Husband Peter and I enjoyed our lunch at El Rinconcito Cafe so much that we were tempted to keep this little gem a secret. Would you believe, this hole-in-the-wall Salvadoran/Tex-Mex eatery has been a Mount Vernon Triangle/Shaw favorite for almost a quarter-century?
Located at the corner of 11th and M streets, El Rinconcito, “Little Corner,” is aptly named, with seven or eight tables and a small but full-service bar. We figured the place should be authentic; the website is in Spanish and English, so is the menu. Many regular patrons are Hispanic.
Portions are huge. Ceviche mixto – a mélange of tilapia, calamari, shrimp, bay scallops and red onion – could feed two. Flavors are nicely balanced, not too tart. The dish came with plump spears of fried yucca. Pupusas – the Salvadoran pancake with various fillings – are among the specialties. I chose a pair stuffed with savory shredded pork and escorted by rice and black beans and tangy Latino-style coleslaw, enlivened with colorful red onions and shredded carrots. A hefty corn-husk-swathed tamale was replete with chunks of white meat chicken, garbanzos and what tasted like chopped yucca.
A fellow diner ordered the New York steak (perfectly cooked to order) with fries and coleslaw. The extensive menu also encompasses seafoods (including whole olive-oil-sauteed rockfish), tacos de lengua (tongue tacos), myriad fajitas and much more. There’s a kids’ menu plus burgers and subs. Chips and salsa are $4.95 extra, but the chunky sauce and addictive chips were worth it. (We ordered guacamole, but the kitchen was out of avocados, probably because prices have escalated.)
No frills here: a margarita arrives in a regular water glass; so does horchata, the sweet rice milk beverage. Ice tea is bottled; napkins are paper. Lunch for two came to $38 before tip. “My kind of place,” declared Peter. Carryout is available.
Located at 1129 11th St. NW (11th and M), El Rinconcito Cafe is open daily from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Call 202-789-4110 or visit www.rinconcitocafe.com.
As summer heats up, Truxton Circle embraces cool Texan culture with the arrival of Republic Cantina. Owner and Houston native Chris Svetlik, co-founder of DC pop-up Republic Kolache, has teamed up with Sam Lipnick for his first brick-and-mortar restaurant. You’ll find it at 43 N St. NW. Republic Cantina serves breakfast tacos and pastries, including kolaches, puffy sweet bread with various fillings. Kolaches are popular Texas treats, thanks to Czech immigrants. Republic Cantina’s tacos may be stuffed with brisket, bacon, potatoes and eggs. Flour tortillas are made from scratch, with corn versions available upon request. There’s plenty of coffee, including Tex-Mex-style coffee drinks. The java comes from Small Planes Coffee Roastery, 2400 T St. NE.
Republic Cantina is open 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends. Later this summer, hours might extend to 11 p.m. weeknights and midnight weekends.
Clucking and Shucking
Roy Boys, the Shaw fried chicken and oyster hot spot/watering hole which opened a few months ago in the Atlantic Plumbing Building, is plotting an expansion in the Navy Yard. “Roy Boys got so popular so fast that it just made sense for us to expand,” explained co-owner Scott Parker. The offshoot is set to open this summer at 1025 First St. SE, in the former Justin’s Cafe space.
The menu will be the same at both Roy Boys: Nashville hot-fried chicken, chopped salads, raw and grilled oysters, sliders, whole and half chickens and ice cream tacos. The 60-seat enterprise will have a full bar with all-day Bloody Marys – roja Mary and verde Maria.
Located at 2108 Eighth St. NW, the current Roy Boys, a popular Howard University hangout, is open daily for lunch and dinner. It’s tricky to find; many streets are blocked off and Eighth Street disappears at one point. Call 202-558-9382 or visit www.royboysdc.com.
We’re fans of The Market at Ivy City Smokehouse. Besides moderately priced whitefish salad, herring in cream and “Indian candy” smoked salmon, we’ve discovered Agostina-Recca oil-packed anchovies. Priced at $5.99 for a 3-ounce jar, the little Italian fishies are delicious (not too salty) tossed in salads, on pizzas and even munched straight from the jar. Located at 1356 Okie St. NE, Ivy City Smokehouse is closed Monday. Call 202-529-3300 or visit www.IvyCitySmokehouse.com.
More on Bruner-Yang’s Plate
Restaurateur Erik Bruner-Yang, who brought us Maketto (Atlas District) and the Line Hotel’s Brothers and Sisters and RAMMY winner Spoken English, is now executive chef at &Pizza, our local chain with umpteen offshoots. His new &Pizza menu was revealed at the group’s New York location, which debuted on Wall Street last month. Newbies include Sure Things (classics with a twist), The Hits (signature pies) and Wild Cards (rotating seasonal items beyond pizzas), with names like The OG, Dirty Bird and Fresno Blaze.
Also this summer: Bruner-Yang will unveil an all-day cafe inside the luxury apartment building Novel South Capitol at 2 I St. SE, near Nationals Park.
Over the River
El Rey, the sprightly taqueria and beer garden at 919 U St. NE, is heading across the Potomac. Due to open this fall is El Rey Ballston, in the rapidly expanding Ballston Exchange development. Besides its signature selection of tacos, margaritas and sangria, hospitality entrepreneurs (and brothers) Eric and Ian Hilton’s new 5,000-square-foot El Rey will pour beaucoups draft beers.
Coming up on Aug. 12-18: Summer Restaurant Week, sponsored by Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW).
Here’s the deal: participating restaurants around the Washington area (including many in our neighborhood) will offer prix-fixe $35 dinner and $22 lunch/brunch options. Regular menus are also available. For a list of restaurants and more information visit www.RWDMV.com.
Going, Going …
Dino’s Grotto, which has served homespun Italian cooking to Shaw neighbors for the past five years, is closing in September. Located at 1914 Ninth St. NW, the 76-seat favorite was known for affordable wines, antipasti, eggplant parmigiana, fried artichokes and seasonal softshell crabs. We’ll miss the half-priced burger and lasagna deals and the all-day Sunday happy hour.