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Reservations Recommended

Restaurant Review ~ High Street Café / 1303 Wisconsin Ave., NW

High Hopes for this newcomer. Picking out newcomers in the DC restaurant scene overwhelms dedicated foodies. New ones seem to stream in and open up — and with luck, they will profit and stay around. That’s the foodie hope for this Georgetown newbie.

photo–Jessica van Dop DeJesus

Opened at the end of last year by Manuel Iguina, this eatery offers assorted Latino-inspired fare that might remind folks of Iguina’s earlier restaurant operation, Mio Restaurant on 14h Street. Alas, that jumping, popular place closed, leaving behind devoted clientele who had lapped up the kitchen’s Latino fare.

After all, Iguina is a native of Puerto Rico, who came to DC to study at The George Washington University. To bring in income, he worked tables at local eateries, and suddenly fell in love with the restaurant world. Thus he ended up working at Georgetown’s Filomena Ristorante. And that was his step forward into the food world.

photo–Jessica van Dop DeJesus

After years working here and elsewhere, Iguina has once again graced DC with his delicious food. Stopping in at lunchtime offers patrons a chance to dig in to the slightly shorter midday menu. Two starters catch the eye. One, a pan-roasted calamari bathed in a creamy sauce, full and rich; one can choose spicy or mild, but even the spicy is approachable.

The other starter of shrimp and grits should be turned into an entrée; you may want to use this as the main course — packed with creamy grits and topped with plump, juicy shrimp and sliced chorizo and sided with braised collards, the dish packs a flavor punch that seldom turns up in other shrimp/grits eats. This could become patrons’ must-have offering at each visit (assuming one likes shrimp and grits).

Entrée choices include four different types of pizzas, including a sweet one with preserved figs; pasta offerings; and the mains that include pan-seared salmon, sweet plantain lasagna (that’s the Puerto Rican influence, surely), and a flatiron steak with chimichurri and mashed potatoes.

For patrons looking for lighter midday fare, consider one of the sandwiches — calf liver, roasted pork shoulder, lox toast, and a cheeseburger; and of these, the crispy cod with a dab of sriracha aioli makes a fish sandwich really worthwhile.

Apparently, the dessert menu fluctuates through crème brûlée, chocolate cake, and cheese flan and maybe one or two others, but the chocolate cake is not a cake in the classic layered sense. Instead, it is a wedge of intensely rich chocolate “pie” in a caramel sauce and with strawberries as garnish. This could be addictive. Really.

The restaurant also offers a special abbreviated lunch menu: choose an appetizer and an entrée with a glass of house wine or dessert. But look to the main menu — order the shrimp/grits and chocolate cake and walk away totally pleased.

High Street Café / lunch, Mon.-Fri. 11am-3pm; dinner, Mon.-Thu. 5-10pm, Fri. & Sat. to 11pm; brunch, Sat. & Sun. 11am-3pm. 202-333-0256.

Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, editor, and restaurant reviewer. She has authored books on Asian and Mexican cuisines published by Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Macmillan. Other credits include restaurant reviews and food articles for national and regional publications, as well as former editor of the Vegetarian Times and former food editor/writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Click here to visit her website.