by March 21, 2013 at 8:00 am 0


The RAMMY nominations are in. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]

The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington‘s annual RAMMY awards will take place on June 23. And on Tuesday night, the nominees for this year’s dining scene categories were announced at the Hamilton.

Old and new Borderstan restaurants, bars, chefs and managers received a handful of nominations — Blue Duck Tavern, Bar Pilar, Birch & Barley/Churchkey and Estadio were among some of the most popular in a variety of categories.

Borderstan’s RAMMY Nominees

  • Blue Duck Tavern (1201 24th Street NW): Borderstan’s Kim Vu visited Blue Duck Tavern and raved about the wood oven roasted bone marrow, seared foie gras and glazed sweetbreads. This border-line “West End” restaurant is clearly favored by a lot of District diners. It was nominated for Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year, Rising Culinary Star of the Year, Pastry Chef of the Year and Manager of the Year.
  • Birch and Barley/Churchkey (1337 14th Street NW): Another favorite among the categories is Birch and Barley/Churchkey. This Logan Circle restaurant and beer haven picked-up nominations for Upscale Casual Restaurant of the Year and Beverage/Mixology Program of the Year. In addition, its parent group, Neighborhood Restaurant Group, picked up a nomination for Restaurateur of the Year.
  • Bar Pilar (1833 14th Street NW): Perhaps it’s Bar Pilar’s dim and intimate setting. Or maybe it’s the craft beers, small plates and delicious cocktails. Whatever it is, Bar Pilar is a District staple. It’s nominated for Casual Restaurant of the Year and Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene of the Year.
  • Estadio (1520 14th Street NW): Estadio’s owner is brining a new restaurant to the neighborhood, but Estadio is still raking in the praise from DC’s diners. This 14th Street tapas favorite was nominated for Upscale Casual Restaurant of the Year, Chef of the Year and Manager of the Year.
  • Cork Wine Bar (1720 14th Street NW): Nominated for Upscale Casual Restaurant of the Year.
  • C. F. Folks (1225 19th Street NW): Nominated for Casual Restaurant of the Year.
  • Nellie’s Sports Bar (900 U Street NW): Nominated for Neighborhood Gathering Place of the Year.
  • Boqueria (1837 M Street NW): Nominated for New Restaurant of the Year.
  • DGS Delicatessen (1317 Connecticut Avenue NW): Nominated for New Restaurant of the Year.
  • Vidalia (1990 M Street NW): Nominated for Pastry Chef of the Year.
  • Jack Rose Dining Saloon (2007 18th St NW): Nominated for Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene of the Year.
  • Black Restaurant Group: Nominated for Manager of the Year.
  • Matchbox Food Group: Nominated for Restaurateur of the Year.

For a full list of the RAMMY nominees, visit the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington’s website.

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by August 15, 2012 at 10:00 am 1,865 2 Comments

"Restaurant Week"

In Borderstan area, look for Restaurant Week participants on Connecticut, P, U, 9th, 14th and 17th Streets NW. (Luis Gomez Photos) (Luis Gomez Photos)

Editor’s note: The following story first ran on August 16, 2010. We thought you’d again enjoy Alejandra’s advice for bi-annual Restaurant Week, since it arrived again Monday. Metro DC Summer  Restaurant Week runs August 13-19. For participating restaurants in the Dupont-Logan-U Street area, see Borderstan’s Restaurant Week’s 24 choices in the Neighborhood.

Pricing? Lunch is $20.12 for a three-course, fixed-price meal and dinner is $35.12 for a three-course, fixed-price meal. Beverages, gratuity and tax are not included. You can make reservations through Open Table and City Eats DC.

• • • • • • • • • • • •

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @frijolita.

The bi-annual DC Restaurant Week is upon us again. Depending on who you talk to, it’s either the perfect week to dine out like a mad (wo)man or it’s the perfect week to cook at home. Some have even gone so far as to call it amateur week for diners. I wouldn’t go that far — but the week certainly has its pluses and minuses.

The complaints I hear most often about Restaurant Week are that service is slow, menus are limited and the plates are unimpressive. In turn, restaurant industry folks say that people have unrealistic expectations, that restaurants are slammed with numbers far beyond usual and that it’s not a true showing of what a restaurant can give you. I can appreciate both perspectives.

Tips and Favorites

No matter how you feel about Restaurant Week, there are certainly some tips to getting it right. Here are my six tips and some favorites places:

  1. Dining in DC blog. Check out Lisa Shapiro’s Dining In DC blog (she’s a local food writer) for her take on menus — and the places worth checking out. Doing your homework is the first step in making sure you’re getting the most out of the week.
  2. Places to avoid. Don’t go to restaurants that are already good deals (read: tapas places or ones that have a portion of the menu on happy hour at the bar)… or ones that you have been to before. Or if you do, manage your expectations. NEW TIP: check to see if places have a prix fix menu year round… target those that don’t for your Restaurant Week reservations.
  3. Menu offerings. Hit up restaurants that have the majority of their menu up for grabs. Nothing is worse than sitting down only to find out the already limited menu is minuscule. NEW TIP: Many places are offering bottles of wine at half price this go around — be sure to see if there is a deal on wine… or if dessert can be exchanged for wine or other beverage options.
  4. Lunch. Try lunch reservations in your work neighborhood. Some of my best Restaurant Week experiences have been during lunch, not dinner.
  5. Ask around. Talk to friends and coworkers: What restaurants do a bang up job no matter what?
  6. Watch Twitter and follow the foodies. Reservations will be dropping like flies and generous folks will be offering them up. If you’re on Twitter, watch closely! Follow some foodies and pick up a few extra options.
  7. Favorites. I put together some Restaurant Week favorites with help from my foodie friends on Twitter (find me @frijolita):  Rasika, Bibiana, 1789 and Dino top the list.

So… what are your Restaurant Week tips?

by June 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm 1,547 0

"2012 RAMMYs Winners"

Sunday night at the 2012 RAMMYS. Top row from left: Adam Bernbach and Max Kuller from Estadio ; The 2012 RAMMYS theme; Barbara and Jeff Black. Bottom row from left: Black Jack accepts its award;  Diane Gross of Cork Wine Bar; and Cafe Saint-Ex Chef Billy Klien with the restaurant’s John Snellgrove and Mike Benson.

From Kim Vu. He also has his own food blog, DC Wrapped Dates. Follow him at@dcwrappeddates or email him at kim[AT] 

If the current boom state of 14th Street wasn’t enough to tell you that our fair neighborhood and city is on the cutting edge of the restaurant scene, then maybe some glitz, glamour, and glass obelisk statues will? Borderstan came up big last night at the RAMMYS, the yearly awards gala of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW).

With many more area eateries in the neighborhood nominated, congrats are in order for:

  1. Cork Wine Bar: Wine Program of the Year
  2. Cafe Saint-Ex: Neighborhood Gathering Place of the Year
  3. Estadio: Beverage/Mixology Program of the Year
  4. Blackjack: Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene of the Year
  5. Black Restaurant Group: Restaurateur of the Year (Black Jack and Pearl Dive Oyster Palace are part of the group)

As Mike Benson of Cafe Saint-Ex emphatically stated about DC in his acceptance speech for Best Neighborhood Gathering Place, “our restaurant scene is kicking ass. We’re turning heads.”

Borderstan’s wins last night reflected the growing importance and attention that restaurants and restaurateurs are giving to things besides the food. Cork Wine Bar won for their outstanding wine program, and Estadio followed up its 2011 Best New Restaurant RAMMY with a win for its Beverage/Mixology program, edging out fellow Borderstan nominee Birch and Barley/Churchkey.

“Ultimately DC is a really small town doing really big things,” mused the ecstatic winners from Estadio upon accepting their award. “We’re in a city that is the most beautiful city in the world for beverages right now.”

But the big winners last night at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel were Jeff and Barbara Black and their Black Restaurant Group, taking home the award for Restaurateur of the Year. The owners of Best New Restaurant Nominee Pearl Dive Oyster Palace also claimed the hardware for Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene for Blackjack. In one of the moments of the night, Chef Black pushed through the wrap-it-up music to acknowledge that this award came from the people in the industry, “the ones doing the hard work, not the bloggers.” (The Young & Hungry at the Washington City Paper has more as does The Examiner where Black clarified his statement.)

The gala itself was full of other great moments: restaurants throwing their support behind embattled Hank’s Oyster Bar in their fight against “the gang of six,” which earned notable applause from the audience (Hank’s was a nominee for Best Casual Restaurant of the year); Estadio winning (at least in this writer’s humble opinion) the cocktail of the night with their gin-based Dia de Descanso; and some of the biggest hats and fascinators on a night that never disappoints for wild fashion. Always a great time, and our neighborhood is looking even stronger and stronger for the upcoming year. See you all at the 2013 RAMMYS!

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by June 18, 2012 at 8:00 am 2,408 1 Comment

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]

"Hank's Oyster Bar letter seeking community"

The letter seeking community support from Hank’s Oyster Bar owner Jamie Leeds. (Borderstan)

A local restaurant’s seven-year battle with a group of local residents over “Voluntary Agreements” is causing one area organization to encourage DC Councilmember, Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), to include reform of the District’s alcohol licensing approval process for restaurants and bars in legislation he is currently drafting for Council consideration.

In response to the current deliberations over liquor licensing at Hank’s Oyster Bar, The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) calls on Graham to do away with ad hoc committees when dealing with restaurant operations and licensing agreements.

Instead, RAMW recommends a more appropriate neighborhood forum for licensing review and input, such as the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC), elected by area residents.

Current law allows ad hoc groups of as few as five people to intervene in the city’s liquor licensing application review process. “Allowing only a handful of residents to protest a liquor license application results in lengthy delays in review by the ABC Board causing great hardship for local businesses,” said Lynne Breaux, president of RAMW.

According to RAMW, Graham recently convened an “ABC Working Group” of both community and business representatives to review regulatory issues and problems in the city’s alcohol licensing process. The group concluded its extensive six-month evaluation on May 3, and Graham conducted a Council committee hearing on May 8 to review the group’s report.

“Although the recommendations of the broad-based group assembled by Council member Graham include several sensible recommendations, the proposals do not go far enough in correcting the ability of small and unrepresentative groups to hold business owners hostage by threat of long and costly delays,” said Breaux who’s organization was represented on Graham’s committee.

Breaux feels that unless the city council changes its laws, local business owners will continue to face protests by small groups that affect business development and often contradict the opinion of a majority of local residents.

Reforming liquor licensing isn’t the only thing on the minds of residents and industry organizations. Some DC business owners and residents are hoping that the six-day-spirit-city extends liquor sales into Sunday. And in a city home to a large percentage of drinkers, selling liquor seven days a week seems like a sure-fire way to increase sales for local business owners.

But like the Hank’s Oyster Bar case, liquor sales on Sundays in the nation’s capital is held up by a small, vocal minority. Ironically enough, it’s the sellers, themselves.

According to a recent article, District liquor storeowners argue that they don’t want to work on Sundays, and that Sunday sales will simply increase their costs while cutting into sales on other days. However, as the article points out, considering most people in DC live about 30 minutes from both Maryland and Virginia (both of which sell liquor on Sundays), sales tax projections and profits would be a win-win for businesses and for the District.

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by June 13, 2012 at 7:00 am 2,354 0

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]

"Hank's Oyster Bar patio"

For now, Hank's Oyster Bar at 1624 Q Street NW can use only half of its patio space. (Luis Gomez Photos)

The neighborhood is heating up in more ways than one this week. Yes, the humidity is unbearable (and it’s only June?), but the battle over patio dining and liquor licensing for a neighborhood seafood restaurant and oyster bar takes the shucking medal.

Jamie Leeds and supporters of her 17th and Q NW establishment, Hank’s Oyster Bar, are taking on the system (and two area residents) – and Leeds is not backing down at this point.

This past weekend, the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board ordered the restaurant to close half of the venue’s outdoor seating, reducing the outdoor dining space from 40 seats to 20. The order came just before Capital Pride Weekend when the 17th Street area is flooded with city residents and tourists alike.

The Friday shutdown occurred without prior notification and ahead of an ABC Board hearing (Wednesday, June 13, at 4 pm, Reeves Municipal Center) on a pending review of an ABC Board decision approving termination of the Voluntary Agreement (V.A.) with six area residents. Two of the six residents, David Malloff and Lex Rieffel, appealed the V.A. termination and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals kicked the case back to the ABC Board. (More on V.A.s are the end of this story.)

Local Organizations Rally to Leeds’ Appeal

Over the weekend, Leeds quickly turned to the public and asked for support on the restaurant’s website and Facebook page. Leeds posted contact information for DC councilmembers, the mayor, and the head of the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), the DC agency which regulates the city’s liquor laws. The ABC Board, made up of mayoral appointees, holds hearings and issues rulings.

The story was quickly picked up by media outlets and blogs, including Washington City Paper, Greater Greater Washington, Washington Blade, MetroWeekly, Prince of Petworth and Eater. Facebook and Twitter have been abuzz over the Hank’s story ever since Leeds sent out her statement and appeal, with the vast majority of postings supporting Leeds and Hank’s. The MetroWeekly article contains a statement from Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), in which Evans voices his support for Hank’s,

Then, on Tuesday, the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), the Urban Neighborhood Alliance (UNA) and the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) backed Hank’s Oyster Bar and urged members and constituents to show their support. The organizations encouraged emailed their members and followers, asking them to contact local government officials in support of Hank’s and to visit Hank’s (in the meantime) to help the local establishment recover lost revenue and Hank’s legal fees — and to testify at today’s hearing on Hank’s behalf. GLAA posted a piece on its, “How not to run an ABC Board” and UNA posted the appeal on its website.

Voluntary Agreements

The court reversed the November 2010 ABC Board decision and ordered them to instead determine if Hank’s made a good faith attempts to negotiate an amended V.A. with the group of neighbors who were parties to the original V.A., which dates back to 2005. Shortly after the ABC Board issued the opinion to terminate the V.A. they also agreed to allow Hank’s to expand operations into adjoining space. (See ABC Board Says Hank’s Oyster Bar Can Expand, December 2010).

V.A.s have become common citywide as a negotiating tool that sets restrictions beyond the standard regulations in exchange for a liquor license. Most frequently a V.A. limits hours of service of alcohol both inside and outside on sidewalk cafes. Back in 2010 Leeds said that the major operational restrictions under the V.A. were that Hanks’s had to stop serving alcohol two hours before the restaurant’s closing time, and that dinner could not be served outside one hour before closing time. The 2005 V.A., which Leeds signed, even regulated the labeling on the umbrellas Hank’s could use on its patio.

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