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Baby Wale, Corduroy's Next-Door Sibling at the Convention Center


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The good news:

Washingtonian reports

Corduroy chef/owner Tom Power purchased the building next to his Shaw eatery and plans to open a casual restaurant in the next year. Shortly after seeing a press release from the real-estate broker on the deal, Congressional Commercial, we spoke with Power on the phone about his plans for the place, at 1124 Ninth Street, Northwest."

"The look of the space, which is 3,469 square feet, will be "down and dirty," says Power. "No dry wall, concrete floors, exposed brick, exposed steel." He says he wants to keep the prices low—"nothing over $18 or $20"—on the menu, which will include soups, salads, maybe grilled cheese, pizza, and a lobster roll. The press release quotes Power as saying he'll possibly serve "things like hot dogs from the New Jersey shore, pupusas, a steak, crispy salmon with refried black beans.

The bad news:

Chef Power says he needs 10-12 months to get it up and running...

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Hey! You know who wrote the lyrics for the AstroBoy theme song?

Don Rockwell !

Don, you need to get involved in my wife's show at the Studio Theatre!

The Studio 2ndStage

Innovative and thrillingly eclectic, 2ndStage takes on Japanese Manga,

Astro Boy and the God of Comics

created and directed by Natsu Onoda Power

World Premiere

February 15, 2012-March 11, 2012

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According to our server at Corduroy last night (sorry, drawing a blank on his name), this may actually be happening this summer.

It is. However, the name will not be Velour, but Baby Wale. This is what I was told while having dinner at the bar at Corduroy on Monday evening.

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Don, you need to get involved in my wife's show at the Studio Theatre!

The Studio 2ndStage

Innovative and thrillingly eclectic, 2ndStage takes on Japanese Manga,

Astro Boy and the God of Comics

created and directed by Natsu Onoda Power

World Premiere

February 15, 2012-March 11, 2012

Say the word, and I'm in.

Oops! This was from two years ago. :unsure:

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a} Baby Wale is now open

b} This may be my favorite comment in the history of the internet -- http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/youngandhungry/2013/08/29/baby-wale-now-open-near-convention-center/#comment-128843.

What a fantastic, inviting space.  Huge but somehow intimate.  Hot dog was very good -- and there are three Tom Power soups on the menu!

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Took the kids there last night and had an overall delightful meal. The crab roll my daughter was able to snag before they ran out was served on a roll with a kind of pretzel-like crust. The crab was not the freshest but overall the dish was very good, with well-balanced flavors. I had a beautiful tomato salad with deep scarlet, meaty heirloom tomatoes and basil that had that wild spiciness of plants lovingly grown in some dedicated gardener's back yard. The duck confit papusas were rich and savory, though I would have preferred a crispier texture. I was not entirely comfortable watching my kids eat the infamous Ron Jeremy spring rolls from next door, but they were delicious as always. My Catoctin Creek Manhattans were excellent. I loved how the space was laid out, and the long, serpentine bar has got to be one of the most inviting and attractive in town right now. Baby Wale aims to deliver elevated bar food and they certainly meet that standard.

There are still some kinks to work out in terms of service and communication. I ordered the New Jersey hot dogs, was told several minutes later they were out of them, so I substituted crab rolls and was told several minutes later they were out of them but that I could have a lobster roll instead. Then I was told there was a misunderstanding with the kitchen and that there are no lobster rolls. All this fairly early in the dinner service. There was a similar comedy of errors when the check arrived and had to be corrected twice. I'm sure these things will work out in time and am eager to return, try some more items, and enjoy the beautiful bar.

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Dinner last night at Baby Wale. Came with big expectations and left with a more mixed, if not underwhelmed impression. The space is big and open but without anything to absorb sound it was incredibly loud even when not near capacity. As noted by others service still has some kinks to work through. The soups alone are worth repeat visits. Whatever issues there were, the soup rights all wrongs. We also ordered the duck pupusas and the hot dog. The pupusas were dry and flavorless. The hot dog was better but the standout were the fries that came with it. I think we should have made smarter choices when ordering and gone for the soft shell sandwich, Caesar salad or the lobster roll. They were out of the grilled cheese sandwich which would have been a good pairing with the tomato soup.

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The hot dog was better but the standout were the fries that came with it. 

The fries that came with the hotdog were perfect - They are the shoestring variety but were hot, perfectly crisp, not greasy, lightly salted and topped with some herbs.  I could eat bowls of them.

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The fries that came with the hotdog were perfect - They are the shoestring variety but were hot, perfectly crisp, not greasy, lightly salted and topped with some herbs.  I could eat bowls of them.

This description sounds exactly like the fries that were served at the original Corduroy with a burger.  Totally addictive.

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I haven't done a lot of dining out during the first four months post-baby (other than some neighborhood standbys that didn't prompt a post). But made it out to Baby Wale last night with a few friends. The space is really cool looking and I love the long bar that spans the restaurant. We were sitting at the front window table, so I think that helped us avoid some of the loudness (and the restaurant wasn't packed so I'm sure that made a difference). My one complaint was about the darkness. I could see the menu and everything fine, but I think I'm just getting old in that I prefer to be able to see my dining companions and food a little better.

Three of us had soups to start (I mean, it's Tom Power...how do you not?!). I had the Chilled Eggplant Soup ($7), which was very good, with a little kick from what may have been chili oil or something on top? Very smooth and creamy. The bite I had of the Charred Tomato Soup ($7) was also good. I would like to go back and order this with the grilled cheese. We also split an order of the Filipino Style Spring Rolls ($8), which are the delicious "Ron Jeremy" rolls that Rissa introduced to Corduroy back in the day. Two large rolls with a tangy dipping sauce. Perfect amount to split four ways and not fill up between that, soup, and entrees.

Two people got the Duck Confit Pupusas ($10), and they both complained that they couldn't taste the duck at all. I didn't have a bite, so I can't comment on how they were. The other two of us had the New Jersey Hot Dog and Fries ($10). As stated above, the fries are excellent. Thin, crispy, shoe strings with just the right amount of salt and herbs. Delicious. The hot dog was very good too (enormous and twice the length of the bun on which it was served). My main complaint here is the lack of condiments served with the dog/fries. There was a slaw/relish type thing, but I tend to prefer something saucier. I had to flag down the host (our waiter was MIA for a large portion of the night) to request some ketchup, which was good as a fry dip, as well as on the dog (yes, I am one of those people).

As mentioned above, our server was nice enough, but he did not visit our table nearly often enough, and we had to flag down the host/hostess to ask for a couple things (more wine, ketchup, the check). I would be interested in coming back and eating at the bar as well. Definitely recommend the soups and fries!

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Okay, I'm going to come right out and say it: I was at the soft opening of Baby Wale, and was disappointed with the food (they just weren't ready to open at that point).

But last week, things seemed very different, and I had a really nice dinner there - one that calls me back.

While I waited for my appetizer, I got a glass of 2012 Zum Martin Sepp Grí¼ner Veltliner ($8), a solid version of this dry, stalwart white wine that nobody had heard of ten years ago, but is virtually the house white of many a restaurant in this era, generally being among the least expensive white wines by the glass that have a bit of backbone to them.

I started off with Celery Root Soup ($7), and got a very typical, Power-esque bowl of broth, seemingly using shellfish stock as a backbone but I can't be sure - there was a crustacean-like richness to the bisque-y soup, perhaps the only flaw being an over-exuberant squirt of oil on top. I would get this again in a heartbeat.

The bread here is very good, and butter is even better: creamy *and* salted on top - there was not a microliter of soup left in my bowl after swabbing it clean.

The Go-Go touches at Baby Wale are just fantastic - from the sign on the wall, to the posters advertising wines by the glass, I'm going to tell you in a moment which restaurant - more than any other - Baby Wale reminds me of in DC (think about it right now, and see if you can guess).

One thing I'll bet Tom regrets is the bar stools which seem a couple inches too tall, but oddly, I don't remember this being an issue the last time I was in, so maybe they're not all the same, or the floor is elevated in certain sections of the bar. Regardless, it's a small issue.

Anyone who has played blind-tasting games in the past would guess, if they were blindfolded, that my glass of 2010 Perrin Côes du Rhone Rouge ($9) was caramel. Not caramel-y wine, but actual caramel - like Ann Amernick caramel. It was bizarre, but seemed to blow off after a few minutes (it was probably a pour from a brand new bottle).

And it was completely gone when I got my Charcoal Grilled Faux Rib Eye ($24) with house made french fries, and just the right amount of jus to cover the steak, and dunk most of the fries. This is apparently a shoulder cut, made from the junction of three different muscles, so while not an expensive cut of meat, a lot of people (me included) would swear this was a rib eye. If you're like me, you tend to skimp on steaks, and therefore order a lot of Hanger and Skirt cuts - this is a refreshing change of pace from those, and if you like steak, I would urge you to try this.

How do you not get Cookie Dim Sum ($2) for dessert? I asked what it was, and they said they bring you a tray of cookies, and you pick one. Well, they literally brought out a tray of cookies - about ten of them - and I picked one, chocolate chip, and took it to go.

So, about the restaurant that Baby Wale reminds me of: Comet Ping Pong. Think about it - how could it be anything else?

A really good showing for Baby Wale that is formally initiated solidly in Italic in the Dining Guide.

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And it was completely gone when I got my Charcoal Grilled Faux Rib Eye ($24) with house made french fries, and just the right amount of jus to cover the steak, and dunk most of the fries. This is apparently a shoulder cut, made from the junction of three different muscles, so while not an expensive cut of meat, a lot of people (me included) would swear this was a rib eye. If you're like me, you tend to skimp on steaks, and therefore order a lot of Hanger and Skirt cuts - this is a refreshing change of pace from those, and if you like steak, I would urge you to try this. 

A while back (quite a while now), when a friend and I ate at the bar at Corduroy, she got this steak, and I was quite envious from the bit I had of it and wished that had been my order.  I'm glad to know it's on the menu at Baby Wale.  I still haven't been there, but that's even more incentive.

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I've now eaten here twice, including last night. I like it a lot. The charred tomato soup was outstanding, and perfect for the cold weather. And while they were out of the faux ribeye, the flat iron steak was fantastic, perfectly cooked, and delicious.

As an FYI, Don, we were told last night that the backbone of the celery root soup was lobster stock.

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That oceanic richness to the celery root soup, I am told, is from lobster stock.  I'd bet it's just as good outside of the winter months, but on a chilly day it's liquid gold.

We weren't quite as impressed with the faux ribeye steak.  Well turned-out, yes.  Attractive, yes.  Marbled, yes.  But short on flavor, even after factoring out the fact that it doesn't have an equivalent to the "calette" ribeye cap.

But then there was the cassoulet, with the duck leg on top...crispy, tender, and oh so rich to fortify you against the night air.

It was a Friday night around 7PM when we departed, and Tom Power was there in his kitchen, working on a piece of fish.  I would have expected he'd be next door instead, working the fires at Corduroy at the height of dinner service, but it's one sign that Baby Wale is no mere afterthought.

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Our last stop on the "return to DC" crawl was Baby Wale. As we strolled the busy streets between the Shaw metro and Baby Wale, we were gobsmacked by the development and gentrification of the area. 10 years ago we would not have felt safe in the area after dark, and last night it felt no different than parts of Dupont Circle. DC is evolving at such a rapid pace.

If I still lived here (sad face) Baby Wale would be in the regular rotation. Chef Power was in the kitchen. The long bar is very enticing (Don, I am short and thought the bar stools put ME a bit close to the bar) and the menu is inventive. We got the celery root soup (of course) and I cannot add anything to the previous praise about this soup. When we ordered the bartender said "two spoons?" as I assume that this soup has achieved somewhat legendary status and everyone wants to try it. We split a caesar salad because, well, there should be greens at some point. This came with a boatload of shaved cheese. It would serve as a light lunch for many people because of the cheese. We saw a braseola pizza being delivered. We had no intention of ordering a pizza, but that thing was so thin and beautiful that we both immediately wanted it. The pizza did not disappoint. It was quite a generous size, perfect for sharing. Just shy of $80 for a $48 Chardonnay, soup, salad and pizza.

For such a big, open space, the noise level didn't ever seem to become a problem as we could comfortably speak in regular voices as the place filled up. And the staff behind the bar worked efficiently and pleasantly to keep up with the ever growing crowd. I wrote about a similar experience at Del Campo (dropping in, eat at the bar, split an entree and two "sides," bottle of wine) and I realized that while Del Campo was a place I really wanted to try, after the experience at Baby Wale I can say IT is a place where I want to BE.

As a side note: my Fitbit said I walked 20,000 steps yesterday, about double my normal day with a treadmill workout. If I keep eating and drinking like this, 20,000 isn't going to be sufficient!

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Saturday night.  11pm.  The entire bar is full, standing room only.  Luckily a small group was finishing up so we swooped in and claimed two stools at the end of the bar.  Love the design/decor.  The tree branch lighting element adds a whimsical touch to the space.  The Go-Go inspired wine posters are also cool.  Good to see Chef Power working the kitchen.  We left around midnight and while the crowd had started to thin out, still plenty of people at the bar.

We went with the "Ron Jeremy" Spring Rolls and the mushroom pizza.  Both very tasty.  Resurrection Ale and an excellent French 75 cocktail to drink.

Corduroy and Baby Wale are still several blocks off the beaten path and their block still has an abandoned feeling to it, but it will be interesting to see what happens when all the construction in that area is done.

Four thumbs up from us.

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I love a good Caesar Salad. In fact, I am likely to order it if it's on the menu and not in a chain restaurant. The one I had this evening at Baby Wale was one that I will be longing for a good long time. It was a classic, non-grilled  :o, perfectly fresh salad with little croutons and generous shavings of cheese. Perfect, in other words and in my opinion. It wasn't comped, either. I don't remember ever seeing a Caesar Salad on the menu at Corduroy. I wonder why not?

For well under $20, one could have a bowl of soup and that salad and be very, very content--unless you hadn't eaten in a week or so.

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Went for an early graze with friends that were visiting DC for other reasons. Good excuse to try this out. My comments are based on tastes of all of the below, but some items suffered because a bite with every element was really impossible.

Caesar Salad - was fine, but not exceptional.

Pizza - i loved the crust and this was very good

pork belly - i think it also

meatball casserole - I wanted to really love this super lots, because I love meatballs. It was really quite good, but did not make me giddy as I had hoped.

asparagus salad with egg floating on top - this was fine, the veg were really fresh, but I did not get enough of a taste to really comment

sugar snap peas - theses were amazingly good. Truly.

pupusas - I liked this dish a lot - I would totally order this again.

spring rolls - dish of the night. Really great.

tongkatsu - was good, the sauce was REALLY good

Had some of their cookies for dessert and they were good, but nothing really special.

I did manage to try some Whistlepig rye while I was there and I have to say it was exceptional.

The space is kind of wild and weird, but the noise never got too crazy - then again, it was a Tuesday and I think we left at 9:30 or so.  I would go back to try more for sure.

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Consolidating a couple of recent visits to Baby Wale into one post.

Spring Rolls continue to be excellent

Grilled Cheese with Ham is very good (the sandwich is a little on the small size, but very rich...still it could be a little bigger)

Lobster Roll of a toasted brioche roll is also very good.  It comes with a large pile of matchstick style fries, ask for the homemade mayo for dipping

Pupusas with zucchini is solidly good, mine could have used another minute or two on the griddle to get those little char "leopard spot" marks.

The Heirloom Tomato Salad is pretty straight forward - good quality tomatoes with some greens

The pizzas are solid, but perhaps not outstanding.  But I would still be happy to eat one.

The ramen starts off great, the slices of pork and other toppings are delicious, but I found that by the end of the bowl it was getting a bit repetitive (but that didn't stop me from finishing the bowl)

The Brewers Art Birdhouse Ale is an easy drinking pale ale, not over the top hops wise and clocking in at a mild 5% abv.  And we have had some good tasting cocktails.

Baby Wale remains high on our list and a great spot to take out-of-town guests for a low key catch up on life kinda night.

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After spending 8 hours at NatsFest, inside the Convention Center, the only logical choice was to walk across the street to Baby Wale.

We were rewarded with the comfort foods that play an important supporting role in any daydream starring Tom Power. Most of you would also choose: Rissa's Filipino rolls, Charred Tomato Soup, Moz porcupine, and Faux Ribeye.

Because our ears were still buzzing from the DJ-driven tracks at the Nats event, Baby Wale's music and lighting choices were greatly appreciated. Not too dark with effectively placed task lights, not too loud with the sound of the city -- both pretty much just right for conversation and illuminated dining.

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Our meal in this cavernous space was just ok. Corkage quoted at $25 over the phone was charged as $15 by our friendly if somewhat unskilled waiter. We tried the pupusas, ceasar salad, chicken tikka,the faux ribeye (shoulder cut) and two pizzas-mushroom and prosciutto. Nothing to complain about and prices were reasonable but nothing really jumped out at us. Ceasar and chicken (chef is from India and it shows) were probably the two best items overall. Ribeye was a bit tough but flavorful and at $24 not overly priced-fries were good. Pizza  had a pleasant charred flavor but was soggy. Stemware was very poor and really needs to be upgraded. A huge bar with no TVs so no reason to bring in the sports fans who drink and eat. I say this as the place was pretty empty for a Saturday and the neighborhood is still in transition but better than it used to be.   We got the feeling that no one seems to be coordinating the service as there was some confusion on who would be our server,items showed up that we had not ordered, and delivery overall was not well paced. I doubt we will return to Wale. 

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We had an early dinner here on Saturday evening, arriving as Tom Power was unlocking the door. I can't comment too much on the food, as I was coming down with a cold and my tastebuds were off. I was impressed with the zucchini pupusa, though--great texture, a nice combination of the slaw and the creamy pupusa. It was just right. My duck confit cassoulet was warming and great comfort food.

The beer list is small but sufficient, I find, and I still love the space. The service was great--friendly but professional.

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Since there was an event at the convention center, I decided making a reservation was wise, though we didn't need it for the fairly early time we went.  We got a variety of offerings, including a couple of pizzas, and the only misfire was the soup.  They were out of black bean soup and the lobster soup seemed to have run short too, so that was something with red snapper and maybe lobster broth?  (The description was a little confusing.  It was listed as a bisque on the check.)  My husband was expecting lobster and it was really much more a fish soup.  I only had a little of it, but it was surprisingly not great; not bad but not great.

I ordered fries as an extra, forgetting that the faux ribeye my husband ordered also came with fries, so we had an abundance of (very good) fries.  And, of course, the spring rolls never disappoint.

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They were out of black bean soup and the lobster soup seemed to have run short too, so that was something with red snapper and maybe lobster broth?  (The description was a little confusing.  It was listed as a bisque on the check.)  My husband was expecting lobster and it was really much more a fish soup.  I only had a little of it, but it was surprisingly not great; not bad but not great. 

That was probably the Red Snapper Bisque, a regular on the menu both there and at the bar at Corduroy. I've always liked it but others find it fishy.

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That was probably the Red Snapper Bisque, a regular on the menu both there and at the bar at Corduroy. I've always liked it but others find it fishy.

I've had that at Corduroy and liked it.  I'm not sure it was same thing but I suppose it might have been.  The verbal description of what it was was not completely clear.  It sounded like a last minute change because the regular lobster soup ran out.  It struck me as a little odd that they were out of both soups on the printed menu by 7:30, when they didn't seem busy (except at the bar).

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My most recent visit to Baby Wale was during Happy Hour, and I took advantage of Happy Hour pricing throughout the meal, assembling more food than I was able to finish for $22. Happy Hour pricing is displayed on the left side of the parentheses; regular pricing on the right.

If you participate in Restaurant Week, you should be paying close attention here.

I started off with a glass (probably a 12-ounce glass) of Lost Rhino Tmavy Dark Czech Lager ($5 / 7), a wonderful, malty, 6.2% ABV brew from Ashburn, and kept it coming throughout the meal. Since I was sticking with the Happy Hour menu, and this was mostly elevated pub food, beer worked just fine from start to finish.

While I always enjoy a drink or two before dinner, my body tells me when it's time to order - I get an S.O.S. saying, "Uh, hey, uh, listen, this liquid is nice and everything, but could you expedite a little more substance down here?" And so I pay attention.

The Lobster Bisque ($4 / 7) was recently discussed here, and I've had a hankering for it ever since. I've had better versions than this one, which was on the thin side, but I think it's cut a little bit at Baby Wale compared to the version at Corduroy, which seems to be thickened some more - I may be wrong on this, but that's been my perception. I vague remember that Corduroy used to thicken their bisque with a bit of foie gras, but I may be conflating this with another dish. Regardless, it was wonderful, and I didn't want it to end.

Next came a Mortadella Pizza ($10 / 14), and I was shocked at the size *and* the beauty of it - the pizzas at the old Corduroy bar simply were not this good. If you haven't had a pizza at Baby Wale, I highly recommend giving it a try - it's unlike any other pizza in the area, and hard to describe. You can tell it's not a pizzeria, but you can also tell that a chef is making these, both in terms of crust, cooking technique, and toppings. Rather than describe it, I'll enclose a picture:

post-2-0-59735000-1439382392_thumb.jpg

Doesn't that look good? Well, I'd only finished one slice of the pizza when my next two items arrived: a Squash Blossom Pupusa ($3 / 5) and two Crispy Filipino Style Spring Rolls ($5 / 7), both of which were terrific. I've been enjoying these lumpia for about thirteen years, and they're still right on point.

Anyway, after the soup, the pupusa, two spring rolls, and a slice of pizza, I'd eaten plenty, so I not only asked for a carryout box for my pizza, but also ordered a second pizza to go (that's how much I liked the first one): an Oven Roasted Cherry Tomato Pizza was on the menu, but I was told that instead, they were serving a Shiitake Pizza ($10 / 14) - well, that works with me! So I had a *lot* of really good pizza at home, which I enjoyed both as a late-night snack, and throughout the next day.

This was, by far, the most polished meal I've yet had at Baby Wale. They've gotten everything together - when it first opened, I was worried about it, but those fears were unfounded. This is some of the best bar food in the city, and Baby Wale remains *strongly* in Italic in the Dining Guide. I love this place - it's like Comet Ping Pong, but it hasn't been overrun by little kids.

Here are the regular and Happy Hour menus. Take note of the Sapporo Style Ramen - this could be one of the sleeper dishes in DC.

post-2-0-96961800-1439383110_thumb.jpgpost-2-0-92427900-1439383126_thumb.jpg

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Baby Wale has become a hang out spot when my brother is in town for a meeting and staying near the convention center (Mockingbird Hill is also on our list).  Got there at 8:45pm and the place was hopping, looked like some sort of large group party going on.  But there were still some spots at the bar.

I order the zucchini pupusa. Very nice, two large pupusas for $10.  My nitpicks:  The pupusa could be griddled a little longer, I like them to have a bit of speckled char and they are served with way too much curtido.  But otherwise tasty stuff.  Also had a Hellbender Red Line Ale, solid, a bit of a sour finish, but not overly so.  And I think something from Union Craft Brewing from Baltimore, which was good (forget exactly what it was).   

I dig the gender neutral bathroom signs

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On 8/12/2015 at 8:38 AM, DonRocks said:

Here are the regular and Happy Hour menus. Take note of the Sapporo Style Ramen - this could be one of the sleeper dishes in DC.

Damn straight.  I love this stuff.  It is not for the faint of heart...er...taste?  It is a strong, rich, and fish-heavy (in all the right ways) broth that almost makes me wish it were cold again so this would again be perfect for the weather.  Almost... :)

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1 hour ago, saf said:

The only problem with going to Corduroy in summer is the no shorts rule. It keeps us from being able to stop in without going home to change.

You can get a sampling of his cooking (summer soups, for example) at Baby Wale in shorts.

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Had dinner here with family again recently. Overall, good meal. My starter was pretty weak though - billed as an heirloom tomato salad, it was poorly seasoned (if at all), very cold plate of very cold tomatoes. Pretty sad.  But the rest of the meal was good.

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On 8/21/2017 at 8:56 AM, Tom Power said:

Sorry about that. I do like the tomatoes chilled but there is no excuse for them not  to be well seasoned. 

Hey no worries - stuff happens. My only point about the really cold tomatoes was that they lost some of their flavor being so cold IMHO.

We'll be back, of course. I still prefer Corduroy over Baby Wale, we all have our preferences. :)

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