If You Like Pina Colada Shop …
… and Getting Caught in 70° February Weather
“Hey, I’m trying out this new restaurant at T and 14th for Insatiable. Are you free for dinner tonight?”
“Sure! As long as we get to sit outside.”
Definitely a text exchange I expected to have in February. My pun game is clearly on point with that header. The good news for my friend and me was that 14th Street’s newest restaurant, Colada Shop, has a spacious patio that makes for excellent people-watching.
Online, the restaurant is a “colorful Cuban coffeehouse, cafe, & bar.” Even that flattering description does not do justice to the wonderful experience of dining at this seemingly tucked-away little find.
While the menu isn’t all that extensive, you don’t really need too many choices. It does offer several breakfast options, but the real draw is the Colada Shop Cuban, which is built traditionally with tender ham and pork, swiss, a creamy cilantro aioli, and mustard and pickles.
If meat (or even just pork) isn’t your style, try the veggie Cuban. Sub out the meats for marinated portabella and cauliflower. The fresh bread plus the delicious sauce are joined with a unique texture and taste that makes for the perfect sandwich.
Now that you’ve chosen your sandwich, the hard part starts: choosing your side. I’ve always been a sucker for a good empanada, and Colada Shop’s choices do not disappoint. I was very happy with the spinach and cheese, but the picadillo-beef option is excellent as well. For dessert you’ll want to get a selection of pastelitos, a Caribbean-style pastry. There are four choices, and while the guava and cheese was my favorite, you should try all of them.
The shop opened on Feb. 1 and is already extremely popular. On any given day you’ll see a packed crowd on the patio enjoying sandwiches, pastries, and one of Colada Shop’s signature cocktails, all of which are worth a try. I tend to be partial to dark rum, so the Cascara Old Fashioned and its coffee bitters jumped out at me, and I was very happy with that choice. I also returned to try the Cuba Libre; the classic drink is made that much better by naturally sweetened Mexican Coca-Cola. And worry not, there is a pina colada on the menu!
Colada Shop can run you anywhere from $10 for just a sandwich to $25 or more if you add a drink and a side. The restaurant is at 1405 T St. NW (off of 14th) and at www.ColadaShop.com.
Just north of U Street is a beautiful, memorable sign perched atop the corner entrance to DC’s new comfort food destination, Mulebone. Since the restaurant opened last summer, it’s been serving its own take on Southern food in a space modeled to reflect the eclectic and musical past of the area.
The name comes from a play (“Mule Bone”) co-authored by Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes. In it the two male protagonists, Jim and Dave, are fighting over the same woman (Daisy), and in a heated exchange Jim picks up a nearby mule bone and knocks Dave out with it. Jim is then put on trial, after which (spoiler alert) the two men realize that Daisy was wrong for both and become friends. (The play also includes a lot more religious and racial undertones than can be explained in less than 100 words.)
The first thing I do before evaluating whether I like a comfort food place is to try the biscuits, because no comfort food meal can be complete without those delicious, fluffy carbs.
The Mulebone buttermilk biscuits set a great tone for the meal. They come out fresh and with two spreads, a creamy pimento cheese with that signature twinge of heat, and warm honey that will make you feel like you’re curled up on your couch under a fuzzy blanket. Another great way to get started is an order of the tender, Carolina-style pulled pork tacos, or perhaps a bowl of the crab and corn chowder, complete with Applewood smoked bacon.
Once you’ve decided on your starter, you will begin the difficult task of choosing your cocktail. Each one is named after an aspect of the aforementioned play. Dave’s Dance incorporates mescal for a smoky base and mixes in an aperitif wine. For a more refreshing taste, the Zora combines mint, honey, and lemon with bourbon. My choice was the highly popular Battle of Macedonia (Jim’s trial is held at Macedonia Baptist Church). A mildly sweet concoction, its apple rye whiskey offers the background taste of an alcoholic beverage without any harshness or bite.
For your entree, the classic shrimp and grits, juicy bacon-wrapped pork loin, and the buttery, moist, slightly crispy sea bass will leave you stuffed and satisfied. If you manage to leave some room for dessert, try the impossibly rich flourless chocolate cake.
Find Mulebone at 2121 14th St. NW and www.MuleboneDC.com.
Since 2010 the TaKorean food truck has been serving lunch throughout DC. Success has already led to three permanent restaurants, and its fourth location will be opening this spring at 1301 U St. NW (in the former space of U Street Cafe), joining locations by Metro Center, Navy Yard, and in Union Market.
The fast-casual restaurant offers tacos with Korean-style ingredients. Build your own taco or bowl (choose from a slaw bowl, a rice bowl, or half of each) with chicken, steak, pork, tofu, or Brussels sprouts.
The chicken (dak galbi) has a nice hint of ginger, and like the tender steak (bulgogi) has a bit of a sweetness to it. The slow-roasted pork (bo ssam) is a crowd favorite, and the tofu sauteed in hoisin sauce is unexpectedly flavorful. The Brussels sprouts, which are the current seasonal vegetable, have a nice bit of a tanginess to them.
For tacos or a slaw bowl you get to choose your slaw. I recommend going with three tacos and getting one slaw in each. The kimchi is a bit spicy, Romaine slaw is a milder flavor (made with rice vinegar and sesame oil), and the spiced kale’s soy sauce will give you a rich flavor to pair with whatever meat you chose.
As far as the toppings go, do yourself a favor and get them all. They meld for a great flavor and an authentic one at that. A combination of Korean-style salsa roja, sriracha sauce, lime crema, sesame seeds, and cilantro can go well with the add-ons of an egg or avocado crema.
The U Street TaKorean has applied for a liquor license and a four-seat patio for the summer. Knowing the U Street audience, the restaurant will be open late, 2 a.m. on weeknights and 4 a.m. on weekends. It will be a particularly good destination for a post-rave evening, as the location is across the street from Codmother, which, if you read our December guide to holiday reunions (www.capitalcommunitynews.com/content/insatiable’s-guide-holiday-reunions), you’ll know is the perfect end to your crazy party night.
TaKorean will be located at 1301 U St. NW and is online at www.TaKorean.com.
Max Moline is a communications specialist living in DC. He frequents Nationals Park and enjoys writing about food as much as he does eating it. He’s always looking for new places to try. Rooftops and cigar lounges are a plus! Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org; @MaxMoline425.