The pintxos from Estadio

Saturday afternoon, I headed over to Estadio (14th and Church) for some bites and drinks. Now, Estadio has a lot of buzz around it, both positive and negative. The reviews on Yelp are so uneven – some people had wonderful experiences and some were awful. I’ve read tweets raving about the food and experience and I’ve read tweets bemoaning the service, portion sizes, and the quality of the food. So, going into the experience, my expectations were not high.

We went around 5:30 and easily got a seat at the bar. The restaurant wasn’t very crowded at all. Thinking we’d get a few bites and a drink (PDF menu), we ordered two pintxos (skewered bites) – the chorizo/manchego/quince ($1.50 each) and jamon wrapped fig/cabrales/marcona almonds ($2.50 each). The bites were small but good. We also got a bocadillo (sandwich) that was tiny – maybe four bites, but a very good four bites. The chorizo with idiazabal cheese was warm and wonderful.

Still hungry from these tiny bites, we ordered the patatas bravas and tortilla espanola, two classics. The servings for these were much larger, larger than I was expecting based on what I’d heard about how small the servings are. The patatas were very good, not the complete classic version you’d get in Spain, but all the flavors are there. The tortilla espanola came with spicy sauteed peppers, which added a nice bite to the dish.

Warm peach cake dessert

As for drinks, we stuck with tinto de verano after hearing (and seeing) how tiny the much-vaunted slushitos were. For $9, I wanted more. Tinto de verano ($7), red wine with lemon soda, was refreshing and tasty. I’d say stick to the tradicionales section of the drink menu, where Spanish favorite calimocho sits. From my experience (one of my best friends lives in Spain), these are the drinks Spaniards actually drink, vs. sangria.

To finish, we were intrigued by the desserts and went with warm peach cake with goat cheese ice cream and thyme caramel. Yeah, it was good.

We ended up spending $30/person with 4 drinks – not bad but we didn’t have a full meal (though in fact, I just ended up having a small snack later in the night, I was pretty full).

I really liked the decor, part very medieval Spanish and part whimsical – the bathroom doors are adorned with the most beautiful (and married to each other) Spaniards – Penelope Cruz for women and Javier Bardem for men. And, the inside of the women’s bathroom at least has a huge mural of Spanish soccer players without their shirts on.

The verdict: I liked it a lot, but I think this is a place to go for early drinks and snacks instead of a full-fledged meal unless you want to a) drop a lot of money and b) be prepared to wait because they don’t take reservations past 6 for groups smaller than 6.

Have you been? What do you think?

Sneak peek into Estadio

Estadio, the Spanish pintxo and tapas bar from the owners of a U Street Girl favorite Proof, is coming to 14th and Church. Metrocurean has the ETA as Summer 2010, as early as June. By the state of affairs inside though, I’m not sure they’ll reach that June date.

Bar Pilar, on 14th street

Bar Pilar, on 14th street

Bar Pilar is perhaps my favorite bar in DC (that might change when I finally go to the Gibson though). I especially like it on a weekday night, when it isn’t too crowded, I can talk to the bartender (I don’t know her name, but she’s always there when I go and while it took her time to warm up to me, I think she likes me now), peruse the ever-changing menu, and enjoy the company of whomever I’ve gone to the bar with.

I know that there has been a lot of criticism of Bar Pilar’s menu after it went from well-done comfort food to something more fancy. First, it was two years ago, let’s all move on. But listen, more importantly the food they serve is so good. Whatever I get there, I’m always blown away. On my last visit, the roasted beef sandwich with demi-glace sauce was AMAZING. Unfortunately, their most recent menu isn’t up on the website, or the dish I had was a special add-in, but if it’s on the menu, order it. Even when I ordered chicken there, which I don’t usually get at restaurants because it’s so normal and blah, their braised chicken was out of this world.

Bar Pilar is consistently rated as one of the best places to get a cocktail, but if you didn’t know to ask, you probably wouldn’t know. The thing to do, is to go on a Tuesday night, early, get a seat to enjoy the interesting, unusual creations of mixologist (don’t you hate that word?) Adam Bernbach.

Sure, it can get crowded with suburbanites looking to have a cool night out in DC on the weekends, and no, the service is nothing approaching good, but at its heart it’s a neighborhood place to swing by and have a great drink and bite on random night.

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