Voting opens for state’s favorite food, beverage

(Feb. 20, 2015) Five local restaurants or restaurateurs made the nomination cut for the annual Restaurant Association of Maryland awards, down from last year’s total of six.

However, this year’s class of nominees has no repeats of last years’ crop with a technical exception granted to The Greene Turtle, which was nominated for Favorite Bar or Tavern in 2014 and returns as a McCormick Cornerstone of the Industry honoree, and not voted on by the public.

Ballots can be cast via Facebook at or the official site, Public voting is open until March 11, and the winners will be announced April 12, 2015 in Crisfield at the annual gala dinner. This year’s theme is “Havana Nights.”

Bryan Brushmiller’s Burley Oak Brewing Company has been nominated for the Craft Brew Program of the year, 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 is a really big deal as a non-restaurant brewery. We’re all about craft beer and programming, and how we present, sell and educate our consumer,” Brushmiller said.

Outreach and education is a huge part of Burley Oak, Brushmiller explained.

“A lot of drinkers aren’t craft beer drinkers. Only about 10 percent of the market drinks craft beer. 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,” he said.

This award is sponsored by Evolution Craft Brewing Company, a notable beer brewer itself located on the Eastern Shore.

Meanwhile, 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, Touch of Italy has worked hard to offer a different kind of atmosphere than usual in the resort.

“We’ve got three different venues: the deli, the pastries and the restaurant and bar areas. We want our customer to feel like they’ve walked into an establishment in Italy, and we serve a lot of items that no one else carries,” he said.

Jules 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, owner and chef, said, “it’s cool to be up for an award. We’re very deserving and everyone here works very hard.”

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 candidates.

The first is John Harrison, of the Harrison Group.

“It’s a testament to the staff and what we’ve been doing over the part years that our efforts have been recognized. We are very honored,” he said.

The second is Buddy Trala of the Sunset Grille, who is vacationing and unable to be reached for comment.

The Restaurant Association of Maryland is a statewide trade organization organized 75 years ago. This is the 61st annual iteration of their Stars of the Industry awards.


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