Sunday, March 24, 2013

DC Spotlight: Spanish Tapas in Every Neighborhood

Like most places that specialize in small plates, Spanish tapas restaurants are excellent for vegetarians because they allow diners to piece together a meat-free meal while also sampling a number of different dishes.  Fortunately, DC has more than its fair share of Spanish tapas restaurants.  In fact, almost every neighborhood has one!

I previously reviewed my favorite of them all, Estadio, which is located in Logan Circle.  Estadio is my favorite because it offers (upon request) a separate vegetarian menu, and because the quality of the food, wine, and service is consistently excellent.  But it's also very popular, and if you don't get there early, you may have to wait for a table. 

So, if you don't have a lot of time, you might want to head to one of the other first-class restaurants mentioned below, where it will be much easier to get a reservation or simply walk-in, depending on the night of the week.  The vegetarian options at these places are all very similar, and also very delicious. 

At each place, I usually start my meal with an order of marinated olives and some bread topped with fresh tomato and Manchego cheese.  I then move on to some sort of grilled vegetable or sauteed mushroom dish.  My last two tapas are usually something heartier, like Spanish tortilla (egg omelet with potato and onion) or spicy potatoes.  I also always look for sources of protein, like meat-free dishes made with lentils or chickpeas.

If you're headed to Georgetown, check out Bodega.  This place has an authentic Spanish feel (which is obvious from its website) and is located right in the heart of a historic DC neighborhood. 

Marinated olives at Bodega

Green beans with almonds, garlic, and sweet red pepper at Bodega

Spanish tortilla at Bodega

If you're downtown, I recommend Jaleo in Penn Quarter, which is great for lunch as well as dinner.  Jaleo is Chef Jose Andres's first American restaurant.  As you can read here and here, I am big fan of his restaurants, which are all vegetarian-friendly.

Patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce and alioli) at Jaleo

Chickpea and spinach stew at Jaleo

Pulpo in Cleveland Park is relatively new, but I was impressed by my first visit.  The menu combines Spanish tapas with modern American, Latin American, and European flavors.  I stuck with the traditional Spanish dishes.

Garlic mushrooms at Pulpo

Bread topped with fresh tomato and Manchego cheese at Pulpo

Finally, if you want something much, much more upscale (read: expensive), check out Taberna del Alabardero, which also offers a separate vegetarian menu.  I will review Taberna del Alabardero separately at some point in the near future because it deserves its own post. 

All of the places mentioned above are listed on the Washington, DC Restaurants page of this website.  Two additional Spanish tapas restaurants (which I have not included on the static list, mainly because I have grown intolerant of the noise levels at these places) are La Tasca in Chinatown and Boqueria in Farragut North.  The former is a local chain and offers numerous vegetarian options.  The latter is an NYC offshoot. 

TIP:  If you're actually traveling to Spain, check out my Barcelona post here.

UPDATE:  Click here for my separate write-up of Taberna del Alabardero and here for my write-up of DC's newest tapas restaurant, Barcelona. 

UPDATE:  Pulpo closed about a year after publishing this post.

Bodega Spanish Tapas & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Jaleo on Urbanspoon

Pulpo on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 9, 2013

DC Spotlight: A Taste of the South at Eatonville

Having recently traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana, and Columbia, South Carolina, I've been longing for my next fix of Southern cuisine.  Fortunately, Eatonville, right here in DC, is just what the doctor ordered.  

Eatonville not only serves a number of Southern classics, but its menu, which seems to change seasonally, clearly identifies a number of vegetarian and vegan items, including vegan gumbo, fried green tomatoes, and Cajun mushroom loaf.  It also offers a number of tofu dishes and locally grown vegetable sides.  Some of my favorite items are pictured below.

Honey-cornbread muffins

Fried green tomatoes, served with avocado and micro-greens salad, basil oil, saffron aioli

Grilled tofu and avocado salad with arugula, shitake mushrooms, roasted tomato, and apple-cider vinaigrette

Eatonville, named after author Zora Neal Hurston's hometown in Florida, is located in a spacious and colorful building on 14th Street, just north of U Street neighborhood.  Not by coincidence, it is located directly across the street from its sister restaurant, the very veg-friendly bar/lounge/cafe Busboys and Poets, dedicated to Langston Hughes.  

Eatonville is a fun place that also hosts a number of cultural events and other parties, often with live music.  Because of its festive atmosphere, tasty yet healthy food, and Southern-themed cocktails, it is one of my favorite places to spend holidays and other special occasions (I still have fond memories of the black-eyed pea chowder I had there a couple years ago on New Year's Eve).  It's also excellent for brunch, and, unlike in Birmingham, Alabama, you don't need to worry about whether the biscuits are made with lard (because they aren't)!

UPDATE:  Sadly, Eatonville, which had become one of my favorite restaurants, closed in February 2016 and reopened as Mulebone.  

Eatonville on Urbanspoon