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

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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

Now the Official* Burrito Blog of the Washington Wizards!

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*Unofficial

Some of you may remember the sternly worded letter I wrote to the Baltimore Bullets Washington Wizards “basketball” team. I will spare you the details, but I highly recommend you go back and read it. I’ll wait… https://pinodegallo.wordpress.com/2010/05/14/a-sternly-worded-letter/

Welcome back. This resulted in the busiest day in Pino de Gallo history when I received a prompt response from the Director of Burrito Operations (DBO). His letter, and a breakdown of it, is posted here: https://pinodegallo.wordpress.com/2010/05/21/off-the-wall-john-wall-that-is-2/ Please go ahead and skim through that. Again… I’ll wait.

Man, you’re a slow reader. So a little while ago, I followed up with the DBO about when we could go. The day finally came, and with giddy, childlike excitement, Mabeuf, Jimmy James, Bonesaw, and yours truly headed down to the Verizon Center. There were pangs of nerves and hunger. We took plenty of pictures and I’m going to include some of the tweets I sent out during the game. (Tweets!)

 

Bonesaw & Jimmy - Top Notch Artists

Pregame Meal

The Javale McGee support system

Tweet: “Are you guys going to be embarassed if I start shouting ‘here we go wizards, here we go!’?” – Jimmy; the answer? Yes, we would be.

Much more picante up close
Also more picante up close
Nick “Forever” Young has never seen a shot he didn’t like

Tweet: Wow, the Director of Burrito Operations came through! Great seats! “HD doesn’t do Nick Young’s afro justice!” -Mabeuf
Tweet: Our first Epic Jafail moment… stupid goaltend. Then Nick “Forever” Youn drains a 3. Crowd around us not appreciating our signs… yet.

Although I didn't take this pic, I did see this in person

Tweet: Al Thornton just brought the house down with a RI-DIC-U-LOUS dunk!!

Then, the main event happened. Tweet: BURRITOS JUST DELIVERED TO THE 4 OF US @ OUR SEATS COURTESY OF THE WIZARDS & G-WIZ!

Burrito delivery service courtesy of G-Wiz

The guy on the left is the guy they planted to give us our burritos. We have no idea if we were on the Jumbotron because we were so excited at the prospect of burritos. My favorite part is the really confused guy in the Superman shirt. Not so super now, are you?

Burrito on the court!

Like Three Musketeers, but much more delicious

Tweet: So far Mabeuf & Bonesaw seem to have chicken burritos. My first 3 bites have been rice & beans.
Tweet: Ok, found the chicken! Delicious!

Living the dream

Lookin' good...

 

Sharing is caring!

 

Engrossed in the.... game... right

Tweet: “Wow, what a surprise: Mase finished his burrito before the rest of us got halfway through ours.” -Bonesaw. That’s why I run a burrito blog.

Better than the game

Tweet: “Ha there’s a kid w/ a signed Wes Unseld Bullets jersey in front of us. He must be a big Bul- uh Wiz- uh… DC basketball fan.” – Mabeuf

 

Sweet signed Wes Unseld jersey, bro

He's the foundation of our Yi-fense!

Tweet: Kiss cam may be my favorite part of every wizards game. Any way we could do this every quarter?
And with that, a bunch of white people on dance cam. Second favorite non-burrito related activity at a Wizards game.

 

The little white kids are funny because they get awkwardly excited & dance like they're having a seizure

 

Uh-oh, I think it's time to go...

Final Tweet: Uber successful trip to the game. Al Thornton’s career best dunk, a sweet Javale dunk, a 99-92 Wiz loss & burritos delivered to our seats

So, as you can see, it was a fantastic evening that exceeded our every expectations. I would like to thank the Wizards organization and the Director of Burrito Operations. Guess we can call it even now.

But wait! My beer wasn’t filled up to the top. This will not stand….

 

Mase & G-man. Boomtown.

Finally a reason to watch the Wizards

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Tonight, Pino de Gallo will be traveling to the Washington Wizards game at the Verizon Center as they host the Atlanta Basketball Hawks. In case you don’t remember, this will serve as the follow up to my sternly worded letter per the Washington Wizards’ Direct of Burrito Operations response (https://pinodegallo.wordpress.com/2010/05/21/off-the-wall-john-wall-that-is-2/)  I will be accompanied by Bonesaw, Mabeuf and Jimmy James McBeard. I will be tweeting from the game so be sure to follow me @PinodeGallo. I will be doing a write up of our experience and taking lots of pictures that will go up sometime next week.

John Wall! Javale McGee! Josh Smith! Joe Johnson! Joe Johnson’s contract! It’s the NBA in Washington DC!

 

 

Javale to the Chief, baby!