As August heats up and winds down, dLena, Mount Vernon Triangle’s “modern classical” Mexican hotspot, has unveiled its outdoor patio. Located at 476 K St. NW, the spacious, 80-seat al fresco addition is equipped with ceiling fans, special lighting and pergola sensors that detect rain in order to shield customers. A colorful assortment of tropical plants ‒ including several kinds of cactus ‒ enhance the appealing space.
Under chef Richard Sandoval’s eye, dLena’s wood-fired oven turns out meats, seafood and vegetables. Among favorites are camarones a la Diabla, salmon zarandeado, wagyu steak a la piedra and an intriguing grilled avocado. Many plates can be shared by the entire table.
Weekend brunch (including “bottomless”) brings assorted tacos and innovative creations like cazuela ‒ a spicy melange of smoked eggs, potato hash, panela cheese and charred tomato salsa. Topped with a blistered pepper, the tasty dish arrives in a piping hot cast iron skillet, resting on a round wooden base. Tuna ceviche is a tart medley of finely chopped tuna, red onions, chilies, citrus and cilantro.
The bar pours smoky tequila and mezcal cocktails. At brunch, we loved the May May mimosa, made with champagne, passionfruit, mango and agave nectar. There’s also an extensive beer and wine selection. For additional information and reservations, visit www.dlenadc.com.
Nearby, Mount Vernon Triangle FreshFarm Market, 499 I St. NW, sells meats, seafood, produce, eggs, baked goods (including gluten-free), jams and jellies, honey, flowers, beverages (including coffee), prepared foods, pet treats and more. The market is open Saturdays year around from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, visit www.freshfarm.org.
All Souls, the cozy watering hole at 725 T St. NW, has ventured across town to spawn a spinoff: The Little Grand. You’ll find the Atlas District newcomer at 808 Seventh St. NE, tucked away in the mixed-use Apollo building, which also houses Whole Foods Market and vegan restaurant Fancy Radish.
Unlike the parent All Souls pub, The Little Grand serves victuals. Biz partners David Batista, Soung Wiser and Joanna Brady have enlisted pizza chef Bobby Hellen to concoct seven types of sourdough-based 12-inch pies. Shaped round or square, the pizzas are topped with tomato, pepperoni, meatballs, cheese, veggies and other goodies. You can also order sides, salads and desserts. Like All Souls, The Little Grand’s bar dispenses local beers, wines and classic cocktails like Manhattans, daiquiris, negronis and martinis. For hours and more information, visit www.littlegranddc.com.
Vietnamese at Union Market
In Union Market, 1309 Fifth St. NE, casual Asian is especially popular during these steamy August days. Seeking a light, inexpensive lunch before attending a movie at the nearby Angelika Theater, Peter and I checked out Banana Blossom Bistro. The fast-casual Vietnamese kiosk replaced Sloppy Mama’s barbecue eatery.
At Banana Blossom, we ordered crunchy cabbage salad ‒ a Southeast Asian version of coleslaw. Accompanied by a zippy vinegary dip, the delicious caramelized pork banh mi was chock full of tender pork morsels. The hefty sandwich was big enough for feed both of us. A cooling limeade complemented our meal. Among other menu options are shrimp (or garden) rolls, lemongrass shrimp and noodle bowls.
Nothing fancy here. Our cabbage salad was served in a cardboard carton; our banh mi was helpfully sliced in half and simply wrapped in paper. Plus chopsticks, of course. On this steamy midweek afternoon, Union Market’s indoor tables were all occupied, so we took advantage of the ample outdoor seating. Fortunately, we found a table for two in the shade.
Our lunch for two came to $29, before tip. Union Market is open daily. For more information, visit www.bananablossombistro.com.
Jimmy Buffett would feel right at home here. Hook Hall, 3400 Georgia Ave. NW, the Park View events space and beer garden, is replete with parrot-head motifs and wicker swings. Hook Hall also sets the stage for festive Mexican fare. Currently, guests chow down on restaurant/caterer Cocolita’s guacamole, salsa, a dozen kinds of street tacos, quesadillas and elote ‒ Mexican-style street corn-on-the cob. (Cocolita Mexican Cuisine and catering is located in Arlington.)
Peter and I checked out Hook Hall on a sweltering Friday afternoon, and we’re glad we did. There we encountered mixologist Mick Perrigo, who donned his bartender’s costume complete with bowtie. Perrigo, who has bartended at some of Washington’s top watering holes, can concoct a mean martini and other cocktails. However, today we settled for a refreshing strawberry sorbet cone.
Hook Hall is fun. The sprawling, cavernous space, which formerly housed a supermarket, accommodates 700 inside ‒ with a bar and games ‒ with an additional 300 in the spacious “safari” garden. The festive outdoor space is appointed with private cabanas, tables and benches, a cooling misting station and even a swimming pool for dogs.
For Hook Hall hours and more information, visit www.hookhall.com.