Lime to me, baby!

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When I moved to DC, Chinatown/Gallery Place had already transformed to most of what it is today. Sure, there wasn’t a multi-floored Walgreen’s yet, and the Wizards were a long shot from winning a playoff series, but the stories like the one my former boss, a 6’6″ ex-power forward at Catholic University, told me about breaking beer bottles on the ground to have a weapon on your walk home in the 90s were definitely a thing of the past.

No, Gilbert, not that kind of long shot

No, Gilbert, not that kind of long shot

In most of my travels, I’ve found the local “Chinatowns” to be pretty dirty. This goes for Boston, SF, Sydney, and NYC… where many of us have stood in between fish heads on ice and ducks in a window while waiting for a shoddy but cheap bus back to whatever city we actually live in.  Granted, it’s not as dirty as a literal town in China, but that bar isn’t exactly high. (NSFW)

In our little DC version of Chinatown, we have some big golden Chinese arches to compliment our golden big fat American arches with a variety of Asian cuisine and Chinese letters below store names. But beyond that, I would not say the Irish bar, Hooters, or Legal Seafoods count as Chinese.

And in this Asian-fusion hot pot, there is a small Mexican joint. Oh wait, make that two… no… three! That’s right, in the shadows of the John Wall’s palace there are three chain Mexican places: Chipotle, California Tortilla (aka Cal Tort to the die-hards), and Lime Fresh Mexican Grill – the subject of today’s post. At some point, someone looked at the burrito density of Chinatown and thought, “You know what this area need? Another burrito place!” taking a page from the Starbucks Business School of Strategic Density. 

Although I have been to Cal Tort before, and I promise to go back there again with my roommate, WAFC significant other, and frequent commenter under the pseudonym “Cal_tort_4_lyfe” Hustle Russell, but today was not the day for the revisit. And despite the constant long lines at the Chipotle in Columbia Heights, the Lime across the street on 14th wasn’t able to get enough spillover business to stay afloat and abruptly closed at the end of December last year, which meant this was my only shot at some Lime in the mouth.

Looking at the menu, I noticed all the real burritos (sorry, I do not count a bean burrito as a real burrito; vegans and vegetarians… I do not approve of your lifestyle choices) were the same price, $7.25, and I narrowed it down to Queso or Big Cali. I was pretty hungry and the description described it as “An XL burrito” and told me I “Better have a spotter ready.”

I also had my shirt unbuttoned

The Big Cali came with my choice of “chicken or ground beef, cilantro-lime rice, guacamole, salsa asada, cilantro, black bean corn salsa, tortilla strips, cheese, and our signature sour cream.” I selected chicken then made my way to the salsa bar to fill up my to-go containers. The selection was not as great as District Taco’s, but still hit most of the biggies – salsa verde, pico de gallo, salsa asada. In the emptiness of the mid-afternoon work day, the friendly staff came up to me to double check what I ordered and asked if I had any questions. The exchange went something like this:

ron swanson i know more than you

I took my burrito to the National Portrait Gallery, one of my favorite museums with a sweet atrium to enjoy this burrito around some culture. Like the Art of Video Games exhibit, the current special American Cool, or some college kids playing arrangements from… video games. I personally love the permanent exhibit on the US Presidents. Although Bill Clinton’s portrait really could go in the American Cool as well.

I sat down and unwrapped my burrito. I was taken by it’s lack of XL-ness. Hell, it was barely even “L.” This thing wasn’t going to stand a chance. I was afraid that I wouldn’t even be able to take notes because I’d get through it so quickly. The pleasant surprise (ie I didn’t read the menu carefully) was that the burrito came with chips! Huzzah! The salsas for the aforementioned chips were all solid, but none blew me away. The cilantro was fresh but hastily chopped with lots of big chunks and stems. Salsa verde was… fine, and salsa asada decent flavor but not hearty enough.

The tortilla was grilled, not steamed, and dry (surprise!). Here’s a lesson for all you young budding burristas out there, you need to do one of two things, either: a) steam your tortilla so it is moist and delicious, or b) grill it with some oil so it is moist and delicious. Straight grilling is a recipe for failure.

When I dug into the burrito itself, the rice immediately jumped out as flavorful. A cilantro-lime rice that actually has flavor? My word! The guacamole on the other hand… not so much. You know how good Whole Foods and Chipotle guacamole is? Well, it was nothing like that. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I think it had too much cumin. There were little hints of cheese here or there, but I guess at Lime if you want real cheese on your burrito you have to order the one with the word in the name. The chicken was plentiful, had above average flavor, and was impressively not dry at all. The salsa asada was nearly undetectable as was the sour cream. The black bean corn salsa provided texture and little else.

After this experience, I can see why people would rather wait 20 minutes for Chipotle than 5 minutes for Lime. A burrito that lacks so much character than repeated trips to the salsa bar is no bueno. And did I mention that despite being billed as “XL”, I felt ready for a few tacos for dessert at the end? Totally could have; too bad it wasn’t Taco Tuesday. If this was a yelp review, it might get 3 stars, but since this is a burritocentric review, they’re getting a big ol’ 2.5 sombreros.

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Lime Fresh Mexican Grill

726 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20001
202-638-4770
@limefreshmex
25pinos

District Taco – Washington, DT

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District Taco sign

“Always fresh! Always Mexican!” -actual motto

“Cancel my afternoon meetings and clear my schedule! I’m going out for the rest of the day!” I shouted aloud… in my house… walking around in nothing but sweatshorts (yes, sweatshorts! They don’t make promises they can’t keep). I figured the principle of Jeopardy watching where I only get the answer right if I say it out loud, even if I’m by myself, applied here. Is it silly to pretend that my living quarters are a “home office” because I’m unemployed? Absolutely. Am I slowly losing my grip on reality? Entirely possible. Have I been watching Pacific Rim too much lately? No way…

A truly groundbreaking film

I could watch this for hours. And by that, I mean I do

But this day was just too gorgeous to spend inside because it was one of the handful of magical days in DC that isn’t winter but the sweltering swamp ass of summer hasn’t settled in yet either. What’s that? There’s a name for this phenomena? Spring? Hmm…

Regardless of what the fancy name for this weird weather pattern was, I figured today was as good as day as any to hop on the old bicicleta and hit up the place that has had the most requests for the Pino de Gallo treatment: District Taco. Started as a food truck in 2009 by two neighbors, “DT” now has three locations in the city near Dupont, Capitol Hill, and Downtown, and one remote location in some far off land of Arlington. I wasn’t prepared to purchase a plane ticket to go to the land of JMU and UVA alums trying to live extensions of their college lives, so I had to stay in the district. This time I ventured to the downtown location – 1309 F St NW. I had heard that the lunch rush was big, so I went mid-afternoon to avoid being reminded how much I hate people.

The big menu was a bit intimidating at first, but when I cleared out all the clutter (aka non-burrito related items), I was able to find my jam. I appreciate a menu that makes it like a “choose your own adventure” young adult novel, which makes it so that the simple uptight suit wearing “employed” people of downtown DC can easily select a burrito and toppings quickly, while a burrito connoisseur like myself can really get into the nuances of the Mexican craft.

I stepped up and ordered an al pastor burrito (carved rotisserie pork, marinated with guajillo and served with chopped pineapple) with garlic-lime rice, grilled vegetables (green peppers & onions), pico de gallo, lettuce, cilantro, jalapeños, and cheese. Total cost with tax: $7.70. Not bad, even though I’m on a fixed income and if I wanted a “premium topping” (bacon, chorizo, or guacamole) it would have been an additional $1.50. After I was handed the laminated picture of a sombrero that indicated my order number, I strolled around the burritoria, past the colorful array of Mexican beers, and noticed the large wall of post-its.

Post-its claiming to be from all over espoused the greatness of District Taco. “Michigan loves District Taco!” “Rutgers approves!” (like that’s a high bar, New Jersey) “She wanted the ‘DT’” (I get it!), and “I wish it would rain tacos!” Then I saw a post-it for “Penn Class of 2015”, became annoyed at the unexpected reminder of my age and decided to stare at the salsa bar for a while.

I scooped some of each into little to-go containers, and before I knew it, my burrito was ready. Into my backpack it went, and I was off to find a better view to enjoy while eating this burrito. I often take for granted that I live in our nation’s capital and so many people flock here to see the things I see everyday. (Well not all the things, but you can use Bing’s video search for that stuff)

I found a bench on the north side of the Rock Dong, the largest all stone obelisk in the world. As I began the prep work of laying out the salsas along the bench, I noticed tourists coming up and taking the incredibly stereotypical picture with our nation’s Rock Dong. I excitedly snapped a pic, until I realized that even on in the middle of a weekday on a relatively isolated side of it, this would be a regular occurrence every five minutes. Didn’t stop me from giggling to myself though and taking pictures of them.

 

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When I pulled the brown paper bag out of my backpack, I was relieved to not see any notes of grease or salsa leaking through. When I unwrapped the burrito, I was pleased to see that the steamed tortilla and its contents had survived the bike ride. On my first bite, I encountered a large chunk of juicy pineapple. When I found the meat, it was legit. With a light char and guajillo seasoning, it paired well with the pineapple. As I dug through the burrito, I periodically hit up my own mini-salsa bar rotating across the four I had. Generally speaking, and I believe I’ve made this clear before, I greatly prefer my salsas to be on the inside of the burrito (the greatest food delivery mechanism ever Mexcreated), but it is nice to be able to shift flavors while in the burrito.

The tomatillo (verde) salsa was too tangy, almost lemony, and watery. I was not a fan. The roasted tomato (dark) salsa was excellent and definitely my favorite – thick & hearty while delicious. The mestizo salsa was not very good, mostly just heat, and if I’ve learned anything from Frank’s Red Hot it’s that I want “tang and flavor… not just heat!” The Chiltomate salsa (bright red, I think) tasted of chile de arbol, one of my favorite spicy Mexican flavors, had some heat to it, and although a bit chalky, was also damn good.

The flavors blended well in the burrito and with the rotating hits of salsa I didn’t noticed until halfway through the disconcerting absence of some of the ingredients I ordered. I’m not sure if they were forgotten or just negligible, but there was no hint of the jalapeños or cilantro (and I love cilantro, I’d bathe in it if I could), the cheese was damn near undetectable (ibid. cheese), and the lettuce and pico de gallo were sparse. The roasted veggies were crisp and plentiful (although not as good as Far East’s), and while I never tasted any flavor in the rice, it did not take away from the burrito and was well cooked. The tortilla was moist and maintained its structure through the demolishing with almost no drippage.

I enjoyed my trip to District Taco. I wasn’t blown away on this visit, but I liked their options and the main courses in the burrito were enjoyable. While I was comfortably full at the end of the meal, I would have preferred the burrito to be a bit larger for the money and force them to stuff in all the ingredients I ordered. If they’re going to offer all those great ingredients, they should make sure they actually end up in the burrito. 3.5 / 5 Sombreros, would burrito again.

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District Taco
1309 F St NW.
(202) 347-7359
@DistrictTaco

35pinos

Clickhole style internet dump

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It’s been a wild week on the internet. The world caught fire when it turned out that an old racist man is still racist and the world was shocked when an old white dude that doesn’t recognize the federal government also turned out to be racist. The girl that was given a fat lip by America’s sweetheart in Superbad, Emma Stone, took it to Jimmy Fallon at this own game in a lip sync battle. After all that, it seemed there was no room on the internet for anything else… the tubes were at capacity!

Or so we thought. And with a nod to The Onion’s upcoming new website Clickhole.com, (and with scorn to the websites it’s parodying, let’s call them Buzzworthy and UpFeed), I’ll give you a few quick clicks from the burrito corner of the internet (which I envision as a green pixelated food truck). So get your pointers ready to fill your clickhole!

Despite all that’s going on in the world, this man had the brilliant idea to miniaturize something we love and throw it up on youtube.

 

I like the look of this burrito. Well crafted, light on the ingredients, but they’re hand selected and I understand it’s a small venue. Tortilla isn’t steamed, but I’ll let that one slide. But that hamster… he’s a fiend! Barely chews, inhales not one but two burritos… I’ve never felt this kind of connection to an animal before. It’s like we were cut from the same tortilla. I also have to give the chef credit on the ambiance of his tiny establishment. (Thank you to the many people who sent me this by the way)

And finally, I’ve enjoyed a good Matthew McConaughey rom-com in my day, although I’m not quite the aficionado that my roommate Hustle Russell is, but I think that most roms and rom-coms could be easily upgraded (and shortened) if they looked more like this. (I refuse to give credit to the source, but let’s just say it rhymes with “Smuzzfeed”)

That’s all for now. I should be back with a review next week.

But speaking of internets, clickholes, and social media type things, did you know that Pino de Gallo has both a Facebook page and a Twitter account? They really exist. That’s how dedicated to this blog I am; I threw down the money to set up those pages, the least you can do is like/follow them. Be the first to know when a new post is up!

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