Pluma

I don’t usually do breakfast at all, let alone breakfast out, but it was Wednesday, and I was desperately needing to take myself on a coffee date. And sometimes on dates, things just happen that we might later regret. In this case, food.

First of all, even since the last time I reviewed a place in Union Market, this place has changed significantly. I live basically around the corner and I didn’t even realize until last weekend all the hipster eateries and shops that have sprung up in between the Chinese butcheries. This whole area now smells like a weird mixture of pig blood and avocado toast (a menu option that appears–laughably–on the menus at both Pluma and Blue Bottle across the street).

I perused the pastries. I fretted over the menu. And then I settled on maybe the most unhealthy thing on the entire menu: the breakfast sammy. And a latte.

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The latte:

Mellow, smooth, bitter, and creamy. Small, but at $4, still a better deal than the $7 paper-cup, too-cold POS latte I got last weekend across the street at Blue Bottle (it didn’t even have latte art!) This was a great drink to chill out with by the window with a good book.

 

 

The breakfast sammy includes green salsa, pork belly, and a runny egg served on Pluma’s fresh sourdough. In short, it puts other breakfast sandwiches to shame. The toasty sour bread held up okay to the wet salsa, but the real pleasure of this was in the thick, maple-y sweet slab of pork belly that, while not exactly being fork-tender, had a great crust around the edge that reminded me of a solid BBQ bark. And if you like your eggs as runny as possible, you’ve come to the right place.

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So, like many dates, this one ended with a decision that wasn’t exactly the best, but that I don’t really regret either.

Price: $15 per person.

Bottom line: Mmmmm.

Panino Gourmet

It was another lazy Sunday evening and once again I was charged with the impossible task of choosing food for dinner. “I don’t care what it is as long as it magically shows up at my house!” shouted my husband. We were both a little grumpy.

Fortunately, Uber Eats has entirely too many options, and none of the things that I had actually planned on eating. So it actually took me longer to decide where to order from than it did for my food to arrive at my house. I might want to seek help for my chronic indecisiveness but I’m not sure how I’d ever choose a counselor. [Shrug].

To make a long story short, I chose Panino Gourmet. My husband went with the Cubano and I ordered the ever-so-slightly not-a-Cubano Uruguayan specialty called the Chivito. Here’s the Cubano:

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It was cheesy and had ample meats and pickles. The bread, on the other hand, was lacking. The chili cheese fries didn’t travel well and were completely congealed by the time they arrived, but this is no fault of Panino Gourmet. They were more cheese than chili.

The Chivito also had the flavorful pork tenderloin but added a very satisfying mix of olives, bacon, hard-boiled egg, mayo, and veggies. The bread was the same but not grilled, and didn’t hold up that well to the wet ingredients, but it was still incredibly delicious. I ordered the side salad, and as lame as this sounds, it was probably the best side salad I’ve received from a take-out restaurant. Quality.

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We also ordered two of their house sauces: the jalapeno diablo and the red pepper mayo. We didn’t have anything in mind to actually use these sauces on, but my husband insisted. They were both fantastic, and the jalapeno was actually Central American spicy instead of gringo-spicy. These two were just wasted potential since we didn’t know what to add them to. I put some jalapeno diablo on my sandwich, which improved it. I would love to see Panino Gourmet create some original flavor combos using their sauce.

Price: $15 per person.

Bottom line: Panino Gourmet is tasty enough to eat again, especially if you reealllllllly don’t want to leave your house.

Meats and Foods

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Yes, Meats and Foods might be the most unimaginative name ever for a restaurant. Ever. And yes, their menu is…sparse. But what they lack in cool names and menu options, they make up for in heart. And collectible Garfield mugs from McDonald’s. But mostly heart.

Meats and Foods features five unique sausages and four toppings, which, if my sixth grade math skills serve me correctly, means there are exactly twenty menu combinations (assuming a safe one topping per sausage) or 120* menu options if you could choose as many toppings as possible, which is inadvisable. Because their sausages are served a la carte, my husband and I not only ordered our two, but also ordered a chilito. It looked like this:

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It may not look like much, but oooooh my god, the chili inside was fantastic. Just a big roll of meaty, cheesy, toasty goodness right here. Good job, Meats and Foods. Set yourself up for success. That was some good meat. And food.

I had the chicken-jalapeno sausage with sauerkraut, while my husband ordered the chorizo with pickles. The chicken-jalapeno actually had the grainy texture of real sausage, not the nasty, too-smooth texture that chicken sausage often gets. It had pieces of vegetables inside, and a strong infusion of turmeric. It was absolutely and unexpectedly great. The chorizo was also an excellent blend of spicy and gentle sweetness. I’m not sure pickles were the best pairing, but that’s all on my husband. Their house-made hot sauce is an excellent, vegetal, and spicy companion to all sausages.

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My complaints are small:

  1. These are served on Martin’s potato rolls. I am normally all about that shit, but they just didn’t hold up to the fats in the sausage and the juices in the pickle-y things. They need pretzel buns or, at the very least, toasted rolls.
  2. I wish they had sides. I don’t require a lot of food to live but I needed more than one tiny sausage. Hit me up with some coleslaw.
  3. I would love to see more toppings with recommendations of combinations. Maybe some quirky names? You can name a sandwich** after me. Think about it. They might also want to visit Yang’s Market for some advice in this arena.

Price: $10 per person.

Bottom line: Great, unique sausages with untapped potential. Bonus: mozy on over to Truxton Inn next door for some post-sausage cocktails.

*5 x 4! = 120

**Yeah, I called a hot dog a sandwich. I also tagged this post as “sandwiches.” I am one of those people who believe that both burgers and hot dogs are sandwiches and I will absolutely fight you over this opinion.

Colada Shop

If I were a smarter person, I might have tried not walking to 14th Street in 95 degree weather. Nor sitting outside. But I guess now I got the full Havana experience at Colada Shop, yet another cutesy place that combines my two favorite things: coffee and cocktails. 11:45 a.m. on a Tuesday is not too early for me to drink when I’m on summer vacation. Actually, maybe Colada Shop has my three most favorite things: coffee, cocktails, and pork.

My friend agreed to go splitsies with me, and I’m glad she did because the Cubano is enormous. I ate half and am not sure how I’m going to eat dinner in five hours. The bread was perfect, with a nice crunch, and the mustard was prevalent. The shredded pork was cooked well but kind of bland. What did they even do to pork to make it not-flavorful?! In general, I’d say this sandwich was good but could have used 25% more of everything. I’m not even sure I tasted pickles.

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I finished up with a mojito (yes, at 11:45. Don’t judge me) and two pastelitos: the savory piccadillo and the guava-cheese. The mojito was small, standard, but half-off thanks to the Teacher Passport program. I’ll just choose to not complain. There are lots of other people who had to go to work today and couldn’t spend late morning sipping rum cocktails in short shorts. Suckas!

The piccadillo pastry had the classic salty-sweet combination from the meat and raisins, and the guava-cheese was sweet without being cloying, but they both left something to be desired.

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I picked up an iced cafe con leche on my way out in an attempt to beat the heat on my walk home (spoiler: it didn’t work). The coffee was probably the best part of lunch, though! It was rich and nutty but not super strong.

Price: $15 per person.

Bottom line: You could do worse than Colada Shop in terms of coffee, sandwiches, or general vibe. I wish I had gotten to try one of their more creative cocktails, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Old City Market and Oven

When I made my “to-eat” list for the summer, I called Old City Market and Oven “The Place Near Whole Foods” because I can’t possibly be expected to remember this long of a restaurant name despite the fact that I drive past it once a week and every time I do drive past it, I think “Huh. I should really remember the name of that place so I can go eat there.” I had to do a thorough scouring of google maps to find the right place. After a long day to cap off a long weekend, I was thrilled to see that Old City Market would deliver food to me for the low low delivery charge of $5.99. Fortunately for them, my laziness won out over my cheapskatiness on this one occasion only.

Their menu is long and varied and I thought all was lost when I couldn’t narrow down my selection past the final two dinner contenders. But then my husband said, “You choose for me. You know what I like.” Have more beautiful words ever been spoken? A more selfish wife might have ordered herself two sandwiches with little thought for her spouse. A more selfish wife could have ordered the roast salmon sandwich she kind of wanted.

I ordered the summer corn salad as a side. It sounded pretty standard but I was starving and they’re a little lacking in side dishes. For my first sandwich–I mean, my husband’s sandwich, of course–I got the skewer chicken sandwich, and for myself I ordered the pear and chorizo panini.

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The corn salad was refreshing, I can’t lie. Red bell peppers and cilantro made it stand out. It was a good-size portion too, but it was nothing super innovative.

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The skewered chicken flatbread was solid. The chicken pieces were moist and lightly spiced, tzatziki and feta are always winners, and the addition of artichoke hearts was mildly interesting. The flatbread itself felt fresh and homemade, with a texture somewhere between a flour tortilla and naan. 10/10 would eat again.

Now we come to my panini: it doesn’t look like much, and it wasn’t exactly what I expected, but damn it was tasty. Crispy multigrain bread held up only okay to the addition of fig jam and chorizo grease, but it had a nice texture. The pears inside were ripe and plentiful–maybe too plentiful as they kind of overwhelmed the meat. The jam was pretty sweet too. The chorizo, while not being the whole sausage I was expecting but rather thinly-sliced cured meat, was still delicious and mildly spicy. My only other commentary was that provolone was way too mild of a cheese to stand up to the other bold flavors in this. Stinky brie or bust. But for real, I wolfed this down and not just because I was hungry; it was actually really good.

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Price: $12 per person.

Bottom line: You want some fresh, semi-creative, and reasonably-priced noms near H Street? You could probably make all this food yourself but why? They deliver.

Takoma Bev Co.

Full disclosure: I’m morally obligated to love this place because it’s owned by a former teacher from my school. Also, I’m jealous that they have cornered the market on combination coffee shops/bars because this is the perfect restaurant concept that doesn’t exist enough. But I’ll try to separate my feelings about the ownership and concept from my actual review. Let’s get down to it!

Once again this weekend, we came upon a nearly empty restaurant with a fantastic-looking menu. Is this the Walking Dead? Are we going to have to barricade ourselves in the restaurant and hunker down with whatever living souls happen to be working there? Takoma is such a neighborhoody place, why was nobody out and about at this cutesy shop?

At Takoma Bev Co., you have to order at the counter and place a number on your table. I’m normally opposed to this structure. If you’re paying someone to bring my food out, why can’t you pay someone to come over and take my order? On the other hand, this enabled us to grab a comfy couch to sit on. We eat dinner exclusively on the couch at home, why not do it in a restaurant too?

I ordered the special happy hour house cocktail and my husband got a sour beer from Oliver. The cocktail was a perfect blend of sweet rum, tartness from the pineapple, and herbal chamomile. It was one of the better craft cocktails I’ve had in recent memory.

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For dinner, we ordered three dishes: the brussels sprouts, the octopus, and the braised short rib. All three were brought out together. The sprouts were well-cooked, but had gone slightly slack from the lentils and yogurt that accompanied them. The sweet-sour cranberries went well with the bitterness from the sprouts but they could have been crispier. Still very tasty.

I really really enjoyed my octopus. It was cut into small pieces so that it would mix well with the crispy fried potatoes in the bowl. As such, it was a little hard to find pieces of octopus but on the other hand, it had a great texture, definitely not too chewy, and I loved the paprika aioli with the whole thing. The short rib was very soft and flavorful, with creamy potatoes to boot. All three of our dishes were on the smaller side, but reasonably priced for what they were.

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We sprung for three kinds of dessert: a homemade chocolate cookie, a porter, and a mocha latte (bonus: taking home a bomber of special edition beer from the Bruery!) The cookie was chocolatey, chewy heaven. It is pictured below in half-eaten form because it was already mostly gone by the time we got back to the table. The Founder’s Porter is obviously good, but this is not news to anyone. The mocha was rich and sweet, but not artificial tasting the way some chocolate syrups are. It was a luxury for me to drink a sweet coffee drink and totally worthy of the splurge.

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Price: $25 per person.

Bottom line: Takoma Bev Co. is great fodder for any time of day and just a nice, cozy hangout spot. You can have all your caffeine, alcohol, and sustenance needs met while you’re fighting off zombies, if it comes to that.

Halfsmoke

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When I checked out their menu, Halfsmoke looked like essentially Chipotle with hotdogs. So basically, a perfect place for my husband’s grandmother. I was really confused about why a Chipotle knockoff would take reservations, and I felt like a total dumbass making said reservations, but when we arrived, Halfsmoke turned out to be so much more than just Chipotle and more than just sausages. They were also…

Trapper Keepers! Yes, Halfsmoke organizes their menu in actual old-school Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers. The unicorns and rainbows were super appropriate too, because it turns out that Halfsmoke exists in some fairy dreamworld where leprechauns deliver housemade bratwursts and cocktails only cost $5.

I don’t want to spend too much time on the drinks. Let’s just say they have craft beer and decent house cocktails and I have literally never paid so little money for a drink in my entire life and happy hour runs until 8 oh my god.

Halfsmoke is really only Chipotle-esque in the sense that you pick a format (rice, salad, sandwich, or flatbread), a sausage, and fixins. They have a few pre-designed recommendations, but nahhh. The four of us (grandma didn’t show up, that ingrate!) each ordered our food in a different format. I ordered a salad with the lamb merguez, broccoli rabe, roasted red peppers, spiced eggplant, and tahini dressing. I hate eggplant and I ordered it as a test, because sometimes it’s really good and sometimes it tastes like eating a shoe. Impress me, Halfsmoke. I dare you.

My husband got a flatbread with mumbo sauce, smothered onions, a halfsmoke, and beer cheese. I don’t even know what to say about this combination of foods except that this man is very lucky to have me to cook for him. Moving on… my father-in-law had a rice bowl with halfsmoke, mustard slaw, crispy onions, and honey mustard sauce. My mother-in-law, true to form, had a large piece of bread that happened to come with bratwurst, bacon, and crispy onions.

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I have many good things to say about all of these dishes. First, the sausages were just really good. All of them. Next, the eggplant test worked! This eggplant was tender, spicy, and savory, possibly even the best I’ve ever had. The lamb was the perfect protein for this dish. I wish I could have had crispy onions on mine too because these were delicious from the other dishes I tried around the table. The mustard slaw had a powerful flavor without being too much. The roll that the sandwiches come on was seriously good. I know some sandwich places that could learn a thing or two here. The flatbread was a light, crispy texture that my husband unfortunately destroyed with a mountain of bad decisions. Mumbo sauce is great and classic DC, but don’t hold out hope for making it your pizza sauce. He did finish the flatbread though, so I’m not sure if this reflects well on Halfsmoke or very, VERY poorly on my spouse. Somebody please save this man from himself.

I’ve never seen my mother-in-law more excited about anything than she was about the prospect of homemade funnel cake. And even though Halfsmoke doesn’t exactly advertise alcoholic milkshakes, they are a distinct possibility, what with regular milkshakes and happy hour-priced liquor. So my husband also got a vanilla milkshake with Maker’s Mark, like the real grownup he is.

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I have only a few suggestions for improvement. First, more ice cream flavors and a mixologist dedicated to adult milk shakes. Second, I know I joked about leprechauns before, but actual leprechauns or maybe fairy godmothers might be nice. Finally, they need someone in the kitchen to safeguard against the ungodly combination of mumbo sauce and beer cheese, like a kitchen bouncer. And when the kitchen bouncer hears a terrible flavor mixture, he can come over to whoever ordered that and flip the table over or something. Mr. T might be a good candidate for this job. So it sounds like Halfsmoke has some hiring to do. Chop chop!

Price: $20 per person.

Bottom line: You can get a fantastic meal and a great cocktail at Halfsmoke for less than a mass-produced Chipotle burrito, so what are you even doing with your life?