Category Archives: Drinks

Take 5 at Catch 15

Cold front!  Will this winter never end?  A big pot of warm stew would hit the spot — or we could throw up our hands, succumb to nature and eat cold stuff.  Stuff on ice. Oysters, say.  Except Mrs. Me doesn’t like oysters, and Tom Sietsema didn’t like the oysters at Catch 15.  So…just icy cold drinks then?

Catch 15 is a hip new restaurant/bar on K Street (1518 K).  Smoky lighting, with lots of dark woods and fabrics, and screens showing video of fish and octopi, the place makes you feel underwater, kind of.  It’s actually quite warm and cozy inside, so that’s nice (until we get to summer).

We stopped by for a drink one night last week on our way to dinner at Equinox, more about which soon.  Catch 15’s dining room was only half full at 6pm but the bar was getting packed — fortunately we got a couple of the last available seats before the real crowd hit.  It probably didn’t help that Sietsema’s WaPo review, originally published in late February, was re-published in the Express just a day before we visited.

Happy hour specials are few but good; I liked the “ultimat mule” —  a perfect balance of vodka, fresh lime juice, and ginger beer.  All the HH drinks are $5, a fine value, including enormous pours of Lindemans cabernet sauvignon.  The bartender was excellent: efficient, friendly and good at making drinks. Food specials were tempting — the truffle fries looked good — but needed to save room for dinner.  The guys sitting at the oyster bar in the front of the house looked happy, but maybe that was on account of the expansive elbow room and lack of noise compared with the bar area, rather than on account of the oysters.  Or maybe the oysters are actually good?  Anyway, I’d go back for more drinks and to try some food, but not on a Friday.

It was very very very very very VERY loud.

Our visit in numbers:

Catch: 15
In our party: 3
Bar stools occupied by our party: 2
Times Mrs. Me was smacked hard by the elbow of the lady sitting on the adjacent stool: 2
Times we had to pause our conversation while the bartender and a waiter screamed at each other right over our heads about the details of a particular food order: 3
Decibels: 2,335,589 (approximate)
Oysters consumed: zero
Drinks consumed: 1.3 per capita

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A Rare Invasion of Adams Morgan

Terrible photo of awesome mole at Casa Oaxaca

Terrible photo of awesome mole at Casa Oaxaca

We don’t get to Adams Morgan much, but it turns out to be worth it, sometimes.  This time.  Hooray for small sample sizes? By 9:00pm we were already done; all the jumbo slice places were still empty, and we didn’t see a single brawl in the streets.  Not even a ruckus to describe. I think we were about 4 hours too soon for the true Adams Morgan action, and that’s okay, because we were only there for the Charley libations and the Oaxacan mole, and those turn out to be great ideas in the 6:30-9pm range.

Bar Charley (1825 18th Street) is the new Jackie Greenbaum (Jackie’s)/Gordon Banks (El Chucho) venue, recently reviewed by Tom Sietsema with raves for the drinks more than the food.  We were there for the drinks!  Mai tais are as good as Sietsema suggested, and according to two of us “more limey” than average, in a good way (obviously?), and served in ceramic hula lady tiki mugs, always a winner.  The bartender also makes a mean sazerac, I would say more orangey than usual — no complaints here about heavy citrusy hands.

Great decor too, cool lighting, exposed brick, a cozy feel, and the back patio is nice. The entire space was designed by the same folks who recently did our friends’ basement — very different results, both stylin’.  Our only complaint is that the bar area is too small to accommodate all the people who want to hang out there, not a bad problem for Charley to have.

Down the street to Casa Oaxaca (2106 18th Street) for dinner.  Their logo emphasizes the correct pronunciation, “wa-HA-ca,”* almost as fun to say as Kaprow!  We sat in the basement, more exposed brick, deep orange paint, plus a giant painting of an orange, to continue the citrus theme.  Also the muy delicioso theme, because it all was.

* It may or may not be true that the Mexican edition of the Muppet Show used to feature Fozzie Oso saying “Oaxaca Oaxaca Oaxaca!!!”

The four food groups: chips, salsa, guac, 'ritas, at Casa Oaxaca

The four main food groups: chips, salsa, guac, ‘ritas

There is a drink called Holy Moley on the menu, one less joke for me to have to think up. I skipped the drink in favor of the sauce; I am all about mole in places like this, and in this case it was good enough to drink.  I would pay to drink a pint of the  Mole Coloradito, darkly rich, in this case served not in a glass but pooled around a perfectly medium-rare, tender filet of beef. It was hard to tell where the mole met the beans (also because the lighting was really dark at our table), a huge black pool of chili-raisin-chocolate-umami flavor.  What is Spanish for umami?  Fish tacos were a big hit (and a big plate).  Salads and fajitas were also winners. Plate-licking remains frowned upon by Mrs. Me, but it was dark, and there were margaritas (pitcher, top shelf, excellent), and I will say no more.

We sprung for some only-okay guacamole with our chips and salsa; it is so easy to make good guac at home, I tend not to bother at restaurants, and that was the only misstep here.  Casa Oaxaca’s salsa is reasonably spicy, dark red with roasted tomatoes and peppers, almost too runny but not quite, and served warm, which I’m not sure I like but it worked okay.  Chips were fresh and crisp, above-average for sure. I’d love to go back and try more moles and more appetizers.

And so we reemerged, full of mole and citrus and good cheer, into the dark Adams Morgan evening, no need for jumbo slices, not looking for a ruckus, just ready to be old and go home and go to bed. I already want to go back, though.

Aiiiii Oaxaca!

U Street Two-fer: Dickson and Dodge City

Returned to Dickson (903 U Street) for dinner pre-9:30 Clubbing, again with the pork belly banh mi, which is still good if extremely fatty. Friends tried the ribeye banh mi, also reportedly good.  You have to watch out for the occasional jalapeño slice, they are not evenly dispersed across the sandwich and some of them pack quite a punch.  Also enjoyed an excellent Tuscan red wine.  The basement is much quieter than the main floor, where conversation is nearly impossible when it is crowded, which it was this time.

We returned to U Street a few doors down from Dickson after the show for a beverage at the newish (?) Dodge City, which has a well-selected draught beer list, including Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, woohoo!  No food though (FB says pepperoni rolls but we were told by the bartender “no food” — maybe pepperoni rolls do not technically qualify as “food”?).  Kind of weird space in downstairs front, simultaneously narrow yet barren-feeling, but the outdoor patio is nice, plus there’s  a balcony and indoor upstairs too.  Shiny new high-quality scorching hot heat lamps outdoors, they could easily keep the patio open all winter with those things running full blast.

Gilly’s Means Sandwiches (and beer)

My friend JF and I used to get pepperoni subs from a place called Gilly’s in North Seattle on our way to Greenlake. The subs were great — does Thousand Island dressing make any sandwich great? — and though I think the actual name may have been Zilly’s, it looked like Gilly’s on the sign so that’s what we called it.

That Gilly’s closed years ago, but I still have a positive association with the name in the context of lunch, and have been looking forward to trying Gilly’s Craft Beer & Wine in Rockville, which, despite its name, serves a variety of sandwiches too.  No Thousand Island on the premises as far as I know, but some pretty good sandwiches nevertheless.  Mrs. Me tried the grilled cheese on whole wheat bread, which was fine and a solid deal at $4.95.  I was oddly in a bologna* mood and the “Joey H.” sandwich, with its pile of bologna, cheese, crunchy potato chips, and yellow mustard, made me happy.  I don’t remember the last time I had a bologna sandwich so I can’t really compare it to anything, but it hit the spot.  A couple other folks were eating what looked like decent Italian subs at one of the other tables — Gilly’s has a few tables in the front and a few in the middle of the store; the latter lack elbow room, as you would constantly have customers brushing past you as they peruse the wine selection, so we sat in front.

* Contrary to what you may believe, I am not *always* full of bologna.

Beyond the deli, which offers cheeses and dips in addition to sandwiches, Gilly’s is really about beer and wine. You can get a pint of draught beer (four or five to choose from) to enjoy as you wander the store, which of course we did: New Belgium Hoptober, very nice.  Many more options than that in cans or bottles, a wide and high-quality selection, especially for a relatively small retail space.  We thought the wine selection was less exciting and a tad overpriced — probably their beer prices can be beat elsewhere too, but not many places in MoCo match the selection. And the friendly staff and beers-on-tap make Gilly’s a primo shopping experience.  Also the sandwiches.

They’re next to Urban BBQ and around the corner from what used to be El Patio, the authentic Argentine cafe which (we discovered) moved to Loehmann’s Plaza (Randolph Road, still in Rockville) in August.  Some kind of pizza joint is moving into their former space behind Gilly’s.  Good little block for food, and parking is easy while El Patio is gone and pizza has not yet arrived.

MoCo Liquor Stores To Be Open Sundays

Trial basis. Welcome to the 21st century. Not much else to add to this (and this). Now, let’s see about direct shipments from wineries…

Wednesday News Roundup

Everything we know we learned from the Wheaton Gazette…

MoCo council got an earful Thursday about the zoning text amendment that would allow Costco to bypass environmental review for the gas station they want to install as part of their proposed store at Wheaton Mall. Council will make its decision about the amendment this summer. Assuming they say no to the amendment and yes to normal environmental review, the Costco deal may still not be dead, but they’re sure talking like that would kill the deal.

Interesting history behind Silver Spring’s Fire Station 1 brewpub location, opening this week.

More beer and wine for sale in Kensington? Referendum set for June 7.

Is it just me or do the Gazette restaurant reviewers visit Rockville/Gaithersburg disproportionately to everywhere else in MoCo?  Despite that, nice to hear about a possibly good Russian spot — quality post-Soviet eats are scarce around here.

No Alcohol Sales At Maryland Costco Stores, Period

Somehow I missed this letter to the Gazette editor dated 4/30/2010 from the MoCo liquor control director, who oughta know. The key excerpt:

Maryland law prohibits the sale of alcohol by chain groceries and large chain retailers throughout the state, including Montgomery County. None of the eight Costcos in Maryland currently is able to sell beer and wine due to state law.

I guess Rodman’s and Snider’s aren’t “large chains” — but per Willy’s comment to the previous post, why does the White Oak Giant (for example) get to sell alcohol?  Is there indeed a single-outlet exception that George Griffin didn’t mention?  I have heard that before, so I’m assuming for now it’s true. Anyway, in this case it’s Maryland, not MoCo, making the rules.