Jaleo - Penn Quarter
480 7th St., NW
Washington, DC 20004
Neighborhood: Penn Quarter/Chinatown, Downtown
Cuisines: Spanish/Portuguese, Tapas/Small Plates
Open Tuesday through Thursday 11:30 AM to 11 PM; Friday and Saturday 11:30 AM to midnight; Sunday and Monday 11:30 AM to 10 PM; Saturday and Sunday brunch til 3 PM.
Nearby Metro Stops: Gallery Place-Chinatown, Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter
Price Range: Moderate
Noise Level: Rowdy
Stone-size boiled baby potatoes with a mojo verde sauce; a good and garlicky gamba al ajillo; house-made grilled sausage with white beans; bacon-wrapped dates; beet salad with pistachios.
Scene: Food Specials, Outdoor Seating
Chef José Andrés has created other small-plates concepts since he opened this tapas house more than ten years ago--including two bigger but less consistent Jaleos in Bethesda and Crystal City--but it's here that you can feel his presence most.
The no-reservations dining room--friendly to children (including Andrés's own tiny daughters), theatergoers, and celebrating groups--is rustic and loud. Sherry- and manzanilla-spiked specialty cocktails flow along with pitchers of sparkly Cava sangria. The menu balances tradition (classic red and white gazpachos) with innovation (flan with orange-scented foam) but keeps its wide appeal: You can have a salad and single tapa for around $10 or spring for a more lavish spread.
Look for dishes that show off Spanish delicacies. Blue cheese from Cabrales is an accent mark in a beet-and-walnut salad and plays the lead in a dish of roasted potatoes. Serrano ham or manchego cheese cloak crusty, tomato-rubbed bread. Paprika adds depth to cold mussels marinated in olive oil and orange rind. A sausage plate bears earthy chorizo and slices of cured pork lomo. Never had blood sausage or tripe? Here's your chance. The sausage gets a simple garlic sauce, the tripe is in a deep, peasanty stew. Less exciting are the short list of entrées--grilled chicken, grilled beef--and the paellas sized for four.