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Apr 30, 2008

Cinco de Mayo in the District: Putting the Si! in DC

CoronaPop Quiz: What does Cinco de Mayo actually celebrate?

1)  Mexico's independence from Spain in 1810
2)  Corona's independence from the Gambrinus import company in 2007
3)  Nothing.  It's a play on the use of "fifth" to refer to a handle of alcohol, in this case tequila.
4)  Mexico's victory over French forces at Puebla in 1862

The answer, it turns out, is 4.  But the reality is that Cinco de Mayo celebrations in America most often resemble a sort of Mexican Saint Patrick's Day - a chance to consume alcoholic beverages in the name of cultural heritage.

Here in Washington, there is no shortage of Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurants where you can celebrate Cinco de Mayo next Monday.  Since we're enjoying the glorious mid-spring weather that brings mild temperatures and low humidity but lasts all of three weeks here in the District, I thought I would share some of my favorite places to enjoy margaritas and cervezas that will allow you to celebrate Mexico's military prowess in a variety of styles.

And, as a dedicated cheese lover, I can assure you that each of these places offers a variation on traditional Mexican queso-focused dishes - from the ubiquitous chile con queso cheese dip (most often made from good old American cheese) to more ambitious offerings like queso fundido con tequila at Oyamel and chiles rellenos at Cactus Cantina.  The best of these feature authentic queso blanco and other Mexican cheeses that are otherwise overlooked.

La Loma
316 Massachusetts Avenue, NE
Washington, DC  20002
(202) 548-2550
Img_4652Recommended for: Happy hour groups, especially young professionals on the Hill
This Massachusetts Avenue establishment serves up margaritas and sangria to a mostly Hill staffer crowd who appreciate the strength of the beverages and the outdoor patio seating as the weather gets warmer.  Although I'm no expert in Tex-Mex cuisine, friends have assured me that the menu here offers some of the most authentic flavors they've found in Washington.  Even so, the cuisine is not the best reason to check out La Loma.  That honor goes to the original margaritas (on the rocks with or without a salt rim), which are sweet and sour enough to cover the burn of the tequila.  Frozen margaritas are available, as are flavored options, but the original is king here.  Their sangria is sweet, with definite citrus notes and an unexpected kick that can sneak up on you unexpectedly.  If you can score a table on the patio, this is a great place to sit and celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a group of friends - but be prepared to get there early and share the space with other fiesta-minded groups.

Cantina Marina
600 Water Street, SW
Washington, DC  20024
(202) 554-8396
Recommended for: Casual dining and a unique waterfront perspective on Washington
Cantina Marina is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, and they remain a slightly off-the-beaten-path option for anyone who's tired of visiting the usual bar scenes in Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan and Georgetown.  Cantina Marina's location over the water on the Southwest Waterfront provides great views of the Washington Monument while still creating the impression that you're somewhere outside the city, for a change.  Offering a menu that tends more toward pan-Gulf than traditional Mexican, they nevertheless serve up Baja-style fish and shrimp tacos alongside New Orleans-inspired gumbo and po'boy sandwiches.  Their margaritas come in four varieties ranging from $7 to $10 each, making them a pricier option than at some of your other options, but the Cadillac, which blends Cuervo and Grand Marnier, is a smooth ride for the money.  They will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo all weekend with specials on XX Lager, XX Amber and Tecate, and the Marina will open at 10:30 on Monday for a "Breakfast and Beer" special.  During the day, they will be hosting a live broadcast by WJFK's "Big O and Dukes" from 11 to 3.  Expect a lively crowd Monday night.

Cactus Cantina
3300 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20016
(202) 686-7222
Recommended for: Unrivaled swirled frozen margaritas and a history of solid Tex-Mex cuisine
Located just up the block from Two Amy's, Cactus Cantina is an old favorite among many people who crave Tex-Mex in Washington.  Fajitas and enchiladas are only the tip of the iceberg, with Mexican soup, chiles rellenos (stuffed with either beef or cheese) and pork ribs a la barbacoa giving diners quite a few options.  Although margarita purists might be put off by their emphasis on their frozen offerings (don't worry - originals are also available), their prices are hard to argue and the flavors, including strawberry, peach and mango,  are spot-on.  At less than $6 per mug (or $26 per pitcher), these really are frozen treats.  Cactus Cantina can easily seat more than 250 guests, making it a great option for those who might be looking for a sit-down dinner.  Their sister restaurant/lounge, Lauriol Plaza on 18th Street, is another option...though it is far more likely to be packed to the gills with a young bar crowd.

Oyamel Cocina Mexicana
401 7th Street, NW
Washington, DC  20004
(202) 628-1005
Img_4658Recommended for:  An authentic Mexican dining experience from the man who brought us Jaleo and Minibar
Grasshopper tacos?  Six kinds of ceviche and a full ceviche bar?  Moles?  Pepitas?  Oyamel is all of these things and more.  Executive Chef Jose Andres, the creative force behind Jaleo, Cafe Atlantico and Minibar, brings a taste of Mexico City to DC at Oyamel, and it really goes above and beyond just about anything else that is currently available in Washington when it comes to Mexican cuisine.  Chef Joe Raffa has been nominated for a RAMMY award by the Restaurant Association of Metro Washington as a 'Rising Star,' so you know the menu is in good hands.  If you're willing to be a little adventurous, this could be the best possible place for a DC Foodie to spend Cinco de Mayo - they've even got signature cocktails and margaritas to help you celebrate.  But you may want to move quickly to lock in a reservation...chances are they're going fast.

And for those of you who prefer something a bit bigger and more active, there is a street festival from 5 to 9 PM on Monday in the Downtown area of Silver Spring.  For more details, check it out here.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Categories: Capitol Hill, Cathedral/Glover Park, Downtown, Mexican, Outdoor Dining
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Oct 23, 2004

Heritage India

I just found out that Heritage India delivers. Holy Sh*t! Guess what I am getting tonight. :)

Categories: Cathedral/Glover Park, Indian
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Sep 12, 2004

2 Amys

It's been a while since I posted anything about 2 Amys, which is totally ridiculous considering how often I eat there. The thing is, I could've done a post about every time I've eaten there, but I would bore the hell out of you, my readers, and we might as well call this the 2 Amys blog.

So last Thursday, we were throwing around ideas of where we wanted to go. I called Amy on the way home from work and told her, "I don't feel like cooking tonight so let's go out somewhere - YOU PICK."

To which she replied, "What else is new? Anywhere? Even Ethiopian?"

"Sure, even Ethiopian", I grunted.

When I got home, Amy was out walking Ceiba, and the first thing I asked was where she wanted to go. Surprisingly, she offered two choices - Meskerem or...yep you guessed it, 2 Amys. So obviously we ended up going to 2 Amys, otherwise the title of this post would be Meskerem and not 2 Amys. So we walked the 4 blocks to Macomb Avenue and when we got there, there was a surprisingly short wait. We were seated right away.

Our 2 Amys trips latelyTomato_bread_soup are defined by the specials menu. This time, there were a few good special appetizers that peaked our interest, including a tomato-and-bread soup and potato and prosciutto croquettes. None  of the special pizzas looked interesting to us, so we just ordered the Norcia. We also ordered a couple glasses of wine. I really enjoy the wines at 2 Amys - They're all quality Italian wines. Most bottles run between $20 - 30.

The tomato and bread soup was really salty. I think the chef could have laid off the salt a bit. However, it still tasted great. Proc_croquettesThe broth had a ton of olive oil and fresh basil in it which were good things. The potato and prosciutto croquettes were very good. Just the right amount of flavor in a fried appetizer. I really wished I had some marinara or something to dip them in.

The norcia pizza was fantastic as usual. I mean, you really can't go wrong with this pizza. NorciaTake a great crust and put a little marinara sauce on it. Top it with some fresh mozzarella, roasted yellow and red sweet peppers, and salami (oh and of course, olive oil) and you've got yourself a pretty damn good pizza.

Lately, Amy and I have also been ordering the cookie plate which has become a staple on the menu. You get eight cookies including sugar, biscotti, truffles and another kind of cookie that has changed every time we've order it. They've been great every time. I recommend ordering some coffee or cappuccino to go with them.

Now I want to talk a little bit about the atmosphere - there is none! I mean seriously people, this is a pizza place. If you want fine dining, you really need to go elsewhere. The dining room can be a bit loud, but I think it's pretty much a problem with the design of the place. The ceiling is an old-fashioned tin ceiling so it echos really bad. Also the service can be a little inconsistant, but is more often good than bad.

In the end, the bill usually ends up costing us between $50 - 80 after tip, which is reasonable considering we usually order a nice bottle of wine, appetizers and dessert. Lately, we have been trending in the upper part of that range.

Here is my original post on 2 Amys.

Categories: Cathedral/Glover Park, Gourmet Pizza, Restaurant Reviews
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Sep 08, 2004

Friday night dinner already planned

So my Friday night dinner is already planned. I am ordering Indian Delivery from Curry Club. They have an interesting setup. You join the "club" here and on every Monday, they send you the menu for the week (which changes every week). You then can email them your order and they will deliver it to you, wherever you are after 3 PM on Friday. My first question was, "Well, what time do they deliver?" Their response was this:

We can deliver the food from about 3 PM onwards either to your office or your home. Just let us know what works best for you and we will try to accommodate. If you like, we can even leave it at your house without you being there as long as there is a safe place to do so.
Hmm, I really hope the food is good. I could get in the habit of doing this. This is what this weeks menu looks like:

Tandoori Salmon (mild, marinated salmon on the grill for $9)
Kahari Lamb (lamb dish from Kashmir to you for $9)
Chicken Tikka Masala (chicken tikka in a lip-smacking creamy sauce for
$9)
Chicken Tikka (marinated chicken cooked on a skewer for $9)
Beef Vindaloo (the old favorite and just as spicy for $9)
Kidney Bean Curry (kidney beans in a delicious tomato and onion sauce
for $6)
Saag Paneer (indian cheese and spinach for $6)
Channa Masala (chick peas in a tomato gravy for $6)
Spicy Okra (lady's fingers for $6)
Bubble & Squeak Samosas ($6)
Mango Chutney ($5)
Tomato Chutney ($5)
Hot Lime Pickle ($5)
Cucumber and Tomato Raita ($4)
Puffy Yoghurt Bread (Indian bread for $2)
Plain Basmatti Rice ($2 for two)

Make sure you get your order to them by Thursday at 2 in order to get your order delivered by Friday afternoon.

To join the club, send an email to curryclub@curryclub.net

Categories: Cathedral/Glover Park, Indian
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Jun 17, 2004

Bistrot Lepic

Last Saturday, Amy and I went for a walk. We started by walking to that Starbucks down the street from us, and then down to the second hand furniture store.  Finally, we walked to the Cathedral to see if anyone had put out any homemade tributes to President Reagan. There were none. :( After that we were going to head back, but it was such a beautiful day, we decided to keep walking down Wisconson. Anyway, I'll jump to the point by saying we walked all the way to Georgetown. On the way there, we passed Bistrot Lepic. Now, I've heard a bunch of good things about this place. I've almost never heard anyone say anything bad about it, but I had never bothered to check out the menu. A number of dishes looked pretty interesting - Chilled Asparagus Soup with Crabmeat, Salmon Tartare, Tuna with a Chick Pea Crepe. All of which were dishes that were ok for me to eat on my new diet. 

Continue reading "Bistrot Lepic"

Categories: Cathedral/Glover Park, French, Restaurant Reviews
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Apr 11, 2004

Heritage India

Amy and I went to Heritage India for dinner again last night. We originally intended to go to Indique, but we were unable to make a reservation the same night. Of course I waited till 6:30 to try and make a reservation. I'm a procrastinator as usual. So we "settled" (LOL) for Heritage India.

Here's a little history about our experiences at Heritage India. When we first moved to DC, being lovers of Indian food, we went to every Indian restaurant within walking distance of our home even though we were pretty strapped for cash. The first time we went to Heritage India, the first thing we noticed were that the prices were more than other Indian restaurants we had been to. We had heard, however, that the food was excellent there, and that the prices were well worth it. What we had heard was pretty much right on the money. However, I think at the time, the prices compared to other India restaurants (and the $100 bill) blinded us a bit. We also noticed that the service was a bit...rough around the edges.

Continue reading "Heritage India"

Categories: Cathedral/Glover Park, Indian, Restaurant Reviews
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Dec 16, 2003

Cactus Cantina

Cafe Deluxe was totally packed last night because Monday is half-price wine night. Instead of waiting an hour, we walked down to Cactus Cantina. It was mediocre at best. There was like a pound of cheese on my enchilada, the plate was piping hot (good sign it had been sitting under the heat lamps for a while.) Amy's salad was a big bowl of lettuce, a few bits of chicken and a handful of overcooked corn. Blech!

The only things that are good at this place in any sort of consitant manner are the chimichanga and the fajitas. It is pretty much impossible to mess either of these up and you can get them everywhere.

Oh. One other thing, The margaritas suck here. They are all mix and no tequila.

I think the only reason we ever go here is when we try to go to another place and it is too crowded (like last night.)

Categories: Cathedral/Glover Park, Restaurant Reviews, Tex-Mex
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Dec 13, 2003

2 Amys

I'm going to sum up this review in one sentence...

Two Amys is hands-down, the most wonderful place in DC to get gourmet pizza.

Go there now!

Now for my review.

Located near the corner of Wisconson and Macomb in NW, 2 Amys is the most kickass gourmet pizza in DC.  Notice that I said gourmet pizza, and not just pizza. There are sometimes that gourmet pizza just doesn't cut it. When I want a slice of plain old New York-style pizza, I go to Vace on Connecticut Ave., or one of those places on 18th St. in Adams Morgan with the oversized slices. (Best drinkin' food there is.)However, if I want to sit down for an excellent Italian meal, I go to 2 Amys.

2 Amys is loud, loud, loud and busy. If you are looking for ambiance and romance (and I can't stress this enough), don't go there. There is a small bar in the back where you can wait, but there is seldom space to sit or stand. If you go any night (even weekdays) between 7 and 8:30 you are looking at a 30 minute wait or more.

What 2 Amys does have though, is excellent food. Most of the menu is in Italian, but don't hesitate to ask the friendly servers...they're used to it.  To start with, the appetizers are some of the best I have had in the city. Suppli a Telefono is an unusual appetizer: risotto rolled into balls, stuffed with mozzarella cheese and then deep-fried. The app-sized meatballs (Polpettine) are perfect precursor to a pizza. They bake them in a shallow dish with homemade marinara sauce. We'll often get these and dip our pizza crusts in the leftover sauce. Mmmmm, tasty.

The pizza, as I said before, is the best in DC. 2 Amys is a member of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN), which is a pizza-makers' guild that enforces the authentic Neapolitan pizza recipe and process. As an AVPN member, 2 Amys must follow strict rules about everything used in the pizza -- from the types of flours and yeast used for the dough to the tomatoes and cheeses permitted as toppings.  The pizza is made in a giant wood-burning stove that you can see at the entrance. As the pizzas come out of the oven, the cooks throw a generous swirl of extra-virgin olive oil on them. Quiet, olive oil is good for you!

The crust tastes better than any other I have tasted -- seriously. That's says a lot from someone whose family comes from NY and has probably eaten more pizza than any of y'all growing up. The toppings are fresh and original. Where else can you get a pizza with cockels (clams) on it -- and in the shell no less? Anyway, most of the time we usually get the Norcia which has salami, sweet peppers, garlic and mozzarella.

My wife and I have been to two Amys so many times that we order off the specials menu more and more. It is rare that we get a special that we do not like. Antipasto with fresh cheeses, fruits and meats, or an excellent green bean and speck salad.

The special desserts are our favorite part. I highly recommend the homemade ice cream (especially the chocolate barley malt or chocolate chip pistachio, if they have it.) Also, if they have the baked apple pie, order it as soon as you sit down. The one time they had this, it sold out and I was the last person to get one. Your momma's apple pie deoesn't stand a chance against this (sorry mom.) My wife does not even like apple pie and she could not get enough of this.

(Unfortunately, this can be a common occurance -- 2 Amys often sells out of the specials, sometimes relatively early in the evening. So if you've had a long wait, or are just there late, save yourself the torture and don't look at the specials menu to see the amazing stuff you can't have.)

Another highlight is the wine list. 2 Amys has many Italian wines that aren't served anywhere else. If you order a glass, they don't serve it in a typical wine class. They serve it in a regular drink glass and fill it up generously. One glass at 2 Amys is usually about 2 normal glasses of wine elsewhere -- perfect for all you alcoholics out there.

I could go on and on about how wonderful the food is at 2 Amys, but you will have to go and try it yourself to believe me.  See you there!

2 Amys
3715 Macomb St. NW
Washington, DC
202-885-5700
Map

Hours:
Mon 5pm-10pm
Tues-Sun 11 am-11 pm

Dress Code: Casual
Reservations: Not Accepted

Categories: Cathedral/Glover Park, Gourmet Pizza, Restaurant Reviews
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Dec 07, 2003

Sushi Sushi

I just want to say right off, that my wife and I are not expert sushi eaters. We generally stick to tuna, salmon, and rolls. So given that, this review might not mean much to you...

Sushi Sushi recently opened a second location at the intersection of Wisconson and Macomb in NW. It moved in the vacant location where the Flat Top Grill used to be. As it's name sounds, it's a no nonsense sushi restaurant. They don't mess around with other Asian cuisines like Spices does.

The first thing we noticed was that the service is friendly and prompt. They have plenty of people there to serve you. I counted three different people that came by our table tonight. The miso soup was not your average miso. I found it was much better than that of other Asian restaurants. The soybeans are as good as any we've had at other Asian restaurants. Granted, it is hard to mess up soybeans.

The rolls were the highlight for us (big surprise). So far we have tried the spicy crunch tuna roll, spicy crunchy california roll, etc, etc. Tonight we tried the Sunny Delight roll. It was basically a california roll wrapped in Salmon with sweet and spicy sauce. Honestly, I would have never tried this unless Amy had ordered it, but it was excellent. Sushi Sushi also has temaki rolls which are cone shaped rolls that come in single servings. Both Amy and I found these a bit difficult to eat (Yes, I know, we are ignorant hicks). The sashimi was fresher than we have received at other sushi restaurants.

Overall we are very happy with our dining experiences at Sushi Sushi and we plan to continue to go back there. They are a reliable (so far) place that is close to us. If you live more than 20 minutes away, I would not go making a special trip. There are probably other sushi restaurants that are closer to you and are just as good.

Our average bill has been under $50 which is pretty reasonable when you consider we usually order drinks and appetizers.

Categories: Asian/Sushi, Cathedral/Glover Park, Restaurant Reviews
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