Taste of Dupont Circle

Eleven restaurants provide tastings to some of their food and drink specialties in Dupont Circle. 

taste of dupont checklist-start
Taste of Dupont Circle 2016 Checklist

This year’s ninth annual Taste of Dupont Circle event had 11 restaurants participating and were spread throughout the area. The event lasted from 1PM to 4PM, and each place had a special dish just for the participating customers. We were also free to order off of their regular, or happy hour menus. Ambitious and hungry, I was determined to make my way through every single restaurant on the checklist.

My first stop was James Hoban’s Irish Restaurant and Bar. It was the closest to 9 Dupont Circle, which was where I registered and picked up my checklist. Located on 1 Dupont Circle Northwest, it seemed everyone’s first stop was James Hoban’s. The line was long, but hostess seated everyone quickly in a specific place reserved just for the tasting.

The waitress informed me that their tasting dish was a mini Shepherd’s pie. I told her that was fine and ordered a mimosa to sip on while I waited.

James Hoban’s Irish Bar — Mimosa

I have got to say, I’ve tried better mimosas. Some places have super sweet mimosas, some places have super strong mimosas. This particular one was a little flat. It was a tad sour and the alcohol component tasted like flat sparkling water.

jameshoban-mini shepard's pie
James Hoban’s Irish Bar — Mini Shepherd’s Pie

The Shepherd’s pie was rather delicious. I expected the kitchen to have a whole batch of Shepherd’s pies sitting in a heater ready to be served, but each order was made when the customer sat down, so it was piping hot when I finally got my food. It almost made the long wait I had to endure worth it. I tried savoring the food sample as much as I could. The beef and the mash potatoes went so well together that I was practically scraping the tin cup in the end.

For my next restaurant I tried to avoid the crowd and decided to trek all the way up on Connecticut Avenue to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. I assumed not a lot of people have made it that far yet. Their tasting dish was skewered steak with mashed potatoes, but I also ordered off of their happy hour menu the Steak Sandwich and Fries. I think it was a good choice.

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse — Skewered Steak & Mashed Potatoes; Steak Sandwich & Fries

The skewered steak was sweet and almost resembled the taste of teriyaki, but without the Asian zing to it. The meat was super great quality and practically melted in your mouth. There was definitely no vigorous chewing going on. As for the sandwich, the peppered steak had a different, but equally delicious taste to it. The bread was buttered and perfectly toasted providing the pleasant crunch of a truly exquisite sandwich. My mouth is watering just thinking about it again. By the time I had finished the food, the time was 3PM.

I had spent too much time at these restaurants waiting and paying for my orders. I decided to strategically plan my next visits. Checking the map I was provided, I noticed that Beefsteak and My Way Deli were also on Connecticut Avenue. However, I overheard other tables talking about going over to these two places next. Not wanting to clash with a long line again, I decided to walk back down towards Dupont Circle and head to Panas Gourmet Empanadas located on 21st and P Street.

panas-empanadas storefront
Panas Gourmet Empanadas

This counter-served empanadas restaurant was also bustling with young people trying to get a piece of this delightful stuffed pastry. Out of the various options Panas provided, I chose the Chicken Melodia (CM), which was made up of grilled chicken thighs in a creamy, Sauvignon Blanc  mushroom sauce with onions and cilantro. Panas also lets you choose a sauce to go with your empanada. Loving all things spicy, I chose the Pimentón, which was made up of smokey red, and chipotle peppers.

Panas’ empanadas were good, but again, not the best. Nevertheless, I would still go again and try some of their other flavors. The regular price for one empanada is $2.50, which is not bad at all.

As I left Panas, I checked the time and saw that it was 3:28PM. About 30 minutes to go. At this point, my friend and I decided we would head over to 17th Street and try tackling some of the restaurants listed at the bottom of the list.

We headed to Duke’s Grocery first. It was a tight bar with outside patio seating. I noticed people all had a green drink of some sort. I later found out it was Duke’s tasting dish: the cucumber gazpacho.

duke's grocery-cucumber gazpacho
Duke’s Grocery — Cucumber Gazpacho

Honestly, I have never had a gazpacho before. I looked it up and learned a gazpacho is a soup made up of entirely raw vegetables usually with a tomato base and is served cold. My gazpacho was warm. I suppose that is understandable since this dish was part of an event and the servers needed to get it out to people as fast as they could in this quaint pub. Still, not my favorite of dishes today. I suppose the only thing I liked about it was how fresh the cucumber was. I was very tempted to ask for three more slices.

I didn’t spend too much time at Duke’s Grocery and quickly headed to the next nearest place. Further up 17th Street was Brick Lane, a restaurant that recently opened up in Dupont Circle. With the time being limited, I didn’t have the luxury to actually sit down and order some of their food. I just got the mimosa cocktail they were offering.

brick lane-mimosa
Brick Lane — Mimosa

Expecting it to be somewhat similar to the one I had tried earlier today at James Hoban, I took a huge swig and was immediately overcome with the strong alcohol that was in it. It was really good, despite how strong the cocktail was. It was only after a couple sips later that I realized there was a spicy kick to it. I looked closer at my glass and saw that there were definitely tiny specks of something red in it. I checked the time again, it was 3:47PM. If I left now, I could definitely go to either Sacrificial Lamb for their entree sample, or Rosebud Liquor for a wine tasting.

So, I chugged the whole glass of the spicy cocktail while ignoring the burning sensation running down my chest, and left for the Sacrificial Lamb.

The Sacrificial Lamb was a small carryout-style Pakistani-Indian restaurant located on R Street. There was only four people ahead of me, but I was a little anxious because I had walked through the door at 3:52PM. Despite the time and how close it was to 4PM, the owner seemed to be content with serving the tasting dish to anyone that walked in at this point.

In my haste to get to one more place before 4PM, I forgot to take a picture of the Butter Chicken that I ate, but please take my word when I say: THIS HAS GOT TO BE THE BEST BUTTER CHICKEN DISH I HAVE EVER TRIED!

The chicken and the sauce was very smooth and buttery. The rice had a slight natural sweetness to it and the chickpeas complimented everything together so well. I would definitely go to this place again if I ever craved for a simple Indian meal. Trying their butter chicken, I trust the rest of their food to be of similar quality.

taste of dupont checklist-finish
Taste of Dupont Circle 2016 Checklist — END

Alas, despite my determination to have a fully checked list, I unfortunately ran out of time and could not try the other places. However, the places I did try served some delectable dishes for this Taste of Dupont Circle event.

My journey was tiring and rushed, but enjoyable and exciting nonetheless. I will most definitely go to some of these places again.

Since this is an annual event, I can’t wait for next year. Maybe I’ll come up with a better strategy so that I can go home with a fully checked list. Although, I think 3 hours is just too short.

For those of you that missed this event, never worry! Just check them out individually and try the dishes I’ve tried today. You can also try something new and see what you like. The foods I’ve had definitely don’t define these restaurants, but I do believe that we’ve had some fine cuisines to taste test today.

Cheers, guys~


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