Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pulpo in Cleveland Park

          Speaking of tapas, Ms. Classy and I usually don’t consider this dining style because, we do enjoy the variety of flavors, but are bummed when the bill comes after eating our fill.  The kind people of Pulpo invited us in for a tasting to see if they could sway our opinion.  Consider it swayed.  To our mutual delight, many of Pulpo’s Spanish-inspired tapas selections are much more fulfilling than anticipated.


The good people of Pulpo had quite a plan for us.  They started us off with the grilled asparagus with pistachio-orange pesto.  The pesto was AMAZING.  The only slight little hiccup of a drawback was that the ends of the asparagus spears were too fibrous.  No big deal, we just clipped off were the stalks ceased being perfectly tender and enjoyed the tasty parts.  The next dish presented to us was the scallops in a sweetcorn puree with sides of pickled chilies and angry popcorn.  I have to admit, I was a bit confused by the ‘angry’ popcorn.  With a name like ‘angry,’ I was expecting blow-the-back-of-your-head-off heat, but the puffy kernels were merely sprinkled with paprika.  It provided a nice color/texture presentation, but flavor wise, I didn’t think the popcorn added anything to the scallop dish overall.  As far as the scallops go, they were heavily seared on the outside, but perfectly cooked on the insides.  The next item up for bids was the sautéed octopus.  I was pleased with the tenderness of the pieces and the fennel added a nice touch.

One dish we were most pleased with was the beef brisket.  First of all, the serving size was substantial compared to your standard serving from tapas joints.  This flavorful meat sits atop a black bean puree that really adds a nice depth of rich flavor.  Next came the slow roasted pork belly and I tell you, it was heaven on a platter.  The outsides were amazingly crispy and the insides were so tender and succulent.  I literally melted when I tried it.  Another generously portioned and highly recommended dish is the bacon Brussels sprouts. Now these things were roasted.  The outer leaves were quite charred and brittle with a tender, flavorful core.  Ms. Classy felt they were a bit over-charred, but I didn’t mind at all.  And, well let’s be honest, there’s bacon.  The only way bacon ruins a dish by poor preparation, which wasn’t the case here.  And our final savory selection were the smoked pork tacos.  These were the best pork tacos I’ve had, hands down.  The meat was just the right amount of moist, tender, and smoky (much better than the ones I’ve had at Oyamel).


Our dinner ended as many dinners do: with dessert.  They served us a heaping tres leches V2.0.  This isn’t your standard tres leches cake that’s saturated with sweet dairy goodness.  This is goat cheese frosting between two slices of angel food cake, with ducle de leche drizzled over top, surrounded by sheep milk foam, blueberries, and crumble.  It was quite good and sizable.  But I have to confess, this is a dish we wouldn’t have minded them sticking to tradition.  It’s hard to beat saturated spongecake.
          Overall, we loved our meal and were impressed with the portion sizes, prices, and quality when compared to other tapas restaurants.  If you want exceptional drink deals, visit during their happy hour from 4pm to 7:30 and then again from 10pm to closing where all drinks are half price: no exception, no joke.

-Mr. Cheap Eats

Pulpo: 3407 Connecticut Ave NW, (202) 450-6875
Pulpo on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 22, 2013

We, the Pizza in Capitol Hill

          Since I loved Good Stuff Eatery (I even hand delivered a Sunnyside burger to Ms. Classy at her place of work just so she could experience the burger bliss), it was only a matter of days before I stopped by for a visit to We, the Pizza.
          When viewing the plethora of unconventional pizzas, I felt overwhelmed and indecisive.  However, I was visiting during the best time for speedy service and prompt turn-around time from ordering to eating: the doldrums between lunch and dinner.  Even though I had plenty of time to decide, I felt the intense pressure of a dozen or so unique and appealing pizza options pulling me in a dozen directions.  I could not decide, so I opted for a slice of the ‘pizza of the month’ before knowing what it was, which turned out to be spicy chorizo and corn salsa.  Their wings prices are reasonable, so I ordered a side of six Sriracha Hot & Honey Sweet wings.  Altogether, the tab totaled $10.00, managing to stay on par with my definition of a cheap eat.
          When I received my order, I found a seat and pondered where to start.  I have an obsession with
wings and immediately wanted to start there, however, the less time a pizza spends between the oven and your mouth, the better it is, so I went with the latter.  When I picked up the pizza slice, it held its shape.  I LOVE a firm, crunchy crust where the plate’s only purpose is to catch the crumbs instead of the dripping ingredients from a sagging slice.  The real kicker is that the crust also managed to have a bit of chewiness – absolute crust perfection.  As far as the flavor goes, it was very interesting.  I’ve never had corn on a pizza, but it worked.
          However, the real stars of the lunch were the wings.  I know I’m not being objective here, I am wing-obsessed, but these were great.  I chose the homemade ranch sauce with the hopes that I didn’t need to use it, because good wings can stand alone without the help of any sauce.  These wings had an excellent heat and sweet one-two punch.  The breading had just the right amount of thickness and the size and quality of the chicken were excellent.  I wanted to grab my phone and start canonizing my wing experience as it was happening, but this was a sticky-finger meal, so I had to wait until I scrubbed, rinsed, and scrubbed my hands again before touching anything.

          Will I go back?  Whenever I’m in or near the neighborhood.  I’m making it a personal goal to sample the four other wing flavors.  I could also pick up a Sunnyside burger at Good Stuff Eatery and compliment it with wings from We, the Pizza, but I don’t think I will.  Such a lunch experience would be my equivalent to summiting Everest.  Sure, having the Perfect Lunch would be monumental, but there would be a touch of sadness at knowing I've reached the highest point and a step away in any direction would be a step downward. 

-Mr. Cheap Eats

We, the Pizza: 305 Pennsylvania Ave SE  202-544-4008
We, the Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Founding Farmers in Foggy Bottom

I know, Founding Farmers is definitely not a place for a cheap fellow like me, and you're right (I'll talk about my bill later).  However, they do have wings on the menu and it's my civic duty to try all the wings DC has to offer.  Since it was about 10 minutes to happy hour, I inquired about Founding Farmers happy hour offerings, but my cheer was deflated with the news that they did not participate in such tomfoolery.
  With no happy hour to cure the 'I'm paying full price' blues, I got down to business and ordered the plate of Oven-Roasted Black Pepper Wings, along with a Lime Basil Saison brought in from 3 Stars Brewery.  When the wings came, I couldn't help but notice they looked amazing, and they were.  The shimmery soy glaze, chopped scallions, with a squeeze of fresh lime drizzled over top and the zip of pepper gave a complexity of flavors that's a rare find in an order of wings.  The quality of cooking as also top notch: crispy on the outside with tender, juicy chicken on the inside.
However, this was not the perfect wing experience.  I had one problem: this plate of six wings cost $9.00, with an $8.00 beer to boot.  I've been to other places whose regular priced wings have exceeded the 1:1 dollar:wing ratio, but not by this much and they also offered a happy hour where the prices of wings and beer were significantly reduced.
In the end, yes, the wings were amazing (they'd better be at that price, or they would have had a one-man riot on their hands), but they were also the most expensive and not even the best of the best that I've had.  In a town that specializes in high-end happy hours, I don't consider Founding Farmers to be in the top echelon of restaurants that are above having one.

-Mr. Cheap Eats

Founding Farmers: 1924 Pennsylvania Ave NW 202-822-8783
Founding Farmers DC on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 16, 2013

Capitol City Brewing Company turned 21

          This month, Capitol City Brewing Company turned 21 and celebrated by adding a new brew to their lineup:  Honey 21.  I was pleased to get an invite to the birthday bash, as I'm always pleased when I have evidence that someone actually reads my blog.
          A few of the big bloggers in town were also in attendance, each with an entourage.  I grabbed a complimentary Honey 21 and did my best to stay out of the way as I watched these entourages intermingle.  Realizing I was reliving every high school dance I've ever attended, I quickly joined in the jabbering.  Soon, appetizers were served, and I immediately locked onto the plates of Buffalo and Old Bay wings.  There were several other non-wing items presented, but I don't recall what they were.  Brushing all conversation aside, I plucked a couple wings from each plate.  I usually don't order 'Old
Bay' anything because I imagine the seasoning applied to the ordered food item with one of those baseball game t-shirt cannons: to mean that there is usually WAY too much Old Bay heaped upon the order.  However, these wings were complimentary and also had a sensible dusting of Old Bay that didn't require an immediate palate cleanse after every nibble.  The Buffalo wings were not breaded and the sauce is made in-house.  Overall they were good.  The flavors were standard, the quality of the chicken was good, the cooking was spot on, but they didn't stand out.
          Eventually, my hunger escalated.  I slid up to the bar, tried the Smokey Wheat beer and ordered the Tuna Steak Sandwich.  The bartender plunked down a basket of complimentary soft pretzels with a horseradish-based sauce to keep me occupied while my dinner was being prepared.  The bartender was awesome: quick service and full of witty banter.  The Tuna Steak Sandwich finally arrived.  The tuna was impressively thick and wonderfully seasoned.  However, it was cooked within an inch of its life.  I would have preferred the tuna to be seared on the outside and deliciously red on the inside, but this was white and dry all the way through.
          Unfortunately, the food was overall disappointing.  What I enjoyed most was the busy sports bar atmosphere and the friendly and funny bartender.  If your main goal is a place with lots of seating, micro-brewed beers, and lots of sports on lots of televisions, with friendly and entertaining service, then this place should be on your short list.  If you're looking to sit down to tasty bar fare, there are better options.

-Mr. Cheap Eats
Capitol City Brewing Company: 202-628-2222  1100 New York Ave NW
Capitol City Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Good Stuff Eatery in Capitol Hill

The Good Stuff Eatery has been on my ‘to eat’ list for quite a while.  I’ve read numerous postings about the awesome burgers and viewed mouth-watering pictures of the hand-spun shakes all over twitter and tumblr.  Well, this day was my time to shine.

The lunch hour was officially underway and the tail of the snaking line was nearly poking through the door.  This was to my benefit, since I was at the restaurant that’s the heart of the Venn diagram where cheap and delicious overlap and I was feeling indecisive about which burger to choose.  To my chagrin, the line moved quickly and I was forced to come to a decision, or else face the ire of the dozens of patrons behind me.  Since I skipped breakfast, the Spike’s Sunnyside burger seemed an appropriate choice.

The menu cautions to have plenty of napkins at the ready when ordering this burger.  As I’ve mentioned before, despite my best efforts, I’m a messy eater and I was sporting my professional garb – but the burger looked irresistible.  I ordered it and promised myself to eat it with exceeding caution (famous last words). 

The menu warning was necessary; it is a sloppy burger.  I tossed my tie back over my shoulder, inched my chair back, then leaned forward with my elbows jutted out and up, as if I was about to do a seated version of the chicken dance, and bit into the juicy, wonderful burger.  A mixture of yolk and Good Stuff Sauce slopped onto the paper-lined tray, but my clothes were mercifully spared.

Was it good?  Oh doctor, yes!  I’ve had the fried egg on burger before, and this was perfection.  The consistency of the yolk added to the juiciness and richness of the burger.  The mayo-based Good Stuff Sauce doesn’t stand out, but ties the flavors together.  And every menu item at every restaurant on earth is made better with bacon.  For a side, I got a snack size Spike’s Village Fries.  The sprinkle of thyme, rosemary, and sea salt elevates these fries from good to gourmet.

I tweeted about my meal satisfaction and had an immediate response to try the toasted marshmallow shake, but my stomach was at capacity.  Oh well, that means I have incentive for a return visit.

Mr. Cheap Eats

The Good Stuff Eatery: 202-543-8222 303 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Good Stuff Eatery on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

You need to try the Poho style wings at Tommy Joe's in Bethesda

When I have unforgettable wings, I have to give a shout out.  This shout out goes to Tommy Joe’s in Bethesda and their amazing Poho style wings.  When a restaurant can take something as ubiquitous as wings and make them stand out and memorable, it’s worth recognition and revisits.

I had noticed Tommy Joe’s, what seemed to be a little smokehouse, quite some time ago and made a mental note to try them out when I happened to be hungry and nearby.  Well, eventually that day came.  I sauntered up to the bar during the quiet hours between lunch and dinner and was quickly handed a menu.  The first thing I search for is their wing offerings and if they only have the usual barbecue, buffalo, and plain/Old Bay, I check to see if any other items catch my eye, only returning if the rest of the items seem as unexciting as their wing flavors.  That’s when I saw the Poho style wings double basted in a secret sauce and finished on a grill.   I asked about this enigmatic item and the bartender explained that they are a popular item ad one of her favorites.  Capturing the spirit of anyone who has ever proclaimed ‘YOLO,’ I ordered these wings.

And am I glad I did.  The grill finish gave them a dry texture and a slight, smoky flavor.  I prefer dry wings over extra saucy wings due to my inability to keep my face clean while eating them.  There was a subtle spiciness, a little tangy, and an underlying peanut flavor.  These wings had a complex and unique flavor that really puts them in the top percentile of wing flavors.  There is no need for a dipping sauce, unless you want to mask the wonderful flavor of the wings.  Also, the chicken was good quality.  The wings were juicy and not loaded with fat and gristle.  Unfortunately, my visit was a couple hours before happy hour and I paid full price ($10.50 for 10 wings).  I’ll have to remember to return during happy hour, 4pm-8pm M-F, to get them half price.

-Mr. Cheap Eats

Tommy Joe's: 301-654-3801 4714 Montgomery Lane, Bethesda MD
Tommy Joe's on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 26, 2013

Review Request: Pret A Manger's new summer salads

Ms. Classy and I were invited to try a few summer salad selections from Pret A Manger’s summer menu.  Before arriving, Ms. Classy researched which items looked the most delectable while still being low-calorie. Based on the menu descriptions and nutritional information, we went with these three options:

Falafel Meze Salad – This salad consists of three falafels, fresh spinach and romaine lettuce, flavorful Kalamata olives, juicy grape tomatoes, and crisp red onions.  And what summer salad is complete without crisp cucumber slices?  The hummus is centralized in one scoop and the tzatziki sauce is secured in a small cup so you can use as much or as little as you like.  All the ‘cold’ elements were fresh, flavorful, and pleasing.  Unfortunately, we didn’t care for the falafels; they were very dry.

Wild Salmon Salad – This salad was our unanimous favorite.  Unfortunately we chose this one for the mini-size selection.  The fresh sockeye salmon, the tender mesclun, the slight pepperiness of the arugula, combined with the creaminess of the tzatziki sauce make this a tasty summer salad.

Italian Prosciutto & Quinoa Salad – I’m a newcomer to the joys of quinoa.  Now blended with edamame (already an established favorite with me), there’s no going wrong there.   And prosciutto is only second to bacon in the world’s most perfect meat contest.  There is only one flaw with this salad: there’s no sauce or dressing.  There is a lemon wedge for squeezing, but it is a dry salad.  Sure you could have something added, but that would also add to the calorie count.

We came away with a mixed view of our selections.  On one hand, hardcore calorie counters will not have to spend much time counting when ordering these options.  These salads are very low-calorie, can provide a satisfying meal, and still fit into highly calorie-restrictive diets, such as the fast diet.  Also, each of the ingredients were fresh and of the highest quality.  On the other hand, we could also tell that certain sacrifices were made to keep the calorie count low.  The falafels were very dry and the Italian Prosciutto & Quinoa Salad lacked a spread/dressing/sauce to tie all of the tasty ingredients together.  But dieting does require sacrifice and discipline and these salads to give a lot of flavor with satisfying serving sizes for the least amount of calories.  Ms. Classy and I recommend the Wild Salmon Salad for anyone looking for a tasty and satisfying low-calorie salad.

-Mr. Cheap Eats
Pret A Manger on Urbanspoon