Suns Cinema

Rating: ★★★★☆

IMG_9196.JPGIt may seem strange that I’m writing about a movie theater on a food blog, but Sun’s Cinema is far too cool of a spot for me not to write about. It’s a combined indie theater and dive bar in a small space in Mount Pleasant, offering up cheap drinks like $3 PBR, as well as the obligatory popcorn and, oddly, vegan pork rinds. They purport to sell “TV dinners” as well if you want something more substantial with your movie, but they didn’t have them available on the night when I went. The movie selection is eclectic and ranges from the old and obscure to the (relatively new) and popular, like Superbad. I went to see Ong Bak, a highly entertaining and action-packed Thai martial arts movie (yes, I was also skeptical when I first heard about it) that happens to be one of my favorite movies. The place attracts a cool crowd and is a real gem- my one gripe would be that because the floor isn’t slanted like a normal movie theater, you could have trouble seeing if you’re behind someone tall. My friend with me had to move to be able to read the subtitles. Other than that, though, I highly recommend checking this place out.

Suns Cinema is located at 3107 Mt. Pleasant St. NW.

China Town

Rating:  ★★★★☆

14012750_10154461877818011_249916701_oChina Town is a carryout located at 3207 Mt Pleasant St NW. As the name suggests, (Americanized) Chinese food is the focus, but like most DC carryouts they serve a wide variety of other foods like burgers and subs. Since it is a carryout in DC, China Town, of course, specializes in fried chicken wings with mumbo sauce, which is a uniquely Washingtonian African American-Chinese fusion dish.

China Town offers a special of four wings with fried rice or french fries for a mere $5.50. Be aware, however, that there is a $7 minimum for credit cards, which isn’t posted anywhere. Since I had no cash on me, I had to order an egg roll to make my total over $7. China Town also offers a wide variety of lunch specials for under $5. The 14060464_10154461875283011_730448067_owings were deliciously crispy, with a thick batter that tasted as though it had possibly been fried twice. The mumbo sauce, which is a mystery concoction, was slightly sweet and pleasantly tangy. I really liked it, though I think it takes a true DC native who was raised on the stuff to be a mumbo sauce connoisseur. I am not one. I prefer fried rice over french fries any day, but the fried rice itself was just ok. It was a bit of a cross between fried rice and yellow rice. The egg roll, which I didn’t want in the first place was large, tasty, and delightfully fatty.

Unlike most carryouts, China Town does have a couple of small tables, but if it’s a nice day it’s much more pleasant to sit outside at one of the tables in the small square across the street. The food may not be gourmet, but this is a solid spot to eat on the cheap and experience the authentic, pre-gentrification DC classic that is fried chicken wings with mumbo sauce over fried rice.

El Pollo Sabroso

Rating: ★★★★☆

13836052_10154405414573011_710986478_oEl Pollo Sabroso is a Peruvian-style chicken restaurant located at 3153 Mt Pleasant St NW, with an additional location a few blocks away at 1434 Park Rd NW. This basic and authentic spot in Mount Pleasant serves chicken, steak, chorizo, and a few other dishes like pupusas, quesadillas, tortas and Latin American soups. The ambitious can order a whole chicken, but I stuck with the quarter chicken and chorizo combo, served with rice and salad (mainly lettuce). The chicken was very tasty and moist and came with a spicy green sauce and a creamy white sauce. The chorizo was large and flavorful, if a bit too salty for my 13833207_10154405414568011_951005060_otaste. Fortunately, since I went on a hot night, I was able to pair my food with a cold tamarindo.

Purple Patch

Rating: ★★★★★

13621486_10154355432403011_770999441_oPurple Patch is a Filipino restaurant located at 3155 Mt Pleasant St NW. If you’ve heard of  Filipino restaurant in DC, you’ve likely heard of Bad Saintan ultra-hot, tiny spot in Columbia Heights that doesn’t take reservations and has long wait times. While Bad Saint’s stellar reputation is well-deserved, Purple Patch is an excellent, more low-key alternative. Purple Patch, while popular, does take reservations and is much larger than Bad Saint. They also do an excellent brunch, which flies under the radar for most of the DC brunch crowd. The brunch is a fusion of American and Filipino food, with such delightful options as the waffle 13646926_10154355432433011_1388515598_owith ube (purple yam) ice cream and Filipino fried chicken and ube pancakes with lechon kawali (braised fried pork) and macapuno syrup. Two of my friends ordered those and loved both of them. I went for a more purely Filipino option with the Sisig, Fried Pork with Sautéed Onion, Vinegar, Lemon Juice, Chile & Fried Egg, served with Jasmine Rice. It was absolutely delicious and hearty- great for a hangover! They have great mimosas too, including pear, orange, grapefruit, mango, ginger lemon, and pineapple for options. It’s worth noting that we went on Father’s Day without a reservation, and while the place was packed, the staff did a wonderful job of accommodating us. They sat us in a cute little booth in what is normally designated as a kiddie play area, and we were grateful to have the chance to try their delicious food. 

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The lumpia is bomb.

I have also eaten there for dinner, where I tried the Mama Alices’ Lumpia (fried beef and pork spring rolls with banana ketchup dipping sauce), the Lechon Kawali (Crispy fried braised pork with mang tomas sauce) and the chicken adobe lettuce wraps. The lettuce wraps were served room temperature (I imagine that was by design) and while I prefer hot things, they were very flavorful. The lechon kawali was delicious; some pieces were a bit too fatty for my taste but the ones that weren’t were divine. The Lumpia was the star of the show, fried to perfection. The banana ketchup sauce paired perfectly with it.

 

Pica Taco

Rating: ★★★★★

13396878_10154277923883011_1638349943_oPica Taco is a taqueria located at 1406 Florida Ave NW and 1629 Columbia Rd NW with an additional location outside the Beltway near Franconia-Springfield. This is a very solid spot for tasty, fast, filling, and inexpensive tacos. They have great combo deals, and with options like lengua and barbacoa, this is definitely no Taco Bell. I have only been to the Florida Avenue location but the service there is speedy and very friendly. Highly recommended for your quick taco fix.

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Dos Gringos

Rating: 

13153480_10154199040923011_298360266_nDos Gringos is a coffee shop and restaurant located at 3116 Mt Pleasant St NW. This place is an amazing cross between the sort of hippie, health-conscious cafe you would find in Vermont and Latin American fare. You can (as I did) did into a tasty scrambled tofu breakfast burrito while sipping a cafe con leche on the adorable porch. The place is in a very cute converted rowhouse and boasts reasonable prices, a friendly owner, and a neighborhood everybody 13153482_10154199040858011_1516093707_nknows everybody vibe. A large number of the patrons are clearly regulars whom the longtime owner knows personally. Like Mount Pleasant itself, the crowd is a big mix of people. If you manage to snag a seat outdoors on a nice day, this is a particualrly excellent spot to enjoy a low-key, inexpensive, healthy, and tasty brunch.

Ercilia’s Restaurant

Rating: 

12999747_10154128533493011_889446460_oErcilia’s Restaurant is a Salvadoran restaurant located at 3070 Mt Pleasant St NW. It is a casual, no-frills spot where you order at the counter and take a number. Be aware that the numbers are called in Spanish- I don’t speak Spanish, but I do know enough numbers to be able to figure out dieciocho. Salvadoran food is of course best known for papusas (which I love) but Ercilia’s Restaurant has plenty of other items that go beyond papusas. I ordered the bistec encebollado, which is 12980856_10154128533558011_1955423608_obeef with peppers. It was very flavorful, though the beef could have been a bit more tender. It was served with beans and rice on the side and the rice was accompanied with cheese and sliced avocado. For $9, it was a great value. I also had their house-made tamarindo which was delicious. In the future, I do want to try their papusas (which are reputed to be excellent, along with their house-made horchata. This place is super authentic; I was the lone gringo when I walked in.

Marx Cafe

Rating: ★★★★★

12695217_10153928759293011_570032040_o.jpgMarx Cafe is a small restaurant and bar located at 3203 Mount Pleasant St. NW that describes itself as having “revolutionary cuisine” (yes, it is named after Karl Marx) and “Mediterranean food.”

<rant> I absolutely hate the term  “Mediterranean food” since “Mediterranean food” encompasses several different cuisines including Spanish, Moroccan, Italian, Provençal, Lebanese, Greek, and Turkish, which are all distinct. What Americans usually think of as Mediterranean food comes at places that serve a vague blend of foods meant to resemble some combination of Lebanese, Turkish, and Greek food, and it’s all pretty substandard. But I digress. </rant>

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The saganaki up in flames. This, at least, is pretty revolutionary.

Fortunately, this substandard fare is not what’s on offer at Marx Cafeat least if you know what to order. The menu is a mix of Greek, Italian and New American fare, but I went with a group who recommended a few of the Greek small plate items on the menu, which were excellent (it helps that one of those in our party was Greek). I’ve been told that a number of the other menu items are not nearly as good. We started with saganaki, which is Greek kasseri cheese flambéed with metaxa (a type of Greek brandy). It’s conceptually similar to grilled halloumi, except it tastes a bit different, and instead of being grilled it is lit up by a huge conflagration of burning metaxa table side while the waiter yells “OPA!” like in “My Big

 

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Delicious saganaki ready to be eaten.

Fat Greek Wedding.” It’s a pretty awesome sight to behold (who doesn’t love fire?). Also great were the warm dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with ground beef and rice and seasoned with lemon), which were so much better than the cold, crappy “grape leaves” served at most “Mediterranean restaurants.” The tarama (red caviar whipped with olive oil, lemon juice and spices) was great as well. We paired our meal with Mavrodafni, a delicious sweet Greek wine (sweet in a Port way, not a Manischewitz way) that reminded me a lot of the famous Cypriot wine, Commandaria.

 

 

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Mavrodafni wine- delicious! (If you like Port)

The decor was cozy though fairly pub-like; it is also a bar and open late. The people were also very friendly (I’m an absent-minded idiot and left my backpack there, but they kept it safe for me and I returned later in the evening to pick it up). Basically, if you go and order exactly what we ordered, you will have a great meal, and could bring a date there for sure. Our Greek companion also recommended their calamari, tzatziki and spanakopita. Otherwise, you’re on your own, but we had a great experience.

 

Lezo’s Taqueria

Rating: ★★★★☆

 

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Left: Cabeza de Res (beef head). Right: Chicharrón en Salsa con Nopales (pork skin in salsa with cactus).

Lezo’s Taqueria is a hole in the wall Mexican place located at 3213 Mt Pleasant St NW. This place is not Taco Bell; it is authentic and boasts a menu of tacos, tamales, and tostadas for the adventurous palate. Options include Lengua de Res (beef tongue), Cabeza de Res (beef head), Barbacoa de Borrego (barbecue lamb), Chicharrón en Salsa (Pork Skin in Salsa), and much more. The place has no ambiance, but you’re there for the food, not the ambiance. Prices are cheap ($3 per taco plus $1 extra if you want to add nopales). Service was quick, though the meat on my tacos should have been a bit hotter when I got it. All in all a good spot for cheap, quick, authentic Mexican fare.

 

Lia Cafe International

Rating: ★★★☆☆

12650347_10153920237658011_2030087679_n (1)Lia Cafe International is a cozy Mount Pleasant coffee shop located at 3103 Mt Pleasant St NW. It is a friendly, cute place that serves a standard, basic array of espresso drinks. They also have a strangely eclectic array of light foods like kibbeh and flan. This is a nice neighborhood spot, though not somewhere to trek to if you’re not already in the area.