Jump to content
xcanuck

El Chucho, Cocina Superior in East Columbia Heights, Chef Saul Canesa Replaces Matthew Russell

Recommended Posts

DCist posted this article about the soon to open Columbia Heights eatery.

Many know that I fawned endlessly over Sidebar (while never having eaten at Jackie's - what's up with that?). And I consider Gordon a friend. So take this with whatever grain of salt you feel necessary. But I think these guys are going to open a kick ass neighbourhood joint. Please - if you live in the area - give these guys your business. I cannot imagine that you'll be sorry.

Please post reviews, pictures, and any other food porn you can imagine once this place opens up. I will enjoy it vicariously through y'all.

Now....back to eating stale Zingerman's bagels with bologna and processed cheese slices.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

anybody tried El Chucho in Columbia Heights yet? I know they recently opened and just made plans to go this eve. Thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I went - sat on the roof. I had a margarita, the huitlacoche flautas and some tacos (carnitas, I think). I recall thinking that everything was very good, and pretty authentic. I travel to Mexico a lot and have been looking for a place like El Chucho -- good quality without the fanciness of Oyamel. The food was inexpensive, good vibe from the decor, and nice service.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love living in Columbia Heights. On one side of my apartment: suburbia. It's ugly and always mobbed and I'm glad I don't live in the middle of it, but I have to admit that it's nice to live in walking distance from a Target (and Bed, Bath and Beyond, D'Vines, Pete's...). And on the other side, the blossoming 11th Street scene. New restaurants popping up left and right, all independently owned, all quality, all "adult," and all diverse. El Chucho is another one of these great additions.

My evening didn't start out perfectly. I walked in just after the rain had stopped and said I was meeting a friend for dinner--was there space on the roof? She said she'd head up to check, having had to evacuate for the rain. I waited in the tiny entryway for about five minutes, when she came down and said yes. Is the rest of your party here? Uh, no. Well, you'll need to wait. Have a seat at the bar. The last seat at the bar was taken when I was waiting. Oh well...

So there I stood, five more minutes, the seats on the outdoor side of the bar hadn't been wiped yet. Finally a pair got up and I got to sit, and the night began to improve. The waiter immediately swooped in with a water and asked if I wanted something stronger as well. "Oh, yes, please." At which point he grabbed a menu and said to the hostess, "The lady would like a beverage; let's help her out, huh?" (I hesitate to mention this because I don't want to blame the hostess--the place is new and kinks are to be expected--but it made an impression on me because it showed that the waiter clearly wanted me served and happy, despite being incomplete [you know, as a party].) It was busy, but he spent more time than necessary eliciting menu questions and recommending items. Nice.

My mood brightened further with the delivery of a margarita (clasico, I think) with chile-lime salt, which gave it an awesome kick.

Companion arrived, brimming with apologies--caught with no umbrella, she waited out the deluge under an overhang. I got brought the check in a hot minute and we were immediately seated upstairs. I do really like their roofdeck, but it's small and the tables are really close; the servers even have to scoot through aisles almost sideways.

We started with the chips (terrific) and salsa (very good and surprisingly spicy--house salsa is usually on the mild side) and the huaraches. I'd never had these before, but I'll be having them again. Fried corn dough, crisp and not greasy on the outside, soft on the inside, served with crema and a nice mole. At this point I'd also downed a delicious El Diablo, so when the pork tacos came, I snarfed mine so quickly that I remember no details except YUM. The chicken taco wasn't as great a success. When you got a bite with a mix of toppings, meat, and tortilla, it worked perfectly. But on its own, the chicken is tasty and smoky, but terribly dry. Incidentally, I'm one of those poor souls who generally thinks she doesn't like corn tortillas until I run across the rare great one. El Chucho has the rare great ones.

So I'll be back. I'll be there early or with my complete party, either sitting at the bar or out front, but I'll be there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Incidentally, I'm one of those poor souls who generally thinks she doesn't like corn tortillas until I run across the rare great one. El Chucho has the rare great ones.

I'm completely with you, on both counts.

After starting with the surprisingly good Margarita on Tap ($5, try it if you don't believe me) I got two orders of tacos: Tripas ($8), crispy tripe and foie gras with lemon and parsley, and Calabacita ($5), rajas, squash blossoms, fried zucchini, and black garlic, and both two-taco orders came with two tortillas per taco (2 x 2 x 2 = 8 tortillas). (I preferred the Calabacita to the Tripas, even if they'd both been the same price.)

I didn't think there was enough fillings to justify the second tortilla, so I pulled them aside and saved them for another course (I hate wasting food). I stopped my bartender from removing them, but unfortunately I couldn't stop a server from plucking them away when he brought my Queso Oaxaqueño Frito ($6), so they went to waste after all. They were, however, great tortillas (and this is coming from someone who doesn't really like 90+% of all tortillas he's served) - they had flavor (as so many "serious" tortillas don't), they had "give" without being rubbery (as so many "serious" tortillas are), and they were just terrific.

For scientific purposes, I got the Todos Naturales Margarita ($9), made with organic silver tequila, agave, fresh lime, and requiring a chili-salt dunk and a few shakes from the bartender. Was it better? Yes. Was it four dollars better? Well, maybe not. If you come to El Chucho, do try the $5 margarita on tap and the $5 Calabacita Tacos. Regardless of what else you order, you won't regret ordering these. They also have 76 different tequilas.

I've now been to Alegria, Bandolero, and El Chucho within the past month.

"So what's your favorite of the three, Don?"

"Don?"

Psst ... go to El Chucho.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No website or menu posted on Facebook?

I had trouble finding one when I looked a few weeks ago. The ones on Yelp are "typical" but not representative.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

After starting with the surprisingly good Margarita on Tap ($5, try it if you don't believe me).

I did and I do. Good stuff.

What was not good stuff was the carne asada tacos, so tough I could barely bite through them, a problem compounded by the grilled green onion, which were strangely tough as well and slid right out like a wet noodle. They tasted great, but I don't think I'd order them again.

Incidentally, have their tacos gotten smaller or did I just never notice? I'd gotten three for $7 at Taqueria DF a couple of days before, so the difference was pretty stark--El Chucho's are itty bitty.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wish they would create a web site, with up-to-date info. The Facebook page says "breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner," but when we went at lunchtime the only menu available was brunch. The server's explanation was that "this neighborhood wants brunch, not lunch."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Now that El Chucho serves lunch during the lunch hour, we visited Saturday. The chips are not at all greasy and the salsa casera is very good. I believe it might be a cooked salsa. It's nice and thick, with with a good balance of sweet, salty, tangy and smoky. The carne asada tacos were fine. I didn't find them to be dry, as qwertyy did, but that onion on them was impossible. I couldn't bite through it.

If I lived in the neighborhood I would visit often for drinks, chips and salsa/guacamole. It's a fun place and as we watched food being prepped (we could see into the kitchen) it seems like a place that cares about quality and details. I cringe at paying so much for tacos, though. In Columbus, the taco trucks near my house and our favorite taqueria charge $1.50 each. DC rents, DC wages, DC food prices = DC restaurant prices. I know.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We made a return trip to El Chucho on Saturday night, and I now have a much improved opinion of the place. Our first time around we loved the vibe and the drinks, but were not big fans of the tacos. This time around, however, we stuck to the other parts of the menu and absolutely loved it. The pork posole was wonderful, and at $12 is large enough that you could make it your entire meal. The elote is also fantastic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Went yesterday night, after a lovely bike ride to Mt. Vernon and back. I was starving and originally was planning on trying Panda Gourmet, but was meeting other people and this was more central. The head of the tutoring program that I'm in that has lived in Latin American countries for several years was raving about the elote and Margaritas on tap. So, we met up at Meridian Pint for a Pint and then walked over to Chucho.

We got seated quite quickly upstairs. It was a little cool up there, but figured a few drinks would help warm us up. We all got the house margarita (Codo or Coda). Half of us got the regular salt, half the chile salt. I really liked the chile salt, it was a nice touch. We started with the chips/salsa, guacamole, and the fried cheese balls (Oaxacan queso something or other). Good housemade chips and the salsa was flavorful, but very mild. The guacamole tasted pretty good, didn't blow my mind. I really liked the cheese balls. The red sauce that it came with was awesome. It tasted like the ancho chile enchilda sauce I make, but there was some ingredient in there that really revved it up. Smoky, great deep red color and I wish they gave more of it. Alongside that was another pico de gallo, it was spicier and would have preferred that to the salsa they gave with the chips.

We each ordered an elote. It's spiced corn on the cob, with salt, chile, pepper, butter, and either cheese or some sort of crema. Rich and decadent and delicious. This, to me, is reason enough to visit. It's top notch. There is a spicy Indian street food version of this, as well, that you can get on the beaches, but it doesn't have the crema or cheese or whatever it was. We all really enjoyed this.

For dinner, the group got tacos (asada, carnitas). 2 come to an order for $5, which isn't unreasonable, but they are teeny tiny. In addition, my Beltway Bandit friend from high school celebrated a huge recent sales deal by adding chimichangas. They looked delicious and he gave them his seal of approval. I forgot what was inside it, I think it was a vegetarian filling. (Funny aside: he's Chinese and when he asked how big the chimichangas were, he was told that they were "about the size of an egg roll". That really made my day, as we are a really politically incorrect group of friends). I got the torta, think it's called Chemitas. It's chicken milanese with head cheese on top. The bread was soft and tasty, and the filling was tasty, but not as vibrant as I was hoping. It's huge, so I'm about to pound the other half at lunch, and I'll see if it pops this time.

The neighborhood is so cool now, and I think this is an awesome addition. It has great ambience and I'm sure it is super packed when the weather is nice. Feel like I didn't really crack the menu, as the posole looks phenomenal (picture in the Washingtonian review looks so good), and I wouldn't mind trying the other appetizers (stuffed relleno looks tasty) and the pork torta. I didn't actually try a taco myself, so of course I'll have to do that. And the strawberry habenero margarita intrigues me.

$93 + tip. Not bad. In terms of just straight up taste, I like Pica Taco better, and it's cheaper, but it's not as 'sceney'.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Really appreciate the neighborhoody vibe of El Chucho, the sort of place more neighborhoods around DC need.

We sat at the bar and sipped on a negra modelo while contemplating the menus.  The guac and chips was a fair sized order for $8 and none of that "made table side" nonsense that doubles the price at other restaurants.  The guac could have used a sprinkle of salt and squeeze of lime to brighten the flavor but solid order.  We split two tortas, both priced at around $12 and both massive.  The Torta Ahogada (pork, black beans, cheese, onion, avocado and drenched in arbol salsa, and yes it does come with eating gloves) was really damn good.  The second torta, whatever the vegetarian option was I think it had sweet potato, was fine but on the bland side, they need to rethink and come up with something punchier.  We also sampled a couple tequilas and mezcals and tried a cocktail off their list which included fresh sage and smelled like really good marijuana...tasted good too!

It really would be helpful if they had a current menu online when writing these things...hey, next time ask for that cocktail that has fresh sage and smells of pot...but, somehow, I think if you walked in and asked for that, they would know what you wanted to drink.  Anyway, If I lived within walking distance, El Chucho would definitely be on the rotation.  

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...