Over the weekend, my husband and I traveled to Washington, DC to celebrate our 2nd anniversary. In past trips to DC, we've stayed close to the major tourist attractions and the things we love to do: walking the Mall, wandering the museums, and eating at any Jose Andres place we came across. For this occasion though, we stayed at the Hotel Madera in Dupont Circle and instantly became enamored of its location. If you are looking to visit DC and not do any of the touristy things, Dupont Circle and the surrounding neighborhoods of Logan Circle and the U Street Corridor will make you fall even more in love with this city…
…and can we talk about the food options?
We started the day by walking from our hotel to Estadio on 14th and Church near Logan Circle. It was only about a mile away so the walk didn't take too long and the views on the way are gorgeous. If you want to get there via the metro, it's not super close to any of the stations, you're going to end up having to walk, at the least, about 5 blocks from a station to get there which, in the grand scheme of things, isn't that far for a good meal in the city.
Estadio in Spanish means stadium and when you walk in the restaurant and look up at the bar, you'll find vintage soccer games playing on all the television screens. It's anything but a sports bar, however. The decor, furniture, and ambiance make for a cozy, antique, Spanish feel, and if you aren't interested in watching the muted soccer games playing above the bar, you won't even notice them.
The interior view from our table: heavy wood tables and chairs with metal ornamentation, traditional chandeliers, and a view into the smoothly operating kitchen.
The menu at Estadio is tapas (small plates meant for sharing) and the prices are amazing. I was pretty blown away at how inexpensive everything was, especially after tasting the quality of the food. We started with a pintxo—a small snack typically served at bars eaten off a toothpick—of chorizo, manchego cheese, and topped with a pistachio-crusted quince (a sweet fruit). This pintxo was a perfect little bite of food and a great way to whet your appetite for the rest of the meal. It had just the right blend of sweet and savory and was pretty cute to look at as well. I enjoyed this as our appetizer much more than filling up on chips and salsa or some kind of bread. After this, we couldn't wait for more!
Estadio has a huge drink list; it takes up the whole back side of their lunch menu. Their bar is pretty large and takes up quite a bit of the restaurant, with room for people to sit on both sides. The bartender is pretty cute too, which doesn't hurt! We started out with each getting a Tecolate: a drink made from tequila, cava (a Spanish sparkling wine), rosemary, and grapefruit.
It was refreshing, bubbly, and had a unique flavor. This is one of those dangerous drinks that taste so good, you could drink far too many of them. I don't normally love the smell or taste of rosemary, but the amount in this cocktail was just perfect and really added to the distinctive flavor.
After our first cocktail and appetizer, we started our meal with a salad of baby arugula, peppers, hardboiled egg, and Boquerón (Spanish anchovy). This salad was really tasty. It was perfectly dressed, the Boquerón added just the right amount of salt, and I cannot wait to steal the idea of putting thinly sliced pickled red peppers on all of my salads.
Next, we had a sandwich with pork belly and pickled Shishito peppers. My husband found this sandwich a little dry, but I think it was the choice of bread; there was just a little too much bread in proportion to the rest of the dish. The pork belly was nicely cooked and the sauce that we had was creamy, spicy, and had a lovely briny taste to it.
We finished up the entrees with a fish dish of bacalao (a dried and salted Cod) crudo, jalapeno, avocado, orange, and olive oil. Not only was this a beautiful looking plate, it was delicious as well. My husband remarked that it was the freshest thing he's ever eaten. It was the perfect temperature, had just the right amount of olive oil, and the avocado, jalapeño, and citrus worked perfectly with the cold fish. Be careful with the jalapenos though, they had a lot of seeds in them and if you got a big slice in your bite, your mouth suffered!
For our second cocktail, we ordered a gin and tonic with their house-made orange thyme tonic. My husband had done some research about this restaurant before we came and found that they are known for this gin and tonic, and there's a reason…it’s DELICIOUS. The look and unique taste of this cocktail really personifies the care that Estadio puts into making its dishes different and inexpensive yet of real quality. I would come to this bar for happy hour every night for one of these…
…or two, or three.
For dessert, we started with the chocolate-chestnut cake with cinnamon crème Anglaise. Talk about decadent. This dessert was incredibly chocolaty. As decadent as it was, I was happily surprised about how light the cake on the bottom was, very fluffy.
My husband rounded out his meal with a third cocktail, one of their slushitos or slushees. He got one with pistachio, Manzanilla sherry, and gin. This was tasty but it was more like dessert in a glass, I couldn't drink more than one of these. It was really interesting to have a pistachio-flavored drink though and, by blending water and sugar in with the pistachios, it had a rich, creamy texture and color.
To finish off this amazing meal, we had a second dessert, the manchego cheesecake with quince jam and pistachio granola. Now, I'm a cheesecake fanatic. It is, by far, my favorite dessert in the world, and this was the best one I've ever had. It is savory, cheesy, and creamy and the jelly on top adds the perfect note of sweetness. My husband and I gaped at each other across the table after we took our first bite of this dessert, in awe of the deliciousness that we just partook in. It is seriously that good. If you come for nothing else at this restaurant, get the cheesecake. Really though, get two.
Overall, Estadio was an incredibly delicious, comfortable, and unique food experience. As a tourist, it was easy to find through their website, facebook page, and twitter account, and easy to travel to. The setting is cozy and rustic, the wait staff is friendly and attentive, and most importantly, the food and drinks are good. Come for cocktails, come for tapas, or just come for that amazing cheesecake, but definitely come to Estadio!