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Andale, Penn Quarter - Chef Alison Swope on 7th & D Streets NW - Detenido.

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[posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

eMullet:

Man, standing behind bar, waving and shouting over a four-person-deep wall through a digital megaphone-with-subwoofer raised to his mouth: "Dude!"

Bartender: <turns towards man and cups ear>

Man: "Dude! What's in my toasted pumpkin seed dip?"

Bartender: "What?"

Man: "WHAT'S IN MY DIP?"

Bartender: "One pomegranate margarita, coming right up!"

Man: "Cool."

-------------

eGullet:

Man, sitting at bar.

Bartender, extending hand: "My name's Johnny."

Man: "Hey Johnny my name's Don. Can I look at a wine list?"

Bartender: "Sure. All bottles are half-priced tonight [Monday] with an entrée."

Man: You mean if I get this bottle of Alceno it will be $12 for the whole bottle?"

Bartender: "Yes, if you order an entrée with it."

Man: "I'd like that, and also to order a few other things …"

Bartender: "Alright Don, take your time and let me know."

Man: "Dude, what's in the toasted pumpkin seed dip?"

Bartender: "It's made with roasted tomatoes, Habanero chiles and cilantro, but the chef here emphasizes flavor over heat when using peppers, so it won't blow you away. It comes with homemade corn tortillas."

-------------

The red wine is brought out, from what is obviously a cellar or temperature-controlled area, and is presented and poured in a high-quality wine glass. It (the Alceno) was just as it was described to be, and just as I had hoped: a good, minerally, medium-bodied table wine without oak and without pretense - the single best bottle of $12 wine I've ever had at any restaurant in America (it's listed on the menu at $24). Don't look for fireworks here; look for correctness and character, along with proper wine service. The dip, listed on the menu as Zicil-P'ak, arrives, and it was honest and very good, though I was tempted to reach for the salt shaker. Then the entrée of Pescado en Tikin Xik : Sushi grade Tuna marinated with Achiote, garlic, Mexican Oregano and saour orange juice, Pan seared medium rare, Served also with housemade corn tortillas, pickled red onions, chiltomate salsa and fresh avocado . On his March 3rd chat, Tom Sietsema implied that the small dishes at Andale are stronger than the main courses, and this would be consistent with my experience. Although this tuna dish was well-presented, correct and perfectly tasty, there was a certain spark missing and I'm not certain what it was – it didn't have quite the depth that I had hoped based on the menu description. Still, it bears emphasis that Ms. Swope stresses subtlety of flavor and nuance rather than simple spice and heat. This is food to enjoy with fine wine, not necessarily beer. Then came the Chile Relleno which was the one disaster of the evening: sitting in a pool of epazote oil, it the chile itself had been lightly egg-battered and fried, but it too had been drenched in oil. Given that it was stuffed with a fair amount of melted cheese, it left the entire plate gooey and oily, and it just wasn't worth eating. I had become simpatico enough with Johnny the bartender where I went ahead and mentioned this to him, and he thoughtfully listened to my comments - and when I got the check, he had removed it from my bill even though I told him that wasn't necessary. (Incidentally, Johnny also works at Fin, and he assures me that the dishes at Fin have taken a substantial turn for the better in recent weeks after they got a new chef. He knows what he's doing, and I take him seriously when he says this.) "Next time you come, you should try our specials," he said. "Lemme have one now!" I replied, and I'm glad I did. The Tortita de Jaiba is a crabcake consisting of crabmeat and corn, and bound together by a scallop mouse, served with plantains and a chile spiked butter sauce. I liked it more than the dessert of cheesecake with candied pecans sitting in a small pool of caramel sauce simply because that dessert came across to me as simply too sweet, although there's no question the quality of both the cheesecake and caramel was there.

Andale is on the northeastern corner of 7th and D, and Rosa Mexicano is on the southeastern corner of 7th and F – a mere 1 ½ blocks from one another. Towards the end of my meal, there was only one other person at the bar at Andale, although they were packed with people when I arrived during the tail end of happy hour. When I left to walk back towards my car, I stopped into Rosa Mexicano, and counted 46 people at the bar, some of whom were having dinner. Until these numbers flip-flop, I'm happy to continue emphasizing that while Rosa Mexicano may be great fun for a drink and some guacamole (I like Rosa's guacamole more than I do Andale's, by the way), it's a much better choice to take that ninety-second walk south on 7th Street, and enjoy your meal at Andale, especially on Monday evenings when the amazing half-price wine deal runs for the entire evening. Andale is good, honest food, conscientiously conceived and fairly executed. Can I mention once again that the entire wine list is half-price on Monday evenings when you order a meal? That is amazing! And it's a really good list, too!

Of course, you could always cross 7th Street and walk into Poste, but that's for another thread...

Cheers!

Rocks.

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The grandmother had been fooling around on the piano all afternoon, singing the songs of her times to herself in a falsetto, and she had stains of musk and tears on her eyelids. But when she lay down on her bed in her muslin nightgown, the bitterness of fond memories returned.

"Take advantage of tomorrow to wash the living room rug too," she told Eréndira. "It hasn't seen the sun since the days of all the noise."

"Yes, Grandmother," the girl answered.She picked up a feather fan and began to fan the implacable matron, who recited the list of nighttime orders to her as she sank into sleep.

"Iron all the clothes before you go to bed so you can sleep with a clear conscience."

"Yes, Grandmother."

"Check the clothes closets carefully, because moths get hungrier on windy nights."

"Yes, Grandmother."

"With the time you have left, take the flowers out into the courtyard so they can get a breath of air."

"Yes, Grandmother."

"And feed the ostrich."

She had fallen asleep but she was still giving orders, for it was from her that the granddaughter had inherited the ability to be alive still while sleeping. Eréndira left the room without making any noise and did the final chores of the night, still replying to the sleeping grandmother's orders.

"Give the graves some water."

"Yes, Grandmother."

"And if the Amadises arrive, tell them not to come in," the grandmother said, "because Porfirio Galan's gang is waiting to kill them."

Gabriel Garcia Marquez (from "The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and her Heartless Grandmother")

Andale was an afterthought on a night when all I wanted was beer, pizza and sleep. I was hell-bent on "eatin' fer free" at Ella's, taking advantage of their happy-hour special of free pizza, and getting home at a reasonable hour. So I walked into the bar around 6:45, a little over an hour before the Cheapskate Special was supposed to end, and there were about a half-dozen people sitting around. I ordered a beer, and after a few minutes, asked, "is there still happy hour pizza?" "The happy hour pizza? Yes, right behind you," the bartender chirped. I turned around and looked at a small table with three 10-inch pizza serving plates on it, two of which were completely empty, and the third having a half of a cheese pizza on it. So I walked up, took a little plate the size of my hand, and scooped up three matchbox-sized pieces of cheese pizza, very much to my taste, which was 1/4 of a pie. The cold cheese pizza at Ella's is still much better than the piping-hot pizza at Matchbox (see below). I love it, and will happily order it again - I'll be back, and I do hope that their freshly ordered pizza is better than the experience I had tonight. Over the next fifteen minutes, I nursed my three Lilliputian-sized pieces of cold pizza while drinking my beer, then a second pint of Yeungling ($3 at happy hour), all the while waiting for something fresh to arrive. Finally, after nothing happened, I asked for a menu and ordered a bruschetta with smoked salmon and ricotta (out of sheer courtesy for the house). After about 20 more minutes, I ordered a third beer and the bruschetta finally arrived, and it was simply awful. I won't go into the details, but I ate one piece out of three and gently pushed it aside. I finished my third beer about 45 minutes into the 'meal,' and quietly asked for the check as the bartender finally noticed that I didn't eat my bruschetta despite the fact that there were only 3-4 people left at the bar. "You didn't like it?" he asked. "Not so much," I replied, desperately hoping he'd comp it or do something - anything so I could justify leaving him some extra money. It didn't happen. This bartender was miserable: while I was there, the patrons were touristy, loud, obnoxious and rude, and for every false smile he gave to his customers, he'd turn around and scowl immediately afterwards (note to Ella's: this is a small drawback of having mirrors behind your bar). Bottom line: the "happy hour" pizza at Ella's is a promotion I suspect they either can't or don't want to honor. It's false, and you shouldn't even think of going there with the notion that you'll chow down on the cheap.Fuming, I made a beeline to Matchbox for miniburgers. I ordered six, along with a Chimay, and then out of a spirit of protest, decided to order pizza instead. I asked the bartender if I was too late to change my order, and he replied, "it's been put in - do you want to change it?" "If it isn't any trouble," I replied. He nodded politely and then sprinted up two flights of stairs. I apologized profusely when he came back down, saying I had no idea he'd have to do a manual cancel, and he was cool about it. While waiting for my pizza, I overheard someone at the end of the bar muttering something about being unfairly wedged in the corner at the bar at Citronelle earlier this evening. He then started talking about their talented chef, "Michael Herzig." I said hello and chatted with him briefly - he was a line dog from Caucus Room, formerly the, erm, Executive Chef at Bourbon. He was a nice guy, I liked him, and he was the highlight of the evening up until this point.Having had scarfed my pizza, I headed back down 7th Street and passed Andale. I thought to myself, mmmm, okay, one drink. I walked in and ordered a beer, then a glass of Arneis, and asked for a fried calamari because, well, why not. It arrived, and I was like, huh? Did you ever see The Tigger Movie, where Tigger was spending the entire time running around looking for his family, and at the end of the movie it turns out that Pooh and company were his real family, and he was with them the whole time? Well that's exactly how I felt when the calamari came. Crusted in blue cornmeal, served with a serious mixed-green salad, man, it was good, and stopped me in my tracks. "Who is the chef here," I asked. "Allison Swope," the bartender (Chris) replied. "Allison Swope? I remember her from Santa Fe East." It turns out that Efrain Velasco, a manager there, was at the bar with his charming friend, and they started noticing that I was caring about the food. I then asked for another small dish, whatever the kitchen felt like making, and they brought out a Coctel de Mariscos which is shrimp and scallops, steamed and tossed on three tortilla chips with tomatoes, chilies, lime, onion, cilantro and guacamole. After a Mezcal (from their impressive list), I asked for a dessert of their choice, and was brought a delicious pineapple upside-down cake with vanilla-coconut ice cream and lightly drizzled caramel sauce. It sounds busy, but it isn't, and it was a terrific dessert - take my word on this one and try it. I thanked everyone, said my goodbyes, and continued homeward, happy and content.-------------Next-day thought: I hit Ella's during the last hour of the last day of a week filled with tourists and other people coming in to order ice water and mooch pizza. I suspect they were really looking forward to this week's happy hour being over, and I can't say I blame them.Cheers,Rocks.

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With the stories of how to mispronounce names of restaurants on the Zaytinya thread, I thought I might report this. I was having lunch at the bar at Andale on Saturday, and two men came in and ordered margaritas. One man's cellphone rang, and he began giving directions. "Yeah, just walk up the street. We're at a place called ANN-dale". The bartender looked pained, and said "Pardon me, but it's An-da-le." I don't think the man ever corrected his pronunciation to the person who called him.

My wife had the Camarones y Callos in pumpkinseed sauce. The sauce is the same as the one you see on the grouper at dinnertime. It was sublime, with scallops and shrimp perfectly cooked. Make sure you ask for bread if none is offered, so you can mop up the pumpkinseed sauce. I had the Calamares Frito, which were good, but I'd rather have what she had.

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JimRice said:
One man's cellphone rang, and he began giving directions.  "Yeah, just walk up the street.  We're at a place called ANN-dale". 

He clearly never watched Speedy Gonzales.

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Rumors of Andale's demise may be premature. In Tom's last chat, he wrote, "Andale in particular seems to have gone downhill. Sad."

I didn't see it tonight. Alison Swope is working five nights a week, Johnny is still the bar manager, they're doing 300+ happy covers a night, and the three small plates I ordered this evening were right on-form with what they've been in the past. This is not great food, but it's very good.

So what's gone downhill? Can someone please research and let us know?

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Rumors of Andale's demise may be premature.  In Tom's last chat, he wrote, "Andale in particular seems to have gone downhill. Sad."

I didn't see it tonight.  Alison Swope is working five nights a week, Johnny is still the bar manager, they're doing 300+ happy covers a night, and the three small plates I ordered this evening were right on-form with what they've been in the past.  This is not great food, but it's very good.

So what's gone downhill?  Can someone please research and let us know?

Cheers,

Rocks.

Hasn’t gone downhill as far as we know. We stopped by for dinner earlier this month on our way to the Rolling Stones concert at the nearby MCI Center and can still heartily recommend it. As usual, we started with two of their wonderful and near-addicting Margaritas (one Blue Agave and one Hibiscus). For starters we had Muestras de Salsa (tortilla chips with a sampling of salsas) and Calamares Fritos. Both were tasty and well-presented.

Main dishes were Mole Poblano con Pollo (braised chicken leg and grilled breast served with a terrific mole sauce) and Chuleta Manchamanteles (grilled pork chop in a red mole sauce). Both were tender and flavorful and of the high quality we have experienced before at Andale.

The room was filled with seemingly happy patrons; service was friendly and efficient.

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The menu hasn't changed in a while, has it? That's the only bit of criticism I've heard about Andale recently...

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I work half a block away and feel like Andale has slipped lately. The food I've had has had an almost stale flavor to it, like it's been sitting under a warmer for 3 hours. The service is generally pleasant, but not stellar. I'd recommend Rasika for a pre-game meal if you're going to be in the area. Or, a few orders of the tuna tartare at Indebleu's lounge is a great treat!

ETA: I'm a clam! And a clam who can't spell well, apparently.

Edited by bonaire

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I was in the mood for Mexican last night so my husband I decided to give Andale a whirl. We had a 5:45 reservation and hoped to make it for the start of the 7:00 hockey game. We let our waiter know we were under a time constraint when we sat down and were assured it would be no problem......and it wasn't.

Our waiter recommended the Hibiscus margarita which I happily ordered and enjoyed. If we hadn't been on the clock I'd have definitely ordered another. We shared the Queso Fundido con Chorizo as an appetizer. It was warm, gooey and spicy with the Chorizo. I could have easily eaten the whole thing myself! My husband had the Enchiladas Verdes and inhaled them so fast I couldn't get a bite! It was a cold night and I was craving soup. The Caldo de mariscos absolutely hit the spot. It was a piping hot spicy fish stew loaded with scallops, shrimp and other mystery fish. The serving was so generous I could only eat about half. It was occasionally difficult to get the attention of our waiter. However, when he was around, he was very helpful. We will definitely keep it in our rotation of pre-game dining options.

Edited by Free Wilma

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My wife and I went to Andale for RW the other night, and had a very nice meal. We started off with 2 margaritas, mango and hibiscus, which were both great. Not frozen or served in a cheesy glass, but on the rocks and in a glass you could be proud of.

For appetizers, we had the “Empanada Serrano Rellena de Camarón” and the “Queso Fundido con Chorizo”. The 1st was delicious, all the flavors really complemented each other, and didn’t serve to cover the shrimp taste, but enhance it. The 2nd mostly just tasted like baked cheese, which isn’t to say that it was bad, just not something I’d go out of my way for.

I suppose I could say the same thing about my dinner, the enchiladas, which were good, but not great. But hey, they’re enchiladas…how good can they be? My wife’s meal, Pescado en Pepián, was fantastic. The grouper was cooked to perfection, and the accompaniment, which was basically succotash, was yummy. Plus, it gave me a reason to say succotash, and who doesn’t like to say the word succotash? It’s also the main reason I’m writing this review – to get others to say succotash.

Our desserts, the upside-down pineapple cake and the cheesecake, were both fantastic, and oozing with caramel sauce. Mmmm…caramel. Unfortunately, they would not allow us to order the churros, nor would they allow us to pay extra to get them. The waiter said that everyone would order them if allowed and that they couldn’t handle that. A total bummer.

All in all, a good meal.

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All in all, a good meal.

Were you there Friday night? I was there at the bar and Johnny (the Bar Manager) told me that they had a record number of reservations. I had been craving the Carne Asada since a friend had mentioned it to me. And it was good. It wasn't like a Ray's steak, where the magical hunk of meat is the focus. It was, instead, the magic of composition, of a good strip steak, with a chipotle sauce and cheese broiled crispy on top, served with sauteed garlicky mixed greens and au gratin potatos with manchego cheese again browned and crispy. I could eat that again and again and again. At least until the cardiologist or coroner found out! :)

Oh, and a shot of tequila or two. And a glass of wine. Hmmm...wonder why I didn't post that night. Seriously, if you want to become more knowledgeable about tequila, talk to Johnny. They're going to be doing some tequila tasting classes this spring.

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Had dinner here tonight, before the Queen/Paul Rodgers show at the MCI, make that Verizon, Center.

Guacamole was very fresh - I love the moderate heat that comes from the chopped Jalapeños. What is pink grapefruit doing in the jicama salad? Adding a nice balance to the vinaigrette, actually.

Chicken Mole was good, but the raisins in the sauce shifted the balance a bit too far to the realm of sweet. Not so for the seared tuna - chilis, mexican oregano, sour oranges, avocados - but the flavors worked in harmony rather than being too busy.

Churros were a mild disappointment - they needed 30 more seconds in the fryer, but the sugar/cinnamon dusting was spot on, and we drank the rest of the chocolate in the cup...

2 apps, 2 entrees, 2 beers, and one dessert + 20% tip came to $90, quite reasonable for downtown DC. Andale was having some charity event, giving 35% of the tab that night to (food and friends?), and I had a $25 OpenTable check I was using at dinner, so I gave $25 to the charity to call it even.

Definitely a good pre-Verizon Center event dining spot, especially since they take reservations.

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hmmm, www.andaledc.com seems to be down

Does anyone know if Andale offers any kind of happy hour? Given the location they're in they may not have to....

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It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that Andale has been shuttered on Monday night. I had the pleasure of opening it when it was originally the Mark, and then we did a complete concept change in Aug of 01 and became Andale. There is no need to go into the details, as we all know the restaurant business is tough. Alison Swope is one of the best Chefs this city has had the pleasure of dining with, and is one of the best people that I know. She will be missed, until she decides what she wants to do next. There were several parties interested in moving into the space, espescially Oyamel. Both the Jaleo and Oyamel Crystal city locations are taking a beating financially due to that location, and are looking to relocate, close or sell, as I understand it. I was told that the owners of Ceviche-wherever that is-was going to move into the Oyamel location, but am not totally confident with my source. Just goes to show that two good concepts, can be the victim of a dicey location, but that's the gamble we take in this business. The new owners of the Andale space are the people who own the Peacock Cafe in Georgetown. I am not sure of their plans with the space. Alison and her cooking will be missed until we are lucky to try her food in her next project.

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I ate at Andale a few years ago, and always meant to get back there. In fact, I passed by it on Sunday and specifically mentioned to my girlfriend that we had to go there sometime. I guess it should have been within the subsequent 24 hours! My best wishes to Chef Swope.

Separately, I am sad that Oyamel may leave Crystal City. I knew that they could not be doing as financially well as they predicted, as I am never concerned about getting a table there (and the prices have crept up while portion sizes have, in some instances, decreased), so I am happy to hear that they have a shot at getting into a space guaranteeing higher traffic. But the Crystal City location is beautiful, and, if they move, I will (totally selfishly) miss the guaranteed seating at a great restaurant.

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It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that Andale has been shuttered on Monday night. I had the pleasure of opening it when it was originally the Mark, and then we did a complete concept change in Aug of 01 and became Andale. There is no need to go into the details, as we all know the restaurant business is tough. Alison Swope is one of the best Chefs this city has had the pleasure of dining with, and is one of the best people that I know. She will be missed, until she decides what she wants to do next. There were several parties interested in moving into the space, espescially Oyamel. Both the Jaleo and Oyamel Crystal city locations are taking a beating financially due to that location, and are looking to relocate, close or sell, as I understand it. I was told that the owners of Ceviche-wherever that is-was going to move into the Oyamel location, but am not totally confident with my source. Just goes to show that two good concepts, can be the victim of a dicey location, but that's the gamble we take in this business. The new owners of the Andale space are the people who own the Peacock Cafe in Georgetown. I am not sure of their plans with the space. Alison and her cooking will be missed until we are lucky to try her food in her next project.

Has this been confirmed? The signs on the restaurant say closed for renovation. I know this generally means closed and looking for a new tenant. Any hope for survival?

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Has this been confirmed? The signs on the restaurant say closed for renovation. I know this generally means closed and looking for a new tenant. Any hope for survival?
I think it's official. Sietsema reported on it on his chat this morning.

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R.I.P.

In the summer of 2002, I spent a month in Oaxaca (early mid-life crisis). By the time I returned, i was addicted to oaxacan food, so I found my way to Andale, where I became a regular. A regular, regular. Sometimes a five-night-a-week regular. The food was not a perfect match for what i'd eaten in oaxaca (how could it be), but it wasn't far off, and the details were right on (like the day of the dead displays). Just a few weeks ago, my co-workers and I took our departing boss there for lunch. I hadn't been in a while, and I could sense a change. The food was good, but the energy didn't feel the same. Who knew the end was so near?

Thanks to everyone at Andale for the good meals and the good times, and for providing me sweet reminders of my unforgettable days in Oaxaca.

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