Restaurant review – The Uptowner

I’m always a little uncomfortable calling a place without any tables to speak of a “restaurant”, but that’s not the point, here. I got lunch from the Uptowner, the new sandwich place just north of Columbia Heights Metro. I got a club wrap and a bag of BBQ soy chips. It was kind of expensive – about $9 – but the food was good. They have some vegetarian options, which is rare, and the guy behind the counter was quite pleasant. The layout is a little funny – you order in one room, and go next door to pick it up. I didn’t immediately see next door, and was worried that the sandwiches were going to be pre-wrapped and shipped from somewhere, but they’re made fresh next door. Anyway, I’ll go back at some point. I apologize to Julia’s Empanadas, where I planned to go, but the construction makes it very difficult to actually get to Julia’s. Maybe next time.

Coffee shop with fringe benefits

The wife and I took the kid out for her morning walk this morning and decided to stop in at Pan Lourdes, the new-ish coffee shop/bakery on 14th Street just north of Columbia Heights Target. It was great – they have a big refrigerator that makes a lot of noise and even vibrates the floor just a little bit. The kid slept like a rock in her stroller. She stirred a little bit when it cut off, but then went back to sleep. The coffee is nothing to write home about, but the baked goods are pretty awesome. I think they all come from the big bakery on 11th Street near Wonderland, but I’m not sure. It’s funny – I imagine someone from Central America would recognize most of the baked goods, but I sure didn’t. I mean, if I go into a Dunkin Donuts or something, I recognize what most of the things are without needing a sign. Maybe I can’t tell the difference between raisins and blueberries from across the counter, but at least I’d be close. At Pan Lourdes, nothing looks familiar. And they have nothing labeled. I suppose I could have asked the guy behind the counter, but that’s not as adventurous. I had something with a stripe of red frosting, and the wife had something with lemon. Both were good. We’ll definitely go back, for the fridge if nothing else. Everything is really cheap, too – four dollars and change for two pastries and two coffees.

Banana Leaves – Yum

Dinner was so good. I had the Grilled Honey Peanut Tofu with brown rice and the wife had the Malaysia Mee Goreng, and we each had a vegetarian spring roll. The website lets you choose a time for delivery. We chose 7:45, and the delivery guy arrived at 7:43. It’s funny, because the first time I heard of them, it was because I found the website, and I made fun of it for being really awful. And in some sense it still is really awful, but at least they spent their time (or, more likely, money) on an online ordering system rather than gobs of awful Flash. Well done, Banana Leaves. We will definitely be ordering again. Local blogging sensation Prince of Petworth mentioned Banana Leaves today, too. The commenters there aren’t all as positive about the place as I am, but what do they know?

Dancing bananas and surprising websites

Have you ever been to Banana Leaves at Connecticut and Florida NW? I went once when they first opened, and was pleased with the food. The bench seats were freshly varnished and stuck to my jeans, though. They have a pretty goofy website with a little dancing banana gif straight out of 1996, but they also have a pretty neat little online ordering system. It apparently doesn’t work too well in Firefox 3 on OSX (The wife’s computer, not mine), but it was fine on my work laptop (Firefox 3, XP). I just ordered dinner. I’m waiting for confirmation. The interface is a little bit three years ago, lacking the polish that we’ve become accustomed to, but it seems to work well. This is fantastic for those of us who would really like to abolish phones. I try not to ever have to talk on the phone. I did have to call them to make sure they deliver to us, although I could have just ordered and waited for them to say no, but that would have taken too much time. We’re trying to time delivery with the little Fusspot’s eating schedule so that maybe the wife and I can both eat together without a screaming baby. She’s been pretty good today, so we’re hopeful. I’ll let you know how the food is.

From the farmers market to your table at Poste

If you’re looking for a unique and interesting dinner in DC on a Thursday night, look no further. You have to make reservations in advance (Which requires a form. A form to fax in to get a dinner reservation. I feel so important.), and it books up (Although not last night), but the “To Market/To Market” dinner at Poste at Gallery Place is a fantastic way to spend a Thursday evening. We were supposed to go last week for our anniversary (My surprise for the wife, thanks to my coworker for the recommendation), but they were already booked. So we went tonight, and were the only ones doing the special dinner. The evening begins with greetings from the chef and your server. Then you’re whisked off to the farmers market across the street. We got a tour from the guy who runs it, and got to hear about all the different farmers who sell things there, and a little about what they sell. It’s a very warm and inviting atmosphere. And there’s a good chance you’ve eaten food from there even if you didn’t go yourself – many DC chefs show up there at opening with huge carts to take back to their respective restaurants. After the tour, we got a tour of the garden at Poste, which is inside their charming little courtyard, just past people drinking fruity martinis and glasses of wine. They grow all sorts of stuff to supplement what they buy. We got to taste their spinach leaves, which the chef picked while we were standing there. And then dinner. It’s a little pricey, and the organic wine pairing is also not cheap, but it’s a ton of food, and it’s delicious. We started with amuse-bouche. There was a salmon tartar with dijon mustard in a funny sweetish cone that was really good. My favorite was the yellowtail with fruit. They had fried squash blossom with cheese, and a very salty oyster. The second course was a gazpacho that I didn’t like very much. But the wife thought it was great, so I conclude that I just don’t like gazpacho. Next was a tomato salad, which was great. Different kinds of tomatoes, prepared different ways, with some fresh cheese from the market. And then fish with a mushroom sauce for me, and a pistou (Apparently French pesto – who knew?). Which brings me to another point – I mentioned when making the reservation that the wife eats seafood but no other meat, and that she can’t stand mushrooms, and they made sure not to serve her either one. That was followed by the “main course”. All the courses were small, but it ended up being plenty of food. I suppose that’s what happens when you have so many courses. Anyway, my main course was rabbit, which was delicious. I would never have ordered rabbit if I were choosing from a menu, but it was good. A little more meaty than chicken, I thought. The wife had ravioli with cheese and nettles from the garden, which was also delicious. That’s the hidden benefit of a partner who doesn’t eat meat – if your dinner has meat in it, you can taste hers and not share yours. Marry a vegetarian who can cook, kids – you won’t regret it. And finally the dessert course. There was a cheesecake with blackberries and sweet corn ice cream (Yes, I know that’s weird. Yes, it was good). There was a chocolate mousse, and olive oil cake with rosemary, dates, and creme fraiche ice cream. Just when we thought we were done, they brought out peaches, poached in paper, with a honey cheese sauce. They were fantastic, as well. And on the way out, they gave us little mason jars, one with pickled heirloom tomatoes, and one with apricot jam. If I did it again, I might skip the wine pairing. They were all good – I was especially surprised by the muscat that they served first, because I don’t generally like sweet wine, but it was very light and pleasant. But the wines were all white or rose. I would have liked a nice dry red. I suppose it doesn’t pair with summer vegetables, but they could make up an excuse and no one would call them on it. Except maybe super food snobs, and no one cares what they think, anyway. I wish I’d written down the wines we had (Well, I had, and the wife tried. It’s funny – the tables are high enough that you can’t really see that she’s pregnant), but I didn’t think to bring a notepad. The service was great. We got a lot of attention from a number of different people, and never had to wait long when we needed a server. The atmosphere in the restaurant was good, although the bathroom is quite a hike (Through the hotel lobby, around the corner, up the stairs, down the hall). The bar had a very Happy Hour crowd, although it wasn’t unpleasant. At the end of the night, we were quite happy with our evening. It was a lot of money, but it was also a lot of food, all of it delicious (Unless you don’t like gazpacho). If you love white wines and some sweetish light reds, go for the wine pairing, but if you’re more of a dry red person, you’re probably better off ordering your own wine. But we would definitely go back. And I think we’ll be visiting the farmers market sometimes, too – it’s nice to know about a market during the week, since so many are open only on a weekend day.

Finally made it to Commonwealth

Originally uploaded by thetejon

A friend and I met our wives at Commonwealth last night. It had been girls night – they met up in Arlington and had dinner. So the guys went to the Nationals game to watch the Rockies pummel the Nationals, I still haven’t seen a Nationals win in the new stadium. Anyway, since the wife is 37 weeks pregnant now, she got to choose the location, and she chose one near us. It was a beautiful night, so we sat outside. This means I didn’t really get a feel for the inside, but maybe we can do that next time. They were serving from their pub menu since it was late. We got an order of fries, which I didn’t actually try, but the table consensus was positive. They are large chunks of potato, so if that’s the way you like your fries, you’re in luck. And we tried the Scotch eggs, which were very good. And the service was good. I think my only complaint was the lack of any sort of description on the menu. We thought at first it was just the pub menu that didn’t have descriptions, but they brought us what I assumed was the regular menu, as well, because it had the drinks, and it didn’t have descriptions, either. Since there is a ton of stuff on the menu that’s a bit out of the ordinary, at least for this side of the pond, it seems that maybe descriptions on the menu would be nice. But if that’s the biggest complaint from a self-proclaimed complainer, I think the trip was a resounding success. I’m sure we’ll be back – my father-in-law has already been informed that there is a bar with outdoor seating and bubble and squeak on the menu, so it would take the intervention of the health department or some equally powerful entity to keep us from revisiting Commonwealth next time he comes down to visit.

The CommonWealth Gastropub is almost open

PoP Exclusive: First Look Inside the New Restaurant CommonWealth Opening Aug. 6th

Even with all the craziness it had a very warm and open feel. I was excited to see checkers and chess tables, an open bar area and some very comfortable seats. I am super stoked to try the place.

I hate it when restaurants don’t update their website. But I guess I’ll forgive them if the place ends up being as cool as people say it will be. I haven’t been past it yet – with the bum foot and pregnant wife, I haven’t been doing as much walking around as I might otherwise. But PoP’s pictures of the place look great, and this thread at suggests the beer selection will be good. This is also a great option for me next time I work from home and the wife admonishes me, “No PotBelly or Five Guys for lunch today!”. Although I don’t suppose obeying the letter and ignoring the spirit will win me many brownie points.

Awful website, great restaurant

The wife and I had dinner at Rumba Cafe in Adams Morgan last night. It was a 1000 point reservation at Open Table, which puts us almost to a $50 gift certificate to any restaurant that deals with Open Table, which is awesome. The Rumba Cafe website seems to be under maintenance this morning (I think it should be euthanized, personally (And did you know that “euthanized” isn’t in the default Firefox dictionary? Weird)), but no matter. We sat outside, since it was so nice last night. The service was very good, the beer mediocre, and the food was excellent. I had the steak with a fried egg on top, served with rice and black beans and a fried plantain. Reminded me of Costa Rican “casados”, which I love. The wife had some kind of fish, I forget what, but it was good, too. I highly recommend Adams Morgan when it’s not overrun with kids (By kids I mean 23-year-olds). 8PM on a Tuesday it’s alive with people (Plenty of kickballers and others just out for dinner or a drink) but doesn’t have that “everyone around you is wasted” vibe that it gets on the weekend. It was just a nice spring evening.