District Taco – Arlington

30 03 2011

“You had me at taco.” – Taco Bell Sauce Packet

District Taco Exterior

Where did the Little Caesars go?

District Taco began life as a simple taco truck roaming the streets of Arlington. They mainly cater to lunchtime business customers in high density commercial areas (Crystal City, Rosslyn, etc.) But this past fall they opened up a brick and mortar establishment on Lee Highway (near Joe’s Pizza and Pasta). I knew about the taco truck and how good it was, as well as the opening of the Lee Highway location, but like many things in life I just kept putting it off. I don’t know the reason for my aversion, I like tacos, I like federal districts, what’s the problem? Anyways I finally went to District Taco with LGF and Brewdib and immediately regretted not going sooner.  This place is awesome.

DT Interior
Where’s the HFCS?

The interior set up at District Taco is pretty standard for a casual dining/semi-fast food restaurant. One notable exception though is the Boylan’s fountain soda machine. Boylan’s is a New Jersey based soda company, that unlike the larger soda conglomerates still uses cane sugar as its primary sweetener rather than the ubiquitous High Fructose Corn Syrup. There’s also a rather awesome salsa and condiments bar.

Tacos

Not my tacos, but I wish they were

I ordered two chicken tacos with black beans, jalapenos, and cheese. In the time it took me to find a seat and place my jacket and drink down the tacos were ready. I then went to the salsa bar, loaded them up with chopped onions and various salsas and was good to go. The quality of the chicken used was surprisingly good and you could really taste the fact that it was grilled (unlike Chipotle). I was also surprised at how much two tacos filled me up, but as you can see in the picture above you can stuff a lot into a taco. One of my friends got the habanero salsa (not available at the salsa bar, must be requested at the counter) and I poured a bunch on my second taco. This salsa is no joke, if you love spicy food I highly suggest it. (Note: Habanero salsa is excellent for giving to unsuspecting people that don’t like spicy things).

I highly suggest you go to District Taco and give them your business. Good food, good prices ($5 will get you two tacos and a water cup), and you’re supporting an independent establishment. The following day I went to Chipotle for lunch and honestly after District Taco I was disappointed by the subpar quality of the food and was wishing I had gone to District instead. Also District Taco will be doing sidewalk vending at Nationals games, as well as continuing to run the original taco truck.

Note: The images used in this review are not my own. Clicking on them will take you to the original source.

District Taco Website

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Caribbean Grill – Arlington

30 01 2011

“I now work for a finance company in Luxembourg with projects in South America and the Caribbean.”– Mathias Rust

Caribbean Grill Exterior

Plantain City, U.S.A.

I don’t know why it has taken us so long to write a review of the Caribbean Grill. We’ve eaten here before, some of us rather frequently (Heathcliff) due to proximity to our residence. The first thing we should have reviewed at Caribbean Grill probably should have been their rotisserie chicken (because there aren’t enough chicken places in Arlington). Their chicken is rather good but this isn’t a review of their chicken, it’s a review of their Cuban sandwich.

Cuban Sandwich
Fidel would be proud

The Cuban sandwich was somewhat of a let down. It looks fantastic and incredibly appetizing if you’re as hungry as I was, but it’s lacking in the flavor department. I was surprised how something that looked so good could be so bland. The bread they used was fantastic, perfectly toasted and crispy. The ham and pork that made up the sandwich was of fine quality as well. It just seemed as if it hadn’t been spiced at all. I also expected more robust flavor out of the mustard, which was also a let down. I even used the available yellow and green sauces on the table, but they appear to be watered down in comparison to their peers at El Pollo Rico or Crisp & Juicy. To sum up the Cuban: great sandwich in every aspect but flavor.

The fried plantains seemed to contain all the flavor that the Cuban Sandwich lacked. Perfectly fried and caramelized, these were the highlight of my meal. On a cold night, these plantains warmed me up and were a great compliment to the sandwich. They made a great “dessert”; sweet but not too sweet. The one thing I really wish I had was a bowl of vanilla ice cream to add them to. These are a must have at Caribbean Grill–just make sure you order the chicken as an entree.

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Note: The image of the exterior of the restaurant is not my own. Clicking on it will take you to the source.





Shawarma Spot – Adams Morgan

15 12 2010
Shawarma Spot

I hope it's shawarma inside because it's cold out here

Ever since the Lebanese Butcher in Falls Church burned down, there has been a general shawarma deficiency in my life. I had read about this place in the Washington Post and knew it was good. My friend Punches had also been there and had compared it to some of the best shawarmas he experienced while studying abroad in the Middle East. One day we had a hankering for shawarma that could not be stopped so we drove to Adam’s Morgan for Sharwarma Spot.

The shawarmas at Shawarma Spot were different than most of those that I’ve had. It turns out I’ve mostly had Lebanese and Egyptian style shawarmas. They’re very simple, well-spice and are done in a wrap style. The ones at Shawarma Spot are closer to the style found in Israel according to Punches. The Israeli style is a bit more akin to Western culinary practices, ie., stuff full of toppings and packed to the brim. They split open the pita round and stuff the shawarma inside (similar to the falafel down the road at Amsterdam Falafel). Punches ordered a beef shawarma and I went with the chicken. First they toasted the pita round, stuffed it with whatever you wanted from the toppings bar, put the meat in it, and finally applied the desired sauces to it.

Chicken Shawarma

Gone in 60 Seconds

In my shawarma I got hummus, turnips, cucumber and tomato salad, onions, what appeared to be a cilanto based salad, tahini, and hot sauce. There were even more toppings available that I didn’t pick, just to give you an idea of the diversity of their offerings. After I took this picture I took one bite, realized just how good this shawarma is, and then promptly destroyed the entire sandwich. The chicken was grilled to perfection and really warmed me up from the cold weather outside. The vegetable toppings (particularly the cucumber and tomato salad) provided a crisp, cool contrast to the warmth of the chicken and provided the sandwich with a great “crunch” to it. What really put the sandwich over the top though was the hot sauce. It had an excellent amount of heat to it, so even though I hadn’t purchased a drink, one wasn’t necessary after a couple minutes. It’s taste and heat was reminiscent of Sriacha, and paired perfectly with the cooling Tahini sauce.

This was one of the best sandwiches I have ever had. It was fresh, great tasting, and had the benefit of being relatively good for you. Afterwards I had a feeling of satisfaction that is normally only reserved for my favorite places. Shawarma Spot is definitely on-par with its neighbor Amsterdam Falafel down the street. If there is any place that can fill the shawarma void left by the Lebanese Butcher, it is Shawarma Spot.

Shawarma Spot Website

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Note: The image of the exterior is not my own. Clicking on it will take you to the Shawarma Spot website (original source).





Sweetwater Tavern – Merrifield

15 11 2010

“Always take a good look at what you’re about to eat. It’s not so important to know what it is, but it’s critical to know what it was.” – Traditional Cowboy Quote

Cowboy Mural
It’s like being in a Roy Rogers, but classier

After we attempted to come to the desert-themed Sweetwater Tavern for lunch during the week only to find the place jam-packed with hungry employees from nearby office parks, we decided to come back during the weekend. So we did, on a Sunday (the most cowboy of days). A few of my friends had been out here and told me of the gloriousness that was the Brown Butter Sauce at Sweetwater. Never one to stray away from a good sauce or gravy, I decided to mosey on down with them (Last cowboy joke, I promise.).

Even though we went in the early afternoon on a Sunday, we were seated immediately. Sweetwater is a very large establishment with what appeared to be multiple bars (with ample seating around them) equipped with flatscreens showing football games. (I sort of could watch the Colts play the Browns from my booth, not that I care about either team.) Despite being relatively close to a bar, it wasn’t exceedingly loud and we were easily able to hear each other while we conversed. The complimentary bread was also pretty solid, I definitely preferred the miniature rolls to the cheese-infused, half-slices of bread. We ordered the Fried Calamari as an appetizer (I know, this goes against everything I stand for). Calamari can really be hit or miss; here, it was most definitely a hit. It was served with some fried onion slices in this buttery red sauce (sorry for the lack of an image). The batter used to fry the calamari and onions was so light that it enabled the taste of the meat and onion to not be overpowered. It also didn’t fill you up too much, leaving you room for your entrée.

Brown Butter Sauce
Pollo a la Brasa for white people

Following in the steps of those before me I ordered the “Half Young Chicken with Brown Butter Sauce.” The mashed potatoes served on the side were excellent, especially if you like the skins left in them (I don’t really care.). They had a great consistency to them and weren’t dry at all, which is really all you need to for your mashed potatoes to be great. The corn served on the side was surprisingly good (I’m not a huge fan of corn), though it helped that I first coated the corn in Brown Butter Sauce.

Now that we’ve taken care of the side dishes, onto the chicken. The chicken is essentially Pollo a la Brasa with a crunchier skin that’s even saltier than what they serve at South of the Border. I know what you’re saying, how salty can it really be? The skin is like eating a soft pretzel where you have to knock off 75% of the salt granules to even possibly consume it. Even with all the salt, I couldn’t stop, for whatever reason, I just couldn’t. The aforementioned Brown Butter Sauce, the reason we came to Sweetwater, is a relative of chicken gravy. It’s chicken gravy’s thinner, lighter, more attractive cousin. (It also tastes sweet and nutty–an almond-like tasteHeathcliff).

This meal wasn’t anything fancy, just comfort food done very well (and at $12 for the chicken it better be). If I went back to Sweetwater, I’d definitely sample some choice beverages from their fairly extensive beer list. If I had to describe the Sweetwater Tavern in one word it would be: safe. I would be comfortable ordering any dish off the menu or any beer they offer knowing that there would be a high probability that I would enjoy it. Sweetwater is part of a group of restaurants, so that’s probably what they’re going for.

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Super Pollo – Arlington

5 11 2010

“My chicken is good, but my neighbor’s looks better” – Romanian Proverb

 

Old Super Pollo

Rest in Peace OG Super Pollo

 

Super Pollo is one of the more notable Pollo a la Brasa joints in Arlington and was a fantastic option for lunch during high school. They sold their own location, which like much of Arlington is being converted into some ridiculous mixed-use high rise. Fortunately for the chicken-consuming public they moved down Wilson Boulevard and set up shop again. This is a review of their new location and perhaps our first Peruvian chicken review not about Pollo a la Brasa. Shocking, is it not?

 

New Super Pollo Location

New Hotness

 

One Sunday we were driving around to get lunch quickly before football started and we were in the mood for burritos, but just couldn’t go to Chipotle or California Tortilla for some reason. Then one of my friends remembered that Super Pollo had burritos so off we went. Two chicken burrito orders later and we were waiting in line for them, still waiting, still waiting, still waiting, and then we finally got them. I don’t know if they were training new employees or what the deal was but the wait for the burritos was at least twice as long as the wait for a standard chicken platter, so take that into consideration when ordering.

 

Menu

This is where I waited for an eternity for my burrito

 

The burritos at Super Pollo are fairly standard to what one expects in a burrito: meat, rice, beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, sour cream, etc. The quality of the chicken used here far surpasses that found at chain burrito places and is what sets Super Pollo apart. The beans they served in the burrito were pinto, which I enjoyed a bit more than I expected since I normally go the black bean route in burritos. This meal was all about doing something different, so it fell in line with the ethos of our outing. The side order of fries that came with my burrito were typical of those served at Pollo a la Brasa joints, so no complaints here. Take advantage of Super Pollo’s numerous options for sides, it’s truly what sets them apart from other Pollo a la Brasa places. The burrito was a nice change of pace and was exactly what I was searching for that Sunday afternoon. That being said nine times out of ten, I’d rather get the standard chicken platter here. It’s quicker, a better value, and the main reason to come here.

Side Note: The images used in this review are not my own, clicking on them will take you to the original site.

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