox of Circle Bistro, Johnny Monis of Komi, Nathan Beauchamp of 1789 and Santi Zabaleta of Taberna del Alabardero

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.


By Erin  | June 26, 2006; 1:04 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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Clyde's of Gallery Place is great in theory, not great in practice. I love the proximity to the MCI Center. I love the decor. I like the menu, love the bartenders. What I don't like is the army of thugs that tend to hang out there. This is a decently upscale place (at least a place you would call "nice") and yet I have been threatened there on several occasions. My girlfriend was rudely hit on by three men a few weeks ago and then threatened by a woman for "messing with her man". It's unacceptable, and until downtown DC cleans up its act, I won't be going back. Clyde's of Georgetown, for me.

Posted by: John | June 27, 2006 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Clyde's in Gallery Place is for tourists and suburbanites. Avoid it like the plague!

Posted by: Daniel | June 27, 2006 9:17 PM | Report abuse

I am continually bewildered by all the buzz over Hank's. I went and thought it was seriously overrated. Food was OK, service was OK, drinks were OK.
Hmm, overall it was...(drumroll please)... just OK.

Posted by: Matts | June 28, 2006 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Anthony Chittum should have won hands down. I have never had better italian.

Posted by: Kelly | July 17, 2006 4:24 PM | Report abuse

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