Food, Booze, and Books
Peering into the Petworth Citizen & Reading Room, we felt we had time-traveled back to the 1940s. Reminiscent of an Edward Hopper painting, the dark yet welcoming bar was busy for a Monday night. Bartender Chantal Tseng’s Punch Bowl was an orange margarita; other cocktails included a raspberry rum Collins, Frisco sour, tequila honey bee. But we decided on wine – a smooth tempranillo/grenache red blend and a sauvignon blanc.
Chef Jamie Rutherford’s small but eclectic menu changes regularly. A world traveler, Rutherford has attended the French Culinary Institute in California. In her kitchen, she is ably assisted by Jack Reyes.
We began our repast with Rutherford’s “grilled house cracker,” presented with white anchovies and tiny fennel rounds. We mixed all this with cultured butter and slathered it on the crackers, an agreeable marriage of flavors and textures. Then we savored Moroccan squash soup, scented with fennel and cilantro and sprinkled with fried pepitas (pumpkin seeds).
Our shared entrée was a trio of beautifully seasoned meatballs composed of ground pork, beef, a hint of anchovies, and ricotta. The meatballs were crowned with roasted tomato sauce and a healthy scattering of greens. Rutherford certainly knows her way around a spice rack, and she often seasons with anchovies as well. “It makes it oceany,” she explains. Dinner for two with three drinks came to $71.50 before tip.
Almost as impressive as Rutherford’s cooking is the restaurant’s adjacent Reading Room (library). So many books! But forget finding the latest bestseller. Interspersed with vintage clock radios, the books are grouped according to color, not author or title. No matter, each weekend, bartender Tseng pairs a cocktail menu with a literary theme. There’s also live music.
Proprietor Paul Ruppert unveiled Petworth Citizen four years ago. Located at 829 Upshur St. NW, it is closed on Tuesday. Call 202-722-2939 or visit www.PetworthCitizen.com.
A few doors away, Hank’s Cocktail Bar (formerly the Twisted Horn, referring to the mythical unicorn) welcomes a new beverage director/head bartender, Jessica Weinstein. Among her creations is an offbeat concoction called Frambibimbap – a framboise cocktail with Korean-style goodies to be plucked and devoured with chopsticks. Closed Monday, Hank’s is at 819 Upshur St. NW. Call 202-290-1808 or visit www.hankscocktailbar.com.
Ivy City Green Door … and More
As usual, there’s a lot happening in Ivy City. We’ve recently dined at La Puerta Verde, the neighborhood’s eight-month-old hotspot. Hunkered next to sister restaurants Ari’s Diner and sports bar DOCK FC, La Puerta Verde (Spanish for the Green Door) is part of Mindful Restaurant Group. Founder Ari Gejdenson was inspired to create La Puerta after working with folks of Mexican heritage. “It would be nearly impossible to run a restaurant in Washington without encountering the vibrant Mexican culture and community on a daily basis,” Gejdenson told City Paper.
La Puerta Verde seats 85 guests – 60 in the main dining room and 25 at the bar. Chef Raymundo Oliva’s menu emphasizes authentic Mexican dishes – NOT Tex-Mex – gleaned from traditional recipes, tapping mostly local ingredients.
At the entrance, we were greeted by a visual explosion of talavera Mexican tiles. I love these colorful ceramics; we’ve decorated our kitchen and powder room with Mexican motifs including those beautiful tiles. But La Puerta Verde’s design simply goes overboard with an embarrassment of riches. The bar area is likewise plastered with the patterned tiles, which clash with the ceiling’s exposed pipes and other stark, industrial elements. A saving grace: vibrant murals painted by local graffiti artist CHELOVE.
Seated by the front window, catching the last of the late summer sun, we began with complimentary salsa, chunky with tomato, spices, and onion – not watery like so many versions –which we scooped up with warm tortilla chips. We were tempted to fill up, but there was more to come. A signature antojito (appetizer) is guacamole, grilled avocado smushed with lime, tomato, and red onion. We uncovered a prize at the bottom – big avocado chunks.
I chose tostadas de pulpo (octopus), an unusual treatment of the eight-legged cephalopod. The slices were tossed with squid ink, adobo, pickled radishes, and lip-tingling diablo mayo. All this was perched on a crispy corn tortilla. Peter ordered callo de hacha en aguachile, a quartet of perfectly grilled scallops swimming in chilled serano broth, along with onions, sliced cukes, chili oil, but too much lime juice. Next time we’ll tackle the whole, marinated grilled fish.
We saved room for dessert: a decadently divine flan garnished with slender strawberry slices. Spoons flew as we shared the rich dessert. We still could not finish it, and took some home for breakfast the next morning.
La Puerta Verde’s bar list specializes in margaritas and similar potables. I stuck with the classic version concocted with Silver Tequila, triple sec, and fresh lime juice. The frosty drink was among the best I’ve sipped north of Tampa. Peter quaffed sangria, a refreshing melange of wine, brandy, peach, and mint, topped with macerated fruit. We decided to forego the mezcal, another liquid house specialty, since the next day (Monday) was a “school day.” Dinner for two with a drink apiece came to $73 before tip; service was excellent.
Located at 2001 Fenwick St. NE, La Puerta Verde is open for dinner, Tuesday through Sunday, closed Monday. For more information call 202-290-1827 or visit www.lapuertaverdedc.com.
Big Easy Drinking
Across the street, the Big Chief, a New Orleans-style watering hole, has rolled in at 2002 Fenwick St. NE. Actually, it’s three bars, sprawled over 7,000 square feet, including a rooftop space. There rests a 1970s Airstream trailer. Big Chief is closed Monday and Tuesday; for more information call 202-465-4241 or visit www.bigchiefdc.com.
More Wine …
Nearby, coming soon is City Winery. This Washington offshoot of an urban enterprise (founded by Michael Dorf) will encompass a wine-making facility, “an intimate music venue,” a restaurant/bar (pouring wine on tap), and private event space. For updates visit www.citywinery.com.
Espita Mezcaleria, Mount Vernon Triangle’s Mexican-inspired restaurant, welcomes executive chef Robert Aikens. He brings 28 years of experience to his new job, having wielded his whisk in New York, Philadelphia, and London. He recently visited markets and kitchens in Oaxaca, Mexico, and will employ his new knowledge in Espita’s kitchen.
Open daily for lunch and dinner, Espita Mezcaleria is at 1250 Ninth St. NW; call 202-621-9695 or visit http://espitadc.com.
Coming up on Oct. 7 near Mount Vernon Triangle: A Pig Roast at Acadiana, the Louisiana-themed restaurant at 901 New York Ave. NW. From 2 to 5 p.m., guests may partake of roasted pork with homemade sauces, potato salad, coleslaw, cracklings, head cheese, and lemon icebox pie. Draft beers, wine, and specialty cocktails are included. All this takes place under Acadiana’s covered patio.
Customers are requested to print their confirmation email and bring it with them as proof of purchase. Loyalty points may not be used for this event. Ticket sales are final and non-refundable. For tickets and more information call 202-408-8848 or visit www.acadianarestaurant.com.