Barcelona Wine Bar: Pulpo Gallega

BWB Pulpo Gallego

A meal this weekend may have tipped the balance to the amorous side of my love/hate relationship with Barcelona Wine Bar. Trying to score a seat at this place had all but transported me back to those tough high school days of desperately trying to snag an invite to the after prom party. Hence, the hate.

Barcelona Wine Bar

It took FOUR tries (spread out over many months) to accomplish the impossible:  An actual table. With seats. With my name on it. It wasn’t on the patio or anything though; we’re not THAT cool.

What made me forgive being turned down so many times was the food. The tapas weren’t half bad, and were a fraction of the cost of Estadio’s renditions. The Best Thing on the Menu tapas title goes to: Pulpo Gallego with octopus, chorizo, fingerling potatoes and pimenton. There’s nothing worse than a rubbery cephalopod in your mouth. BWB’s 8-legger is cooked to perfection.

Traditionally this simple Galician dish is comprised of boiled octopus, potatoes, olive oil and paprika. Fortunately, BWB ups the ante with ground chorizo, adding heat and nuttiness. Slippery onions lend sweetness, too. Click here for more photos from the meal.

BWB Grilled Spring Onions

For those keeping score, here’s how BWB stacks up compared to its competition on certain dishes, in our humble tapas opinion (an opinion garnered from a 7-month study abroad experience in Spain that involved an ogre of a host mother who only cooked hot dogs).

  • Grilled Spring Onions: Estadio > BWB
  • Albóndigas: Boqueria > BWB
  • Croquetas: BWB > Estadio
  • Boquerones: Estadio > BWB
  • Charcuterie: BWB > Estadio & Boqueria

Disagree? Let us hear it in the comments section.

Solutions to Your Dining Dilemmas

BTMegan's That Moment When ...

Best Thing on the Menu answers your Washington, DC dining dilemmas every Thursday on Twitter.  Find yourself in a comida conundrum? Want some ideas on where to dine? Look no further than some of our top tweets below. Don’t forget to follow @BTMenu. Enjoy!

#Thatmomentwhen … Evening plans call for sushi but you don’t touch the raw stuff. http://ow.ly/nK1d8

#Thatmomentwhen … You want 2 convert your man into a Brussels sprouts eater so you can cook them more at home. http://ow.ly/nK13g

#Thatmomentwhen … You have a mixed bag of vegetarian & meat-eating friends and want 2 try something trendy. http://bit.ly/14gcokX

#Thatmomentwhen … You just want to wear shorts and have a casual evening without sacrificing flavor. http://ow.ly/nK0IQ

#Thatmomentwhen … It’s 2:00 a.m. You’ve been on U Street since 7:00 p.m. You wanna be bad and eat something naughty. http://ow.ly/nxjO4

#Thatmomentwhen … You haven’t had a really good date in a long time. http://ow.ly/nxjsc

#Thatmomentwhen … You need really cool gifts for bridal/baby shower guests or a rehearsal dinner. http://bit.ly/10TwqKQ

#Thatmomentwhen … You visit Union Market for the first time and you’re overwhelmed with choices. http://ow.ly/nxiO8 

#Thatmomentwhen … You realize its the last full month of summer and you want some burger ideas for your next BBQ. http://ow.ly/nxiry

#Thatmomentwhen … You’re craving smoke and spice and everything nice. Even the cocktails are smokey. http://bit.ly/1aVnJbC

#Thatmomentwhen … You can’t look at another turkey sandwich & want something that will BLOW YOUR MIND. http://ow.ly/njxRc 

#Thatmomentwhen … Try as you might, you just can’t get a reservation at Estadio but crave high-quality tapas. http://ow.ly/njxvM

#Thatmomentwhen … You need a post-yoga lunch and don’t want to undo your sun salutation calories. http://ow.ly/njwVN 

#Thatmomentwhen … You have the urge to have an Anthony Bourdain-inspired evening without leaving the District. http://ow.ly/njwyi  

#ThatMomentWhen … You want that thing that everyone’s talking about and can’t believe you haven’t tried.  http://bit.ly/12Uob4M

#ThatMomentWhen … You want to expand your Japanese food vocabulary past sushi & dive into pub-style snacks. http://bit.ly/13cUPPf

#ThatMomentWhen … You forgot Bubbe and Zayde were coming to visit and have yet to make a reservation. http://ow.ly/n4dRL

#ThatMomentWhen … You are headed to Le Diplomate for dinner and as a pescatarian, can’t get the steak frites. http://ow.ly/n4dzQ

#ThatMomentWhen … Your sweet tooth outranks all of your other teeth and you need. dessert. right. now. http://ow.ly/n4dpt

#ThatMomentWhen … You’re in need of providing guests with a patriotic DC meal, yet want something new. http://bit.ly/125rbs9

#ThatMomentWhen … You just want something greasy to soak up your sorrow/hangover/happiness. http://bit.ly/1ajsf0H

#ThatMomentWhen … Tears run down your cheeks because it’s summer and you don’t have a grill in your condo. http://bit.ly/1aVnJbC 

Top Five Dates in the District

Bacon-wrapped dates at Jaleo

Sorry Match.com members, this is a different kind of date.

Dates, or in most cases “dátiles,” have made a comeback on the capital culinary scene in the past couple of years. You can find them on big-name menus like Jaleo and Komi but also at Wholefoods, enabling you to take your dates on the road.

Here’s a round-up of Best Thing on the Menu’s top five dates in the District:

1.     Jaleo: Dátiles Con Tocino Como Hace Todo El Mundo – Fried dates wrapped in bacon served with an apple-mustard sauce

2.     Komi: Dates stuffed with mascarpone cheese and dusted (generously) with sea salt

3.     Boqueria: Dátiles con Beicon – Dates stuffed with almonds and Valdeón, wrapped in bacon

4.     Founding Farmers: Bacon-Wrapped Dates – Dates with blue cheese filling and balsamic glaze

5.     P Street Wholefoods: Dates stuffed with a mild cheese and topped with candied walnuts

Bacon-wrapped dates are also known as “Devils on Horseback.” They were quintessential cocktail party appetizers in the 1960s and 1970s when daring and exotic finger food was in demand.

However, the name of the dish and the dish itself actually dates back to the late 19th century with its close sibling – “Angels on Horseback” (oysters wrapped with bacon).

Their origins are somewhat mysterious, but most accounts stem from Cornwall in the south of England at the turn of the last millennium, where Norman raiders would disguise themselves is suits of armor made by layering rashers of bacon.

The best part about Devils on Horseback, besides the sweet and smoky flavor, is that they can be made very quickly and with only a simple set of ingredients.  Yet, we guarantee they will impress your dinner guests.

Discovered other tasty dates in the District? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Boqueria: Albóndigas

albondigas meatballs
Boqueria came on the scene last year, giving Spanish tapas lovers a chance at an actual reservation (see Estadio entry). Their outdoor seating and sangria are a perfect combination for DC diners wanting to take in the first days of spring, which have turned out to be more like summer.

For a meaty tapa try The Best Thing on the Menu: Albóndigas. These lamb meatballs come in tomato sauce dotted with sheep’s milk cheese and fresh herbs. While delicious, these meatballs are also confusing. Albóndigas are traditionally Mexican and usually come in soup form. However, they are being served at a Spanish restaurant and they taste Italian. Who cares, the lamb gives them a stronger, earthier flavor than beef or pork ever could and you’ll find yourself ordering bread just to dip in the sauce until the last drop is gone.

Your check can add up on you pretty fast, especially if you order 4-5 tapas for a party of two, or if you go for one of their big-ticket items like paella. The good news is that it’s worth it.

A great way to enjoy Boqueria (which also has locations in New York and Hong Kong) is at lunch. A departure from tapas takes you to a creative salad and sandwich selection. All sandwiches, like the Bocata de Pollo (Grilled chicken, hazelnut romesco, walnut raisin bread) run for under $15 and come with a side salad and patatas bravas.

Albóndigas not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.