FoodLocal Business

RAMMYs Honor Creativity and Survival Amid Pandemic

After a Difficult 2020, Area Restaurants Still Celebrate

The thrill of getting dressed up for a night out and seeing old friends filled the air Sunday at the 39th annual RAMMY Awards.

The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) announced winners and awarded a range of special recognitions to local restaurants during the event at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, for which attendees had to show proof of vaccination weeks in advance.

“The way we are mingling, eating and drinking are the same way diners are in restaurants,” said Kathy Hollinger, president and CEO of RAMW, before the RAMMYs began. “This is a celebration that is fully masked unless eating or drinking.

New RAMMY categories were created, acknowledging how restaurants figured out how to make it through the pandemic. From twists on takeout meals to creating high-end special occasion experiences to restaurants redesigning to become COVID-19-safe, this year’s RAMMY nominees represented a wide range of restaurants deserving recognition.

Michael Habtemariam, co-owner of Roaming Rooster (Shevry Lassiter/ The Washington Informer)
Michael Habtemariam, co-owner of Roaming Rooster (Shevry Lassiter/ The Washington Informer)

Roaming Rooster, which has one of the most popular chicken sandwiches in the area, received the top prize in the Hottest New Sandwich Shop category. Fans loved the sandwich when it was available through the Roaming Rooster food trucks. During the pandemic, owners modified their truck food-prep location into a pickup and delivery site for customers.

“This is another confirmation that we will be growing,” said Michael Habtemariam, who co-owns Roaming Rooster with his brother and sister-in-law. “We are a small family business. It’s amazing that all of these people recognize us, and it’s humbling.”

Roaming Rooster won their award in one of the nine categories for public voting. Other publicly voted categories and winners were:

*Outstanding Ghost Kitchen or Pop-up Concept: DC Ghostburger

*Coolest Cocktails and Beverages To-Go: Cactus Cantina

*Standout Family Meal Packages To-Go: Ristorante i Ricchi

*Prime Pandemic Patio Scene*: Le Diplomate

*Technology Trailblazers: Silver Diner

*Splendid Holidays at Home Offerings: Chef Geoff’s

*Festive Foodie Experiences*: Eva Kronenburg, YouTube Cooking Series

*Stellar Brunches at Home: Call Your Mother

For Manager of the Year and Employees of the Year, each category had 10 nominees. To the audience’s delight, every nominee in those two categories was declared a winner. The honor made the statement that restaurants cannot survive without dedicated, hardworking staff.

One of the managers recognized was Otgontuya Davaasuren at All Set Restaurant and Bar in Silver Spring, Md.

It was so great,” Davaasuren said of all the managers receiving the recognition. “I felt that I had really accomplished something.”

The crowd was smaller than in past years for the RAMMYS. Usually a two-level event at the Washington Convention Center, this year’s event was on one level with more than enough food stations and bars. Emphasized for this year’s RAMMYS was restaurants supporting each other.

A complete list of RAMMY winners and honorees is here.

“For the last 18 months, we’ve been instrumental in trying to get relief to our operators on a federal or local level,” said Hollinger about the role of RAMW. “Every single day, we are working on ways to help our restaurants bounce back. We know it is going to be a slow recovery, so we will continue to do that throughout the next year.”

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