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Or any day, really. By Ann Limpert
Chaia's freshly griddled corn tortillas hold local mushrooms, crumbly feta, and cilantro.

Mushroom taco at Chaia

Thursdays at the White House FreshFarm Market (810 Vermont Ave., NW) and Sundays at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market (20th St. and Massachusetts Ave., NW)

We think pretty much all the vegetarian tacos at this roving farmers market stand—soon to open as a Georgetown storefront—are worth the lines they draw, but this earthy mix of local ‘shrooms, feta, and salsa roja might just be our favorite.

Al pastor taco at Taqueria la Placita

5020 Edmonston Rd., Hyattsville

Many porcine pleasures await at this Hyattsville joint—pork leg and lips are other favorite fillings—but the two-ply tortillas laden with zesty al pastor-style pork, cilantro, and chopped onion are a good place to start.

Skirt steak tacos with grilled guacamole at Taco Bamba. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Taco Bamba taco at Taco Bamba

2190 Pimmit Dr., Falls Church

Smoke is one of chef Victor Albisu’s favorite flavors, so he adds grilled guacamole to this crispy, luscious mix of skirt steak, chorizo, and chicharrones.

Shrimp taco at Taqueria el Poblano

2401 Columbia Pike, Arlington; 2503 N. Harrison St., Arlington; 2400 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria

At this trio of Mexican hangouts, the star taco is a flour tortilla holding fat grilled shrimp, avocado dressing, and tangy, vinegary red onions.

Grilled-fish taco at Fish Taco

7945 MacArthur Blvd., Cabin John

Chili-lime mayo, salty cotija cheese, and mango pico de gallo accent the hunks of fresh-off-the-grill fish (mahi mahi, when we last tried it) at this Cabin John taco shop.

Posted at 12:12 PM/ET, 05/05/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Fast food that's nothing like McDonald's. By Ann Limpert, Anna Spiegel
Cava founders (from far left) Ike Grigoropoulos, chef Dimitri Moshovitis, and Ted Xenohristos. Photograph courtesy of Cava.

Local “fast-casual” joints have investors lining up: Cava Grill recently raised $16 million, following Sweetgreen’s $18.5-million funding round, led by the likes of fast-casual pioneer Danny Meyer of Shake Shack. But can anyone tell us what fast-casual actually means? We asked area foodies.

The founder of Knightsbridge Restaurant Group, Ashok Bajaj. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

It’s customizable . . .

Ashok Bajaj, founder, Knightsbridge Restaurant Group:

“I don’t put McDonald’s and Wendy’s in this realm; it’s Chipotle and Sweetgreen: You come in, the food is prepared to your needs, take out or eat in.”

Sounds like: Taqueria Nacional, Beefsteak, &Pizza, Cava Grill, ShopHouse.

Daisuke Utagawa, who was raised in Tokyo where there are a lot of fast-casual spots to eat. Photograph by Farrah Skieky.

It’s quick but made from scratch . . .

Daisuke Utagawa, co-owner, Daikaya:

“I was raised in Tokyo, and a lot of Japanese eateries are fast-casual. Ramen is a great example—artisan food, but fast. A lot of young chefs want to do away with the formality and just serve good food.”

Sounds like: Toki Underground, Donburi, DGS Delicatessen, Tacos El Chilango, G by Mike Isabella.

Old Ebbitt Grill Executive Chef Sal Ferro. Photograph by Reynaldo Lopez/Under a Bushel Photography.

It suits everybody . . .

Sal Ferro, executive chef, Old Ebbitt Grill:

“I’d say it has a wide variety to choose from: sandwiches and burgers, salads, pastas, a nice piece of fish. A place where you can hold a business meeting or bring your family—including screaming babies.”

Sounds like: Bayou Bakery, Bub and Pop’s, Stoney’s, Breadline, Rocklands.

Anthony Lombardo, executive chef of the Hamilton. Photograph by by Scott Suchman.

It’s super-fast . . .

Anthony Lombardo, executive chef, the Hamilton:

“It’s counter service. Yoga pants and sneakers. And no need to tell me you have free wi-fi—I’m not going to be there long enough to connect.”

Sounds like: Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza, Good Stuff Eatery, District Taco, Amsterdam Falafelshop.

Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 05/05/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Where to find today’s food trucks in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. By Emma Foehringer Merchant

Happy Tuesday, food truck followers! Spring is starting to feel more like summer—brave the heat for zucchini and goat cheese quiche from Dangerously Delicious Pies. or a chicken roti from Reggae Vibes.

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Posted at 09:36 AM/ET, 05/05/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Baltimore’s Spike Gjerde takes home one of the biggest accolades. By Anna Spiegel
Toki Underground chef Erik Bruner-Yang was up for the James Beard "Rising Star of the Year" category.

There were no Washington winners at the 2015 James Beard Awards, one of the most important accolades in the American restaurant industry, hosted in Chicago on Monday evening. Two DC chefs were among the finalists: Erik Bruner-Yang of Toki Underground and Maketto, who was up for Rising Star of the Year, and Bread Furst’s Mark Furstenberg, nominated for the new category of Outstanding Baker.

Baltimore, on the other hand, received a win in one of the most prestigious categories: Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic. Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen claimed the title, beating out fellow Charm City chef Cindy Wolf (Charleston), and several contenders from Philadelphia. Washington was shut out of the category this year, despite several strong contedners among the semifinalists.

Though Rasika chef Vikram Sunderdam took home the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic award in 2014, Washington toques have never swept up at the Beards like their counterparts in New York or New Orleans. This year seemed particularly lacking in recognition, especially given the growing excitement—both local and national—over Washington’s food scene. As critic Todd Kliman explains in his new column, OtherWise, the issue may be rooted in the city’s lack of food identity, at least in the eyes of the Beards.

A complete list of the 2015 James Beard Award winners is available here.

Posted at 08:21 AM/ET, 05/05/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Family-friendly brunches, wine tastings, and more ways to celebrate. By Anna Spiegel
DGS Delicatessen (pictured) offers a special Mother's Day brunch, and opens early. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Mother’s Day is to brunch what Valentine’s Day is to dinner: any restaurant that’s open has something special planned. So how does one decide where to eat? We’ve compiled a few ideas outside the typical brunch box, many of which fit with last-minute planning. Don’t see anything you like? Check out our recent guide to breakfast and brunch in Washington for more ideas.

Make a day of it and head out to wine country, like at Veritas (pictured). Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Head to a vineyard, and bring the kids

Virginia wine country is unbelievably green and gorgeous this time of year—and can be accessed in about an hour, depending on how far you want to travel. Many vineyards are also kid-friendly, offering picnic spots, live music, and lawn games to entertain the under-21 crowd and designated drivers. Stop for a tasting or glass of wine in the sunshine at one of our favorite vineyards, or combine a visit with a country lunch. Great spots like Girasole, Ashby Inn, and of course, the Inn at Little Washington, come to mind.

Channel the early-bird

Le Diplomate’s prime-time reservations filled up long ago, but diners may find tables at 9:30 AM, when doors open and families with young kids often fill the seats. Other popular early-bird options that would be wonderful for the holiday include Kafe Leopold (8 AM), Belga Cafe (9 AM), DGS Delicatessen (10 AM), and the hotel options mentioned below.

Seasons at the Four Seasons serves one of the most lavish hotel brunches, with plenty of sweets for kids. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Check out a hotel, no check-in required

Hotel brunches feel like festive occasions, even on a normal day—the handsome lobbies, bountiful buffets—not to mention other perks: they’re almost always family-friendly, equipped for high-volume dining, and typically offer early and late reservations, so there's a better chance of snagging seats. A few of the many options include splurge-worthy meals at Seasons and Blue Duck Tavern; three-course brunch menus for parents and children at Poste; a grand buffet at Jackson 20; and market-inspired buffet in Juniper's courtyard.

Span the globe

Brunch doesn’t have to equal eggs Benedict. Ethnic restaurant can be more kid-friendly—think A&J in Rockville for delicious dim-sum, where families crowd the boisterous dining room, or delicious Korean fare at welcoming Gom Ba Woo, which critic Todd Kliman highlights in a 2012 piece about the best places to dine with children. That’s not to say all the options are Cheap Eats-type places. We’re fans of the classy all-you-can-eat-and drink menu at Del Campo ($45 per person). Two other favorites: Rasika West End just launched weekly brunch, while sister Bombay Club offers an elegant buffet with live piano music.

The Angelika theater in the Mosaic District combines eating and movie-going. Photograph by Tom McGovern.

Combine eating and entertainment

Luxury movie theaters with dine-in options are the newest trend in entertainment, serving tasty food and alcoholic beverages to go along with the flick. Critic Ann Limpert recently reviewed three new cinemas: Angelika Film Center (Fairfax), iPic Theaters (North Bethesda), and ArcLight Cinemas (Bethesda). Whichever you choose, it's a rare plan that’s great for Moms in need of a relaxing escape, or families with kids in tow.

Go out for dinner

Mother’s Day brunch is the tradition (for some unknown reason), but dinner can be equally good, and less chaotic. A number of restaurants have special meals planned. Tosca, typically closed Sunday evenings, opens for a celebratory Italian meal. Over at Casa Luca, chef Fabio Trabocchi offers a Mother's Day tasting menu at dinner in addtion to a special brunch.

Rare Sweets bakes gorgeous cakes and "breakfast in bed" baskets for Mom. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Stay in for breakfast, even if you can't cook

Avoid the crowds and plan for a meal at home, even if you can’t poach an egg. Society Fair in Alexandria offers a range of pick-up items, from whole brunch baskets with quiche and read-bake scones, to cinnamon rolls and pound cake. Rare Sweets bakes up Breakfast in Bed gift boxes, with six seasonal pastries like scones, coffee cakes, and cinnamon rolls. If Mom is a bagel fan, get to Bullfrog Bagels in the Atlas District early to avoid lines, and make sure to pick up smoky whitefish salad or specialty cream cheeses as toppings.

Posted at 06:00 AM/ET, 05/05/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Food and drink specials, tequila-fueled dance parties, and more May 5th fun. By Emma Foehringer Merchant
Taco Bamba (pictured) is one of many eateries running Cinco de Mayo food/drink specials. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Cinco de Mayo goes down on Tuesday, and plenty of bars and restaurants celebrate with food and drink deals, all-you-can-eat tacos, and tequila-fueled parties.

Free tequila tasting at Fuego Cocina y Tequileria

2800 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington

Sip free tequila to determine the best at Fuego’s Tequila Throwdown. Complimentary samples include Casamigos, Tres Agaves, Patron, and Milagro; guests vote for their favorite, and the winner will be used in bar’s El Perfecto margarita for the remainde of the year. Other specials include $5 cocktails from 11:30 to 7, and the regular Taco Tuesday promo ($5 tacos) from 4 to 7.

When: Tuesday from 3:30 to 7.

All-day brunch at El Chucho

3313 11th St., NW

Drop by this Columbia Heights Mexican for an all-day brunch, including dishes like chorizo enchiladas with eggs and a morning burrito. Look for other drink and food specials as well.

When: Tuesday, 11:30 to close.

Wagyu tamales at BLT Steak

1625 I St., NW

Chef Will Artley draws from his Mexican roots for blackboard specials at BLT Steak, creating special dishes such as wagyu tamales, mole-sauced heritage pork loin, and wild halibut with rellenos and corn sabayon. The bar will pour special cocktails for pairing, and offer Mezcal flights.

When: Tuesday through Saturday, May 9.

Tacos to-go from Taco Bamba

2190 Pimmit Dr., Falls Church

Hosting a party of your own? Chef Victor Albisu’s taqueria offers take-home packages that include a whole roast pork shoulder cooked in the traditional Mayan cochinita pibil style—soaked in an achiote-orange marinade, wrapped in banana leaves, and slow-roasted—alongside tortillas and toppings. The meal is $125, and serves ten to 12 guests; 72 hour-advance orders required. Email

When: May 2 through May 5 (72 hours notice required).

All-you-can-eat tacos and dancing at El Centro D.F.

1819 14th St., NW; 1218 Wisconsin Ave., NW

Richard Sandoval’s sister Mexican eateries offer a $20 cash-only buffet with bottomless tacos, guacamole, and tequila-infused gelato, alongside $5 drink deals. DJs spin tunes all day, so you can dance off a big meal.

When: Tuesday, noon to 11.

Latin/Asian buffet at Masa 14

1825 14th St., NW

Guests can pile their plates with sweet plantains, pork buns, spicy tofu tacos, and more Latin-Asian fare for $20 at the door of this Cinco party. In addition to the buffet, a variety of drinks like margaritas, tequila infusions, and beer go for $5. A DJ spins tunes for all-day fun.

When: Tuesday, noon to close.

Lobster tostadas at Tico

1926 14th St., NW

This hopping 14th Street joint whips up special dishes like lobster tostadas with avocado mousse and mushroom-manchego quesadillas. Festive cocktails include a tart tamarind-agua fresca or a sharable Paloma porron with tequila and grapefruit soda. Items are priced individually.

When: Tuesday, 4 to close.

Free snacks and margarita specials at Zengo and Toro Toro

Zengo: 781 7th St., NW; Toro Toro: 1300 I St., NW

Take a break from work at 3 on Tuesday to enjoy complimentary snacks and $5 drinks deals at two of restaurateur Richard Sandoval's downtown eateries. The tunes get started a little later at these spots, with a DJ turning tables from 7 to close.

When: Tuesday, starting at 3.

Cheap beer and tacos at Fishnet

1819 Seventh St., NW

The Shaw eatery celebrates its one-year anniversary on Tuesday with a Cinco-themed party. Mexican beers go for $2.50, fish tacos are $8, and Maryland crab cakes are $10, among other food and drink specials.

When: Tueday, open to close.

Shareable platters at Lauriol Plaza

1835 18th St., NW

The popular AdMo Mexican celebrates the holiday with drink and food specials, like shareable parilla platters of steak and chicken fajitas, pork ribs, and shrimp (prices and sizes vary, starting at $59.90 for four guests).

When: Tuesday, open to close.

Outdoor fiesta at Vinoteca

1940 11th St., NW

Barman Horus Alvarez concocts two special margaritas, which can be sipped on the front patio or outdoor plaza: one with cinnamon-infused tequila and a spicy salt rim, and another with Mezcal and ginger beer. More specials include $5 Tecates and shot-beer combos for $11.

Pre-fixe menus at Rosa Mexicano

575 7th St., NW; 153 Waterfront St., Oxon Hill (National Harbor)

A $30 three-course menu at upscale Mexican chain Rosa Mexicano includes dishes like beer-battered baja fish tacos and chile relleno with goat cheese and chayote squash. Pitchers of margaritas and red and white sangrias are also available.

When: May 1 through May 5.

$4 frozen margs at Fish Taco

7945 MacArthur Blvd., Cabin John

Head to this Cabin John taqueria for specials like $4 frozen prickly pear margaritas, and elote (grilled corn rolled in charred corn mayo, cheeses, and chili powder) for $2. There’s also a creative riff on micheladas, made with a local jalapeño—infused IPA, mushroom soy, and tomato juice.

When: Tuesday, open to close

Margarita-glazed doughnuts at Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken

1308 G St., NW

Combine the best of both worlds—fried dough and margaritas—at Astro, which makes a unique doughnut for the holiday made with strawberry margarita glaze ($2.95).

When: Tuesday, open to close

Posted at 01:11 PM/ET, 05/04/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus patio crab feasts at Pop's SeaBar. By Nelson Billington
Drop by Art & Soul for the Biscuit Bash fundraiser on Wednesday, featuring biscuits from the likes of Mason Dixie (above). Photograph by Space Division Photography.

A good week for beer: If you haven't explored the brews at the four restaurants/bars up for the 2015 "Beer Program of the Year" RAMMY Award, this week is good time. The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington week teams up with venues for a series of promotions, Monday through Friday. Drop by contenders like the Arsenal and Pizzeria Paradiso for happy hours, special pairings, collaborative dinners, and more. Events and prices vary by day; check the event page for specific details.

Wine-filled movie screening: Head to Sonoma on Monday from 6 to 10 for a screening of “Somm”—a documentary that follows four sommeliers in their quest to receive master certification. Indulge in a popcorn bar with flavors like classic butter or ranch while sipping wine flights and watching the film. Guests can also test their own knowledge with a blind taste test. Tickets ($30) are available online.

Pigs and Pinots: The Partisan hosts a dinner pairing pork with Pinot Noir on Monday at 7. Chef Ed Witt and Nathan Anda cook up slow-cooked pork loin with stuffed morels, wild nettle and mortadella ravioli, and caramelized pork belly among other dishes, all paired with Pinots from France, Germany, and California by Wine Director Brent Kroll. Tickets ($95 per person, excluding tax and gratuity) are available by calling 202-524-5322.

Biscuit bash: Some of the best names in the biscuit business compete for the title of Biscuit King or Queen on Wednesday at Art and Soul, which hosts the annual Biscuit Bash from 6 to 8. Chefs like Jason Gehring from Mason Dixie Biscuit Company and Doron Peterson (Sticky Fingers) are among the participants. Ice Cream Jubilee serves dessert, while mixologist Ronald Flores mixes up cocktails. Proceeds support No Kid Hungry and DC Central Kitchen. Tickets ($50) are available online.

Best of Bethesda: Bethesda Magazine hosts its Best of Bethesda party on Thursday at the Pike & Rose development from 6 to 9:30. Maryland restaurants like Aggio and Macon Bistro & Larder dish up food for guests, alongside beer, wine, and cocktails. Tickets ($70) are available online.

98 pounds of pig: Rocklands Barbecue roasts a large quantity of pork—98 pounds, to be precise—for a fundraiser at the Arlington location on Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30. Guests will sip beers, fill up on pulled pork sandwiches, and can enter a raffle, all to benefit non-profit organization Doorways. Tickets start at $25 (available online).

High cheese: Marvin hosts a grilled cheese rooftop party with Rock Creek Social Club on Saturday from 1 to 8. Jerome Baker II and DJ Impulse spin tunes, while the kitchen griddles sandwiches like The Kick (jalapeños, bacon, gouda, and cheddar) or a Buffalo chicken version. Admission is free, with drinks and food priced individually and RSVP required. Email

Vinofest: Questlove, Black Masala, White Ford Bronco, and other musical talents gather in Noma’s Stoney Park on Saturday from 3 to 10 for Vinofest, a wine-fueled concert and tasting festival. Over 25 vineyards pour two-ounce tastes and glasses, lawn games provide active fun, and there’re perks for VIP ticket holders like a two-hour open bar and wine classes. “Last call” tickets go on sale Wednesday ($70 to $100).

Drink to the finish: Edible DC celebrates the Triple Crown horse racing season on Saturday from 2 to 4:30 with the Cocktail Derby in Poste’s courtyard. Learn how to stir, shake, and mix spring and summer sips with whiskey, bourbon, and gin, plus snacks from the restaurant. Tickets ($50) are available online.

Beer and cider festival: Head to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Saturday at 2 for the DC Craft Beer & Cider Festival. Over 75 breweries and cideries pour unlimited two-ounce tastings for participants, who can also participate in classes and seminars, sample beverages not ordinarily available in the District, and snack on food from Mess Hall vendors. Tickets (21+ only) for afternoon and evening sessions range from $50 to $65.

Let the crab feasts begin: Pop’s Seabar just launched a series of Sunday crab feasts for summer fun. Gather a group of six friends (ten max) for an outdoor party involving steamed and spiced Maryland blue crabs, a bucket of beer, and plenty of cracking. Reservations are available online for two seatings, 1 to 3 or 4 to 7; crabs are market price, and beer goes for $18 per bucket.

Posted at 10:58 AM/ET, 05/04/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Where to find today’s food trucks in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. By John Scarpinato

Happy Monday, food truck followers! Step out into the warm weather and enjoy summery treats like homemade lemonade at Crepes Parfait, or cookies and ice cream from Captain Cookie.

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Posted at 09:34 AM/ET, 05/04/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Saturday brings juleps, seersucker, and plenty of Derby pie to Washington bars and restaurants. By Harrison Smith
Bourbon, mint, a hint of sugar, and crushed ice make a classic julep at Acadiana. Photograph courtesy of Acadiana.

Odds are good that American Pharoah, running from post 18, will earn the garland of roses in tomorrow's Kentucky Derby—and chances are even better that you'll be able to find a mint julep in the hours leading up to the race.

For those new to the Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports: Horses will run one-and-one-quarter miles on Saturday at exactly 6:24 Eastern time. The race will be fast, men will wear seersucker and bowties, women will don big hats, and everyone will get rip-roaring drunk. The good news: you don't have to be anywhere near Churchill Downs to follow suit. Washington restaurants and bars are pouring mint juleps, whipping up Hot Browns, slicing Derby pie, and serving other festive eats and drinks.


901 New York Ave., NW

The Louisiana classic kicks off its annual Triple Crown festivities by serving Hot Browns, burgoo stew, and derby pie, starting at 2. Wash it all down with Bulleit bourbon mint juleps, and dress your best for a chance to win a gift certificate. Prizes are going for Best DIY, Prettiest, and Craziest outfits.


613 Pennsylvania Ave., SE

For $12 you can get one of three different Maker's Mark juleps: a house barrel-aged julep, an iced julep served like a Slushie, and a julep on tap, made with angostura and peach bitters. Hot Browns will also be served.


901 U St., NW

There’s no lack of celebration at this popular U Street pub, which combines a Derby party over three floors with Funk Parade festivities. A DJ, live band, drink specials, boozy cupcakes, and a Preakness ticket giveaway are all in the mix. Though genteel behavior is not guaranteed, derby attire is recommended.


Multiple locations

Have a classic julep ($7) out on the patio at the Dupont and Foggy Bottom locations while you pick over the and regular menu for bites.

Jack Rose Dining Saloon

2007 18th St., NW

One of the biggest derby parties goes down from 4 to 7 at this Adams Morgan whiskey bar, hosted by Southern lifestyle magazine Garden & Gun. The all-inclusive soiree on the rooftop terrace includes juleps and food, access to a cigar lounge, and music from Nashville duo Lindsay Ellyn and Taylor Alexander ($125 per person). The downstairs saloon will still be open to the public, serving juleps, whiskey, and punch. If you're headed to the roof, make sure you wear your finest seersucker, bow tie, or hat; awards go to best in show. Buy tickets here.

Little Miss Whiskey's Golden Dollar

1104 H St., NE

Tickets to this pork and whiskey-filled party are no longer available online, but $48 gets you everything but the juleps—including whole roast pig injected with a whiskey-apple-maple syrup sauce, peach bourbon-glazed ribs, and sausage. Great Divide Hercules, Jack's Hard Cider, and Hellbender Southern Torrent Saison are on tap and part of the package; mint juleps will be on sale if you want something a little more classic.

Logan Tavern

1423 P St., NW

A special southern menu begins at 3 with fried green tomatoes, Hot Browns, and Derby pie. Cocktails, all for $8, include a mint julep, blackberry sage julep, peach tarragon julep, and black-eyed Susan, the official drink of the Preakness.

McClellan's Retreat

2031 Florida Ave., NW

This DuPont speakeasy will be pouring juleps all day. Check it out if you're looking for a more down-tempo Derby day.


1475 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

The patio at this downtown institution is serving juleps with a twist: Woodford Reserve bourbon and the usual mint, mixed with blood orange and lemon juice.

Posted at 11:30 AM/ET, 05/01/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Where to find today's food trucks in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. By Harrison Smith

Happy Friday, food truck followers! Celebrate May Day and pick up pav bhaji (veggie curry and rolls) from Chatpat Truck in Metro Center, or pastelon (sweet plantain lasagna) with rice and beans from Borinquen Lunch Box in Chinatown.

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Posted at 10:04 AM/ET, 05/01/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()