Compass Rose (14th Street NW)

 

The opening of Compass Rose was well-hyped on social media and other foodie outlets. As soon as all the positive reviews started rolling in, I had to add it to our ever-growing list. I got a look at the menu and it got bumped to the short list. We found ourselves with a free Friday this past weekend and tossed some ideas around. They all sounded good, but nothing got me excited. While on my way further south on 14th St. to one of the places we had decided on, I passed Compass Rose and finally got excited. I texted the lady, changed the plans, and headed over to grab a seat.

Since she wasn’t there yet, they wouldn’t seat me, so I posted up at the bar. My first impression of the space was that it was very cozy. Big plush bar stools and the blue tones used on the walls were very relaxing. The brick, tin, and warm wood layered very nicely. Had I not still felt icky from the cold I was fighting, I would have wanted to just sit there all evening.

While I waited for the lady, I started with a drink. Unfortunately, I didn’t flip the menu over, so I missed the cocktail menu- but I started with the sangria since it was on happy hour. Not too bad! I usually prefer my sangria bubbly, but the green apples and strawberries made up for it. I got a picture, but it was blurry. The lighting at the bar was pretty dim.

When the lady arrived, we decided to just stay at the bar. We started with an order of the fry bread and 3 dips.

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All 3 dips were tasty. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what each of them were, but I preferred the orange one. The chips were sort of like pita chips. It was a perfect little starter. We needed a second order of the chips to finish up the dips.

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For entrees, after much deliberation, I decided to go with the very first thing that caught my eye on the menu, the lamb kefta. Guys, the aroma that wafted across my face as they set this dish down in front of me was worth ordering it alone.

The lady went with the El Lomito sandwich. Which was really quite large.

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Everything about the lamb was perfect. The meat was so flavorful and juicy. The tahini dipping sauce was a perfect complement, and side grain salad was so delicious, I would order that on its own. Oh man, that picture is making me salivate all over again.

The lady’s sandwich was also delightful. Juicy meat, every bite as flavorful as the next. it was too much for her to finish, and even though I was also full, I kept sneaking bites of it.

Everything was so delicious and the service was nice and laid back. I know it will be a couple of weeks before we can get back, but Compass Rose is the first thing that comes to mind to recommend when people are asking what we’ve had and loved recently.

  • Favorite thing I had: The Lamb Kefta caught my eye on my first glance at the menu, courted me, and did not disappoint.
  • Favorite thing she had:  Her El Lomito sandwich. It was so flavorful.
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: Basically everything else on the menu. The mussels sounded tasty. The papusas! I’ve heard that the Khachapuri is amazing. The Bhel Puri Chaat was another one of my considerations. Basically, I’d like to try everything on the menu, thanks. I also ordered my drink before I even saw the cocktail menu, sooo, I gotta get back to that too.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): This is the kind of place I want to take people to! There’s so much other stuff on 14th street, but I think we’ll try to get back soon.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): We decided to also try Red Light. We discussed The Gibson or 2Birds1Stone. All are within a couple of blocks.
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Favorite Friday: El Centro D.F. (DC)

The first time I went to El Centro D.F. was for dinner a couple of years ago to meet a friend of a friend for a get to know you sort of dinner. It was a hot day and I got there super early, so I started on the roof deck. she was coming from work out in Falls Church and the metro was moving super slow. She asked me to order her a  margarita and I told her to meet me on the roof. When she got there, there was apparently a line for the roof! Apparently I had beat the crowd (it’s a perk of being early, I suppose). So, I met her downstairs with her now melty margarita. We got a table and had an amazing meal. I was sold on El Centro at that point.

El Centro was also one of the stops on a Taco Crawl (a brilliant idea, right?) that a friend was having for her birthday. This sort of turned into a margarita crawl… and El Centro’s margaritas are just really tasty.  Just be careful, is what I’m saying. I got a really entertaining story out of the evening involving having to ask an Uber to pull over, but I don’t think the lady was all too pleased with me.

We checked out the Georgetown location for the first time last fall when my mom was in town. My parking garage is just a couple of blocks down Wisconsin Ave., so it was an easy place to go with an out-of-town guest. They have a pretty large menu, so I knew Mom would be able to find something. It was a warm day, so we asked to be seated outside. They led us up stairs at the side of the dining room. I’m pretty sure we went around corners and through tunnels and about 3 buildings back past multiple bars (I may be exaggerating, but it felt epic) to their back patio area where they have string lights and yet another bar on a roof deck. Mom isn’t really picky, but like me she expects food to be good and fresh. She thoroughly enjoyed her meal.

I recently went back for lunch with my boys. It was a nice day, so we had hoped to sit outside, but I think their downstairs dining room was all that was open. Regardless, their lunch menu is a perfect size with just the right number of options and decently priced. I think they also have daily specials. Taco Tuesdays, maybe? I really need to get those on my radar so I can most efficiently experience El Centro.

  • What I usually order: The tacos el pastor (because pineapple) and a margarita. The guacamole is excellent.
  • Why I keep going back: The food is just plain awesome. They have margaritas for under $5 on happy hour. The Georgetown one is just blocks from my office and even closer to my insanely cheap parking for non-work-hour meals. It’s huge, so getting a table isn’t usually an issue.
  • Thing I still haven’t tried yet: A lot of things. I really need to make my way through that dinner taco list. Well, and other non-taco things.
  • Fun things about this place:  Both of the restaurants are huge with hidden dining areas all around. I was pretty sure we were never going to find out way back out after being lead to the back roof deck of the Georgetown location. The roof decks are awesome. The basement of the 14th St. location feels like a secret. The decor and lighting is pretty great.

Kapnos (DC)

Last week, I talked a little about how I spent some time working in a Greek/Italian restaurant in college. I talked about the pizza there, but the owners of the place were actually Greek. I got most my learning about cooking in that kitchen from a tiny Greek woman named Irene. She taught me all about the general flavor profiles, some standard dishes, and how to pronounce the ridiculously long, but actually fairly phonetic words. I started at the Bistro just a few months after they opened and was with them for their first few years, so they became like family to me. Greek food is sometimes my comfort food.

I also mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I am quite the Top Chef fan (go figure, I just love food). So, I always take special notice of any and all Top Chef activity in the District. So, when Mike Isabella opened a greek place, it went on the list. It got bumped down a little bit for being small plates, but it was still a must try. After bouncing around at least 10 different places and looking at countless menus, we settled on Kapnos for a rare Sunday brunch.

My first impression when we walked in was that is was LOUD. I had a bit of a headache, so I started off a little irritated. I noticed that we were seated really close to a bridal party who has clearly gone bottomless. I almost asked to be moved, but we sat down, I got some coffee, and it ended up being alright save for the occasional burst of cackling. I all but forgot about the noise level once they brought our Tzatziki spread. I make a mean tzatziki myself, but this was amazing. There was fresh dill and like a citrus (maybe grapefruit and orange?) zest on top. The stone oven bread it was served with was the perfect amount of fluffy. We ran out of bread, but I kept the rest to eat with my entrée. I ordered the Spit Chicken and Waffle and she ordered the Greek Coffee Waffle. The spit chicken was delicious. Nice, crispy, flavorful skin, juicy chicken. The waffles were nice and crispy and held up to the syrup well. There was also toasted quinoa and rice sprinkled over the top of everything. Oh, and the chicken didn’t need the tzatziki, but tasted really good with it. The lady’s waffles were much softer and less crunchy, but deliciously coffee-y. They were served with cinnamon butter and whipped cream. I had a couple of bites and want to figure out how to make coffee waffles at home. Such an awesome idea I never would have had myself.

Tzatziki

Tzatziki Spread

Greek Coffee Waffles

Greek Coffee Waffle

Spit Chicken and Waffle

Spit Chicken and Waffle

We’ve now officially had waffles from two DC-based Top Chef contestants. Your move, Spike. Waffle burger? Waffle pizza? Steak and waffles with bernaise? Call me when you decide.

  • Favorite thing I had: Everything I had. The spit chicken and waffles. The tzatziki with the stone oven bread.
  • Favorite thing she had: The greek coffee waffles. Basically dessert for brunch.
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: The baklava french toast (I’m so curious about what that’s even like) But really, all of it. I really dislike the small plates concept, but I think I have to go back for dinner. And we’ll definitely be back for brunch. Damn you, Mike Isabella! Making irresistibly delicious food in a small plates concept.
  • What makes this place stand out: The open kitchen area with giant spits and rotisseries. I was sitting with my back to this but kept turning around to check it out. It’s also one of the few upscale-ish greek places I’ve been to. Most are more… cozy. Dare I say, tacky?
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): I’m not going to be able to stay away from that brunch for long. There are so many places on our list, but as soon as we were done here, I wanted to do it all over again. I’d go back tomorrow if I could.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): We wandered over to Smucker’s Farms shop across the street. Then hopped in the car and tried to go up 11th street to hang out at The Coupe or Room 11 or something. Being that it was prime brunch time, everything was packed. You could just go do your grocery shopping at the new Trader Joes a few blocks down 14th.

Matchbox, 14th St. (DC)

When trying to decide where I wanted to celebrate with a larger group of friends for birthday brunch, I thought it might be best to just choose somewhere huge, centrally located, with a wide variety of things on the menu. Matchbox on 14th St. NW came to mind pretty easily. I made a reservation online and then sent out the invite. I got a little nervous about how many people I invited versus the number I made the reservation for, so I changed it to the largest number I could. In doing this, I must have accidentally changed the day. This was not something I noticed until I looked up the phone number in my confirmation e-mail to call them and reduce the number of guests just TWO HOURS before me and 11 friends were supposed to roll up there. So of course when I noticed this, I FREAKED OUT and called them as quickly as I could. I told them the story and luckily they were able to easily accommodate our group. I was so thankful that I chose such a giant place. Crisis averted.

They seated us at a round table in a corner, which was perfect. I was able to see and talk to everyone in the group without someone getting stuck at the end of the table. Also, since I’m apparently terrible at counting people, we had to get pretty close and squeeze a couple extra chairs in. The table was juuuust big enough for the 12 of us and it worked out fine. A majority of the group were college friends who were accustomed to pulling the same kind of move in the dining hall.

Since I was with so many friends, I was paying more attention to them and less to the food. My waffle with fresh fruit and a side of bacon was tasty. My mimosas came at a good pace. The lady’s french toast was great. One friend had the steak and eggs and it looked fantastic. the lamb sandwich also looked interesting with the chickpea fries. Last time I was there, I had an excellent omelet. I won’t be going back tomorrow, but the food is always good, the service is personable and prompt. A solid experience every time.

  • Favorite thing I’ve had: Everything I ever get is good. The waffle was great. The Matchbox Mimosa was excellent. I could have drank them all day, but we had to be productive adults after brunch.
  • Favorite thing she had: The french toast.
  • How was the service? It was great. The server handled our more-than-expected group of 12 like a pro and was very personable. He even preemptively split our checks. A total lifesaver in a situation like that. At one point, we asked if they could take a picture of the whole group and they sent over someone who was clearly accustomed to such requests. Nice touch.
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: The fig and prosciutto pizza. The server recommended it, but I was already set on the waffle. The cocktails. Maybe one of the bloody marys.
  • What makes this place stand out: The space is huge and airy. Exposed brick and duct work. A sizable outside seating area. A huge menu.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): I seem to end up here about once per season.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): Garden District (we tried, too crowded), Menchie’s (that’s where we ended up instead)

2 Birds 1 Stone (DC)

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I’m not even going to lie, I’ve started using this blog as an excuse to hit a second spot after dinner. We’ve also decided it’s the only way we’ll ever make it through our list before we die. After dinner at B Too, we set off up 14th St to find 2 Birds 1 Stone. I had seen some buzz about it recently and was intrigued. It was not the easiest place to find, there’s no signage on the outside at all. But we were tipsy and adventurous so we double checked the address and charged into Doi Moi and wandered until we found the stairs that took us down into 2Birds. We felt like we had discovered a secret when we walked into the space. It wasn’t too crowded and we slid into a 2-person booth to the side of the bar. Despite this being a basement bar at night, the lighting made it feel like much lighter than that. Lots of back lighting and white paint with a bunch of nooks and crannies to hide away in.

We sat down and had hand drawn menus (pictured above) placed in front of us. We both gravitated towards very typical-of-us drinks. She had the Bizzy Izzy. Rye, sherry, lemon juice, pineapple. And I had the Mancuso. Cachaca, chartreuse, ginger beer. The ginger beer was quite strong in mine, but still pretty tasty. Hers was probably one of the best drinks I’ve had this year. The pineapple was a perfect balance to the rye and sherry. I’d go back just for that. I’m looking forward to our next visit.

On our way out, we made a pit stop to the restroom. While I was waiting in line, a girl asked if she could dip in quickly before me to take a picture of the wallpaper. It was certainly worthy of a picture, and I did take one, but it’s a bit pornographic to post in a food and bev blog. You’ll have to go see it yourself. Upon our exit, we discovered the main door of the bar on S St. NW. That seems like the easier way to get in, rather than wandering through a very crowded Doi Moi.

  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: Maybe I’d go for the punch of the day next time. 
  • Most interesting thing she wants to try next time: It sounds like their menu rotates pretty regularly. She’s always on the look out for a new tasty whiskey drink. And has an interest in trying more sherry.
  • What makes this place stand out: Where do I begin? The cozy basement space with tons of nooks to the very naughty wallpaper in the bathroom. The hand drawn menus.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions):  The next time we’re looking for a second spot in the area. This is the kind of place I’d like to take an out of town guest (cool and unique). Not crowded and cozy with good drinks is my sweet spot.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): Take your pick. It’s in the middle of 14th St. My first thought was Pearl Dive.

B Too (DC)

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It took me a while to decide exactly where I wanted to go to for sorta fancy date night birthday dinner. I perused our ever expanding list of places to try, weighing how bad I wanted to try the place versus special enough for a birthday meal. B Too jumped out at me. It’s somewhere we wouldn’t normally go but was at the top of the desire to try list.

We got there a bit before our reservation so we started at the bar. As soon as we sat down, we were well cared for by 2 very friendly bartenders. It was still happy hour, so I grabbed the Belgian Mule and she had a wheat beer. Nice way to start the evening and end a hard week of work.

I had already taken a look at the menu earlier in the week, so I already had a few contenders in mind. I was pretty set on a nice birthday steak. The salmon with potato crust put up a good fight, but I decided to go for something I wouldn’t normally order. I went big with the beef tenderloin. The lady, not being a big fan of seafood, went for the hanger steak. We had our choices of sauces. I went with a pepper sauce and she went with the garlic butter. Hers came with roasted veggies and mine a salad, both with fries. The steaks didn’t beat the one I had a Ray’s The Steaks for my birthday  a couple years ago, but they were both good.

I had the Brussel’s Winter as my first drink at dinner. Vodka, lemon, pineapple, basil, and choco bitters. And then the Merry Rose for the second one. Gin, rosemary tincture, lime, lemon, cava. The Brussel’s winter was really interesting. I’m enjoying the trend of pineapple in drinks recently.

For dessert, we went with the waitress’s suggestion of the Frangipane Waffle for dessert. Banana, beer caramel, crumble. We split one, because we were both pretty full. The waffle was the perfect combination of crispy but soft. The caramel was awesome. I’d go back just for that.

  • Favorite thing I had: The tenderloin with pepper sauce. Pretty perfect.
  • Favorite thing she had: The Frangipane Waffle. Server recommended, lady approved.
  • How was the service?: Exactly how I like it. Friendly, knowledgeable, never having to wait long for her next visit.
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: I think next time I’m going to go for the mussels. The ones with 1/2 a lobster and bisque sound amazing. The Mathilde’s Muse cocktail. Pear vodka, St. Germaine, lemon, cava. Seemed a little too obvious a choice for me that night.
  • What makes this place stand out: Celebrity chef Bart Vandaele, of Top Chef fame, was bouncing all around the dining room overseeing all of the happenings the whole time we were there. I never had the guts to go talk to him. What do you even say? “Your food tastes real good…” Also, they have BREAKFAST.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): It was a touch on the high end of the scale for us, so it might have to be a special occasions place. Also a good happy hour or dessert spot. Or maybe we’ll just hit them for breakfast in the next month time-frame.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): Anywhere on 14th or P streets. We hoofed it up to 2 Birds 1 Stone, but you could just do Black Whiskey or Stoney’s.

The Gibson (U St NW.)

After dinner and a night-starter at Bar Charley, we headed a few blocks east to 14th St. NW to The Gibson. This one has been on the list to try for a long time and we’ve just gotten to the point where we’re ok with dropping $12 on a good cocktail(s). We knew the general location, but had to look up the actual address to find the well-camouflaged location. Once we found the door (with the address painted the same color as the facade) we saw The Gibson painted in tiny letters on the brick. We walked into a narrow hallway where a host checked our IDs and seated us at the bar behind a closed door in a surprisingly dark room. It took a minute to adjust, but as soon as we had drinks in front of us, all was right in the world. We ended up leaving $80 poorer and quite tipsy, but would do it again in a heartbeat. Safe to say, those were the best cocktails we’ve had in DC.

  • Favorite thing I had: The Clover Club cocktail. Gin, raspberry syrup, lemon juice, egg white. It tasted almost like a creamsicle and I had 2. Egg whites in drinks, who knew? I want another one right now.
  • Favorite thing she had: The Brown Derby. Whiskey, grapefruit juice, honey.
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: Anything and everything. Giving the bartender a few details and having a cocktail constructed especially for me.
  • What makes this place stand out: Has the feel of a speakeasy but without code words or secret numbers. Nothing standing between you and deeeelightful cocktails.
  • Fun Details Otherwise: We got a little bit of a show, watching the bartender break down giant blocks of ice for drinks. They were even creating their own spherical ice cubes. What do I have to order to get one of those? It was also fun to watch them expertly craft 5 different cocktails at once. I’d sit here just to watch and learn.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): Tomorrow, if I could afford it. Realistically, next month.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): U St. and 14th St. NW are your oyster, here. A show at Black Cat or U Street Music Hall.