(March 6, 2015) Public voting for the Restaurant Association of Maryland’s 61st annual Stars of the Industry Awards will end Wednesday, March 11.
A total of five local establishments and restaurateurs made the cut this year and are among the finalists in the running for awards.
•Burley Oak Brewing Company
Bryan Brushmiller’s Burley Oak Brewing Company, which opened in 2011 in Berlin, has been nominated and is a finalist for the Craft Brew Program of the Year award, along with Max’s Taphouse in Baltimore, Red Brick Station in White Marsh, T-Bonz Grille & Taphouse in Ellicott City and the Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia.
“This underscores what we’ve always believed as an educational facility and really big deal as a non-restaurant brewery,” Brushmiller said. “We’re all about craft beer and programming, and how we present, sell and educate our consumer.”
Outreach and education is important, Brushmiller said.
“A lot of drinkers aren’t craft beer drinkers. Only about 10 percent of the market drinks craft beer,” he said. “If we do a good job, we can expand that and it’s good for everybody. It’s a great honor and definitely a feather in our cap.”
This award is sponsored by Evolution Craft Brewing Company, a notable beer brewer located on the Eastern Shore
•Touch of Italy
Co-owner, chef and featured Food Network restaurateur, Ciro Verdi’s Touch of Italy competes with Ananda in Fulton, the Highland Inn in Highland, Annapolis’ Iron Rooster and Lib’s Grill in Perry Hall for Favorite New Restaurant.
“We’re ecstatic and really appreciative,” Verdi said. “I’ve tried my best to make it better.”
Since opening in June on 67th Street in the Holiday Inn Oceanfront in Ocean City, Touch of Italy staff has worked hard to offer a different kind of atmosphere in the resort.
“We’re looking to upgrade the ethnic food profile on the Eastern Shore with authentic Italian cuisine not found in the area,” Co-owner Larry Pack said.
•Jules Fine Dining
Jules, located in the Ocean City Square Shopping Center on 118th Street since 2003, is Ocean City’s entry into the crowded “Favorite Restaurant” field, along with Houlihan’s in Columbia, Laurrapin Grille in Havre de Grace, Madrones in Frederick, Miss Shirley’s Café in Baltimore and Pasta Plus in Laurel.
“For one, it’s an honor,” Adam Sanders, Jules’ owner and chef said. “It’s cool to be up for an award. We’re very deserving and everyone here works very hard.”
•Restaurateur of the Year
Only members of the Restaurant Association of Maryland can vote for the Restaurateur of the Year Award, where two Ocean City stalwarts are listed as finalists.
The first is John Harrison, of the Harrison Group, which owns almost a dozen restaurants in Ocean City.
“It’s a testament to the staff and what we’ve been doing over the past years that our efforts have been recognized. We are very honored,” he said.
The second is Buddy Trala of the Sunset Grille, located on Sunset Avenue in West Ocean City since 2004. Trala is no stranger to the awards, as Sunset Grille took home the Favorite Restaurant title in 2011. It was a finalist for the award in 2008.
“It’s not really about me but the great team we have. John Curry, Patti Pace, Mike Rabideau, Darren Cummings, Dean Geracimos, Turk Howard and I have all been together for 10 years since we started the Sunset Grille. I love Ocean City and I love what I do,” Trala said.
Ballots can be cast via Facebook at www.facebook.com/marylandrestaurants or the official site, www.marylandrestaurants.com. The winners will be announced April 12 in Crisfield during the annual gala dinner. This year’s theme is “Havana Nights.”
Ocean City restaurateurs made more than a few trips to the stage during the Restaurant Association of Maryland’s annual Stars of the Industry gala last year, where resort establishments were presented with four awards and had two inducted into the Hospitality Hall of Honor.
Travis Wright of Shark on the Harbor earned Chef of the Year in 2014. Tammy Patrick-Cebula of Galaxy 66 Bar & Grille and The Skye Bar was presented with Restaurateur of the Year. The Craft Brew Program of the Year award went to Fager’s Island and the Heart of the Industry Award was presented to Amanda Taylor of Horizons Restaurant in the Clarion Resort Hotel.
BJ’s on the Water and the Bayside Skillet were among the five inducted into the Maryland Hospitality Hall of Honor last year.