It is now time — drumroll, please — to announce the winners of the 2015 Eater Awards in D.C. These winners comprise a diverse group of the finest and most interesting chefs, restaurants, and bartenders in the city. They've defined this year in dining, and we applaud them.
First, a quick recap: Eater's local editors in 24 cities nominated candidates for five major categories: Restaurant of the Year, Chef of the Year, Bartender of the Year, So Hot Right Now Restaurant, and Stone Cold Stunner. These awards are geared toward places that have opened in the past year or so, as well as people who have become involved in new ventures or otherwise made news or changed the game in that time (which is why many renowned veterans don't appear). Eater readers then voted to narrow the field to a final three in each category. From that final three, the Eater editorial team chose one to move forward. The national winners can be viewed here, but now, without further ado, here's who came out on top in D.C.
Eater Awards 2015
Restaurant of the Year
Nominees: Masseria, Thip Khao, Crane & Turtle, Maketto, Rasika
Finalists: Maketto, Rasika Thip Khao
D.C. has been eagerly awaiting Erik Bruner-Yang’s next venture since the launch of ramen phenomenon Toki Underground years ago. Maketto, a uniquely-designed Taiwanese multi-concept restaurant and market in the H Street corridor, was worth the wait. The restaurant’s anticipated opening was one of the biggest restaurant stories of 2015, and the food and decor delivered on its promise.
Chef of the Year
Nominees: Seng Luangrath (Thip Khao), Alex Levin (Osteria Morini), Aaron Silverman (Rose's Luxury), Frank Ruta (The Grill Room), Peter Chang (Peter Chang)
Finalists: Alex Levin, Seng Luangrath, Aaron Silverman
Winner: Seng Luangrath
After spending years toiling away in a Falls Church shopping center, chef Seng Luangrath finally got a taste of the spotlight when Thip Khao opened in Columbia Heights. Seng’s vivid cooking has introduced a whole new audience to Laotian cuisine.
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Devin Gong (CopyCat Co.), Eddie Kim (The Partisan, Pop's SeaBar, Bar Otsukare), Jo-Jo Valenzuela (Brine), Lukas B. Smith (Dram & Grain), Mick Perrigo (The Left Door, formerly El Camino)
Finalists: Jo-Jo Valenzuela, Lukas B. Smith, Eddie Kim
Winner: Lukas B. Smith
It was a newsy year for this bartender. He joined the team of one of the city’s hottest cocktail bars, where he creates half a dozen new cocktails each week for the speakeasy-influenced Dram & Grain. He also started pop-up Secret Monkey Social Club and managed to find the time to design the cocktail menu for D.C.’s new rum distillery, Cotton & Reed. Smith also took home multiple cocktail competition prizes, such as the Craft Spirit of Poe Jury Prize, and spend some time working for Dram & Grain’s sister bar, Jack Rose, in 2015.
So Hot Right Now
Nominees: Bad Saint, Sally's Middle Name, Riggsby, Garrison, Momofuku CCDC
Finalists: Bad Saint, Momofuku CCDC, Garrison
Winner: Bad Saint
Bad Saint made an amazing splash in Columbia Heights — especially for such a tiny restaurant. Lines and excitement haven’t died down since its September opening. The restaurant found itself at the forefront of D.C.’s latest cuisine trend: Filipino food.
Stone Cold Stunner
Nominees: Masseria, Provision No 14, Maketto, China Chilcano, SER
Finalists: Maketto, SER, Provision No. 14
Winner: Provision No. 14
Provision No. 14 immediately caught the attention of D.C. diners with its colorful, intricate design, courtesy of Swatchroom’s Maggie O’Neill. The decor focuses on reclaimed pieces, featuring Victorian-style couches and plenty of quirky touches. The restaurant was the brainchild of a group new to the scene, Social Restaurant Group.
Empire Builder of the Year: Mike Isabella
With high-profile openings such as Pepita and Kapnos Taverna, a new presence in D.C.'s airports and the signing of leases everywhere from Merrifield to Bethesda to College Park, Isabella has cemented himself as one of the city's most prolific restaurant owners in a very short time.
Fast Casual Restaurant of the Year: Beefsteak
José Andrés entering the fast-casual world: a very big deal. José Andrés doing so with a vegetable-centric concept: an even bigger deal. And the best part about it all: Beefsteak, now with two locations in the District, is delicious, too. The D.C. restaurateur is at the forefront of the vegetarian-friendly, health-conscious movement in the fast-casual space, and plans to take his concept national.