Aug 9, 2013José Andrés has done it again"My Take:
As someone who is very adventurous when it comes to food, I am always looking for new restaurants to try. This is difficult in a college town such as College Park, where the most gourmet place around is Bobby’s Burger Palace. Every so often, I’ll gather the energy to take a 30-minute metro ride into D.C., and sometimes I’m lucky enough to stumble upon a really awesome new spot. The day I first tried Oyamel Cocina Mexicana was one of those times. It’s one of José Andrés’ restaurants, so I had high expectations as I walked through the door, but my first bite of the authentic Mexican grub that Oyamel serves more than exceeded my expectations. The menu features a wide selection of small plates, so it’s fun to go with a group of friends and order a bunch of different plates to share. Diners also enjoy bottomless chips and one order of salsa (additional salsa costs $2) – the best salsa I’ve ever tasted. Those who choose to order the guacamole (do it, trust me) get to watch it being made right at their table. Don’t leave without ordering a margarita or two either – they’re topped with salty foam that’s unlike anything I’ve ever tried. Go to Oyamel on your next date, with a group of friends, or even by yourself – I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
The people at Oyamel tend to range from early 20s to middle aged. There’s more of an after work crowd than there are college students, but the restaurant definitely does attract some students from the nearby D.C. universities. Expect to see a lot of foodies, as José Andrés’ name carries with it a lot of clout. There’s a really fun and lively vibe, it’s clear that people are excited to be there and the bar is always packed with groups of friends waiting to be seated.
Cocktails & Cuisine:
Oyamel Cocina Mexicana is a tapas restaurant, so expect to order two to four small plates per person. The names of all the dishes are written on the menu in Spanish, but the descriptions are all written in English. When you order, try not to just point at what you want on the menu – the waiter will get a kick out of hearing you try to pronounce dishes like “coctél de camarón y jaiba.” The menu is divided into sections: ceviches, salads, vegetables, seafood, meats, tacos, and soups. My recommendations: the ceviche de peto (Hawaiian ono sashimi), camarones al mojo de ajo negro (sautéed shrimp), and the tinga poblana con puerco (pork taco). There’s also an extensive drink menu with wine, beer, specialty cocktails, and eight different margaritas. Go with a group and order a margarita pitcher, or two.
This spot can be on the moderate to pricey side, with small plates ranging generally from $8 to $13, although there are a few plates that fall above and below that range. For a college student, it’s definitely a bit of a splurge, but totally worth it. Tacos are the least expensive items on the menu, each coming in at around $4. Drinks prices are what you’d expect in D.C.: $9-$12 for a glass of wine, $5-$6 for a beer, and cocktails and margaritas range from $10-$14 a glass.
What to Wear:
There’s no dress code, but try to look nice at this restaurant. You’d definitely look out of place if you showed up in sweats and a t-shirt. The crowd and the ambiance are pretty trendy, so keep that in mind when deciding what to wear.
Insider Info/When to go:
Oyamel gets really crowded at night, so make a reservation or expect to wait up to an hour. If you do get stuck waiting, this spot isn’t far from the National Mall, so it’s a fun place to walk around. Or, you can always wait at the bar and order a few drinks. A word of advice: the plates are small, but don’t order more than three two start with, as they can be filling. And save room for dessert – The rum-milk cake is to die for.
Jul 22, 2013The Valley's Best Hookah Spot"My Take:
Kaffe Rouge is one of those places you go when you’re not in the mood for a wild night out in Hollywood, but you don’t want to stay in watching movies either. It’s also where I spent a lot of my nights before I turned 21 and going out in Hollywood became an option. That being said, Kaffe Rouge is easily my favorite hookah bar in Los Angeles. The staff is very friendly and the waiters remember familiar faces, providing for a welcoming environment. I actually started going for the food, which had been recommended by a friend, but what really kept me coming back was the hookah. Not only does Kaffe Rouge have the widest selection of flavors I’ve seen, but it’s also very well prepared. Whenever the smoke starts to feel too harsh – which is rare – a waiter is at your table immediately to fix the problem. Overall, Kaffe Rouge is a great spot to visit when you’re in the mood for a relaxed night with friends.
On a random afternoon you’re likely to run into your fair share of older Persian men, but come in on a Friday or Saturday evening and Kaffe Rouge is filled with 18-20 year old college students that can’t go to bars yet, as well as early to late 20 year olds looking for a chill way to spend their night. The types of girls here vary, expect to see anyone from a trendy hipster to a group of sorority girls. There’s less variety in the types of guys, most of which look like they’re probably in a fraternity. The vibe is super relaxed – watch TV from your table downstairs or visit the upstairs area if you prefer lounging out on the big red couches.
Cocktails & Cuisine
What I love most about Kaffe Rouge is that you don’t have to be into hookah to go there. There is much to praise about their food; from the mini crab cakes to their house burger, even the pickiest eater will be able to find something appealing to them on the menu. This is great, because my friends who don’t smoke still get excited about going to Kaffe Rouge with me because they love the food. They also have a pretty good variety of beer on tap, and some really great sangria. I’ve noticed that the cocktail selection varies from night to night, but I’ve never been disappointed by anything I’ve tried.
As with most hookah bars, Kaffe Rouge has a minimum amount of money each person is required to spend. For those eating or smoking hookah, it’s very easy to meet this minimum. However, if someone in your group of friends is just tagging along and doesn’t want to buy anything, they’ll be pretty disappointed when they’re still asked to contribute their $15 minimum to the bill. For the most part, the menu is reasonably priced. A single hookah costs $15, entrées will run you anywhere from $10 - $26 (keep in mind, the $26 entrée is a pepper crusted lamb with cranberry couscous and a port wine reduction), and drinks range from $5 - $8.
What to Wear
You’ll notice immediately upon walking into Kaffe Rouge that there’s no dress code – at one table you’ll see a group of girls in tight dresses, likely using the hookah spot as a place to pre-game before moving onto a bar or club, and at the table next to them you’ll see a group of guys in sweatpants. The attire really just depends on the people there and how they’re planning on spending the rest of their night.
Insider Info/When to go
If you want to go when there’s a big crowd, the best time to go to Kaffe Rouge is definitely a Friday or Saturday night. If you’re just looking to relax, the day or time doesn’t really matter. "hide
Jul 11 through Jul 25, 2013Comedy Show @ Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens
Jul 12, 2013
There are two reasons that I tend to avoid the zoo during the summer: LA’s scorching heat, and way too many kids running around. Now, there’s a way to avoid both of those problems and experience the zoo like never before. Whether you’re looking for a new date idea or just something fun to do with friends on a Thursday night, Roaring Nights at the LA Zoo is the place to go. The event is 18+, so you don’t have to worry about tripping over any toddlers, and begins at 7 p.m., just as the weather starts to cool down. Imagine exploring to the zoo after-hours, catching a comedy show or two, dancing to live music, grabbing dinner from one of LA’s best food trucks, and listening to pop-up zookeeper talks, all while getting your drank on. Roaring Nights offers all that and more on select Thursdays throughout the summer. With bars conveniently located about every 500 feet and more attractions than you’ll be able to fit into one night, one visit to Roaring Nights will keep you coming back week after week.
Everyone at Roaring Nights is there to have a good time, so there’s a really positive vibe and the crowd seems genuinely happy to be there. Expect to see a lot of couples, and ages range from 18 to mid-50s. The majority of the crowd was probably in their mid-late 20s. The event attracts all different types of people, from hipster college kids to middle age professionals.
Cocktails & Cuisine:
If I can offer one piece of advice, it would be to go to this event on an empty stomach. With food trucks like Coolhaus, Komodo Truck, the Grilled Cheese Truck, and more, it’ll be tough to pick just one thing to eat. My recommendation: try the Gumbalaya (a combination of Gumbo and Jambalaya) from Rajin’ Cajun, which was featured on Food Network, and finish off with a scoop of Fig and Mascarpone Cheese ice cream from Coolhaus. There are bars located all over the zoo grounds, so the 21 and over crowd will have no shortage of beer, wine, and cocktails.
Admission to Roaring Nights is $15 for Zoo members and $18 for non-members. This covers everything the event has to offer except food and drinks. Food truck prices vary, but expect to pay between $5 and $15 for your meal, depending on how hungry you are. Drinks aren’t cheap, but definitely less expensive than your average Los Angeles bar. You’ll spend between $5 and $8 for a beer and about $8 for a cocktail. Water is $4 from the zoo bars, so buy it from a food truck instead. Rajin’ Cajun sells their bottled water for only $1! Also unheard of in Los Angeles, parking is free.
What to Wear:
You’ll be doing a lot of walking around at Roaring Nights, so be sure to dress comfortably. Wear sneakers or flats, and bring a sweater just in case it gets chilly.
Insider Info/When to go:
The next two Roaring Nights will be held on July 18 and 25. The event starts at 7 p.m., and a crowd starts to form at around 8:00. Hit up the food trucks earlier in the night, because midway through the event lines start to get pretty long."