Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington held its 40th annual RAMMY Awards on Sunday night, July 24, at the Washington Convention Center, celebrating the best in culinary arts in the DMV. Of the six Shaw establishments nominated for awards, three won top honors.
The theme of this year’s RAMMYs was recovery. After the shock caused by the pandemic, the local restaurant industry has finally reached a point where business has stabilized and is now poised for growth. Mayor Muriel Bowser, in her remarks to the audience, pointed out how the capital, employment and tax revenue generated by restaurants make them a key industry for the District.
Shaw nominees won the most prestigious RAMMY awards. Robert Heim of Shaw’s Tavern won the Manager of the Year award. Heim choked up as he noted that he had been in the restaurant business since the age of 13, when he started with his mother. Unconventional Diner snagged the Splendid Holidays at Home award, a category celebrating skill at packaging elegant meals during the pandemic. In accepting the award, which was determined by a vote of the public, chef David Deshaies stated that his five-year-old restaurant was committed to providing simple food, creatively prepared. Perhaps the most prestigious award went to Rob Rubba of plant-based Oyster Oyster, who was declared Chef of the Year. Rubba, who received his award from Deshaies, last year’s Best Chef, thanked his staff and the community for the success of Oyster Oyster, which has been open for little more than a year.
Councilmember Pinto Holds Meeting on Blagden Alley Issues
Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto held a virtual meeting on the night of July 22 to discuss the issues affecting the Blagden Alley community.
The first was trash. She asked Alexander Padro, executive director of Shaw Main Streets, to outline the status of his group’s effort to find solutions to the trash problems of Blagden Alley. Padro described efforts to establish a pilot for a trash compactor that would be used by restaurants in the alley. Unfortunately, there have been problems trying to set up a six-month feasibility trial. Most companies expect to have a two-year lease for a compactor. They also want the lease signed by the owner of the property that the compactor sits on, something that has not been easy to set up in Blagden Alley. Finally, the District funds for the pilot must be committed by the end of September, although the councilmember has said that she might be able to add funds to the project. Padro said that the other effort on trash, establishing a composting program for food waste from alley restaurants, is going ahead.
The meeting quickly moved to the problem of noise. One resident asked why establishments in the alley were allowed to stay open past 11 p.m. and that she was losing sleep due to late night noise. She pointed to Never Looked Better and the newly opened Causa as particular problems. Another resident agreed, noting that the community had been able to work with other bars in the alley, like Calico, Lost and Found and The Dabney to resolve problems. Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F, which decided not to protest the new liquor license for Causa, received criticism along with the ANC commissioner representing Blagden Alley, whom residents said was reluctant to get involved.
The owner of Causa joined the meeting, saying that he wanted his establishment recognized as a restaurant and did not want to create a club atmosphere. He noted that inspectors from District agencies have come to Causa and have not been able to find a noise problem. Still, he will put up signs telling customers to leave quietly and try to buffer noise. He said that he has never been open past midnight.
Councilmember Pinto ended the meeting by asking for a timeline of improvements to address nuisances in Blagden Alley and additional meetings between the community and businesses to resolve issues.
Shaw Documents the Harmoneon Cemetery
Shaw Main Streets, with a grant from Humanities DC, has completed its documentation of the Columbian Harmony Cemetery, known as the Harmoneon, the first major cemetery established by and for African Americans in Washington DC. The Columbian Harmony Society was established in 1825 by free African Americans as a mutual aid and burial society. They purchased Square 475 in 1828, a site bounded by Sixth Street, S Street, Fifth Street and Boundary Street (now Florida Avenue) at the edge of the L’Enfant-designed city. The Harmoneon served as a key burial ground for people of African American descent for the next 30 years.
The Harmoneon had to move when District law prohibited the location of cemeteries within the boundaries of the city of Washington. The society sold Square 475 and established a new site, the Columbian Harmony Cemetery in Northeast Washington, near the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station. The Harmoneon’s graves were transferred to the new site by 1859 and the property was divided into lots, the last of which were sold after the Civil War. Most of the historic buildings on Square 475 were built before 1887.
To learn more about the history and geography of the Harmoneon, go to www.HarmoneonShawDC.com.