From Luis Gomez and Rachel Nania.
TakEATEasy, a new eatery at 1990 M Street NW, opens this Friday, February 8. And here’s the big news: the restaurant will be open from 11 am until 5 am.
TakEATEasy is the latest venture from brothers Manuel and Juan “Nacho” Olivera and partners Jorge Mendez and Daniel Aquino. The Olivera brothers are well remembered for their neighborhood favorite, Fast Gourmet, at 14th and W Streets NW.
The new restaurant will seat 49 people in a casual, diner-style space. Lunch offerings include gourmet sandwiches (Chivito and Cubano sandwiches are on the list), fresh salads and pastas. The dinner menu will rotate, and Nacho — who is in charge of the kitchen — will serve dishes inspired from French and Spanish cuisines.
The bar menu includes tapas and a selection of two local draft beers, imported beers and domestic bottled beers. Specialty drinks, sangria and a selection of Argentine and Spanish wines will also be available; all alcohol will be served until midnight.
TakEATEasy’s late-night menu will offer gourmet sandwiches.
We all know Borderstan has a ton of great food options, many of which are accompanied by a hefty price tag. But sometimes I just want a no-fuss, decent meal that is easy on the wallet. Well, there is no dearth of that either. Here are some of my favorite inexpensive places to eat in the neighborhood.
- Pica Taco – A small taqueria tucked away on Florida Avenue, their barbacoa and chorizo tacos, which are between $2.25 to $2.75 a piece, are amazing. They don’t skimp on the meat, and have simple but flavorful toppings. Excellent breakfast tacos too. If you haven’t been yet, it’s time.
- Great Wall Schezwan House – If you are looking for good Chinese food or spicy Szechuan, this is the place to go. I am a huge fan of their mouth numbing ma la chicken — $11 for a meal that is really two. This place is my go-to for Chinese. Oh, and their delivery service is insane. Food comes within 10 to 15 minutes and is piping hot. And when they say spicy, they mean spicy!
- Stoney’s – This is the quintessential neighborhood spot, with no attitude and a casual atmosphere. You positively have to try the fan favorite grilled cheese at Stoney’s. It is comforting, delicious, served with fries and is only $7.50! Wash it down with some draft Fat Tire, and your stomach will thank you, even if your thighs don’t. Luis has great things to say about their burgers too.
- Locolat café – I love this place. Although known as a chocolate spot, this little gem offers much more than sweet treats. Their savory waffles to which you can add a variety of toppings are incredible — crab cake on a garlic waffle, anyone? My favorite is the potato and chive waffle with grilled vegetables and cheese, which, coming in at $11 along with a salad is quite a meal. Rounded off with a glass (or two) of Prosecco and a dark chocolate truffle in their outdoor patio — heaven! If nothing, come here to drink their hot chocolate or try one of their 30 Belgian beers.
- El Rinconcito – If you want to stuff your face with awesomeness for $8, go here. This little hole in the wall Salvadorean neighborhood joint fills up quickly, and when you eat here, you will know why. They have an extensive menu, but do not be tempted to go for the familiar Mexican dishes – order from the Salvadorean menu instead. The pupusa combo platter — which comes with three pupusas (choose from beans/cheese/chicken/pork/loroco), yellow rice, pickled cabbage and beans, is fresh and authentic. If you are inclined to imbibe, they have a full bar with tasty margaritas and beers.
- Fast Gourmet – The Cubano sandwich here is one of the best things that has happened to me. Seriously. Delicious with pork, ham, perfectly melted cheese, mustard and pickles. Get the beer battered eggplant with that and make it a meal for $11. And if you are lucky, you might find their killer Tres Leches in the refrigerator. For more on Fast Gourmet, read Kim’s review of their signature Chivito sandwich.
- Shophouse Southeast Asian Kitchen – This is Chipotle’s second concept restaurant, and boy, am I glad they chose DC as the test market. Setup much like a Chipotle, the drill is the same -choose noodles or rice and then a meat, tofu or veggies, followed by tamarind vinaigrette or a red/green curry sauce. I have never liked tofu as much as I do here; chopped fine and sautéed with Thai chilies, turmeric and cumin. Along with the chilled rice noodles, charred corn, spicy red curry sauce and some crispy garlic and green papaya slaw for the finishing touches, you have a stellar meal for $8..
That just about covers me for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but where do you go for your favorite budget friendly fare?
“What do you mean it’s inside a gas station? You mean it’s next to the gas station?”
“No, dude, that’s the convenience store. Are you sure this is the right place?”
“Are we really going to eat a sandwich from here?”
These questions form the popular refrain around Fast Gourmet, the now not-so-secret sandwich shop tucked into the otherwise unremarkable gas station at 14th and W Streets; it says something that even the station’s signage doesn’t reveal a discernible name, just a list of words you might use to describe the establishment (Lowest Price, W, Express). At the very least, the queries above were my then-roommate’s incredulous thoughts as we walked past the pumps and through the shop to arrive at the eatery.
If you’ve never been, then put aside any preconceived notions you might have, and, as Barney Stinson might say, “Open up your brain-tank, brah, for some premium octane knowledge.” Fast Gourmet isn’t some rundown taquitos-on-rollers operation; quite the contrary.
For one, it’s cleaned up, with black and electric green accents and a surprising amount of seating options. For another, it has a chalkboard menu with about 25 different options.
And perhaps most importantly, the meals are absolutely stellar. The shop’s signature sandwich, the Chivito, a pressed sandwich of pork tenderloin, mozzarella, black forest ham, bacon, green olives, egg, and escabeche marinade, is a high-speed collision of flavor packed inside a roll. It bursts with pleasant levels of salt, and is the kind of meat gluttony that makes you feel like you’re stealing the restaurant blind for the $13 you’ve paid them.
Even better, despite the hype surrounding the sandwiches, the shoestring fries are for me the real treat, crispy and salted well. For the vegetarians among us, a falafel sandwich eaten on a recent trip stands up well to its Amsterdam contemporary.
So, even when it doesn’t necessarily live up to its moniker, the sandwiches are well worth the wait and the adventure.
The owners of the best damn place to get a sandwich in a gas station announced their plans to open a second location at 1990 M Street NW. Fast Gourmet quickly became a neighborhood favorite, with the gut-busting Chivito (so bad for you but oh so tasty) and other tasty sandwiches. (Their menu is actually extensive.)
WUSA9 reports the new place will be called ‘TakEatEasy’ and may open as soon as March. Expect a ‘more than sandwiches’ menu, including homemade pastas and a dinner menu. The owner, Manuel Olivera is focused on a ‘relaxed’ atmosphere (word is used 3.5 times in his quotes). The location puts it on M Street near Vidalia, in between Rumors and Hudson.
Be sure to read Tom Hays’ A Visit With the Olivera Brothers at Fast Gourmet. Brothers Manuel and Juan Olivera, natives of Uruguay, are the owners. Full disclosure: Fast Gourmet is a big favorite of the editors here at Borderstan.
DC Streetcar Plans Deliver Some Promise
The DC Office of Planning released their Streetcar Land Use Study, and TBD has issued some early approvals for the plan. Imagine a world where 50% of DC’s population lives near a streetcar stop! I am dreaming with wistful sighs, after enduring the commute from hell on the Red Line this morning.
The author considers this as well, but seems to envision a world in which all transit systems could come out as winners. I can see that, I guess. Streetcars may provide public transportation to areas previously served by spotty bus service and make new areas of town more desirable. If that translates into a more vibrant urban area with affordable housing (hello, tax base), then everybody wins. It has the potential to do so, but the devil’s in the details, and execution.
Washington’s Pot Culture
The usually somewhat staid Washingtonian has devoted the February issue to marijuana. Specifically, the city’s plans to legalize medical marijuana this year are up for discussion as writers “get blunt.” Ahem. Ward 2 (that’s us!) has the highest marijuana usage in the city, so congratulations are in order. But with the bust of Capitol Hemp still fresh in many people’s minds, it remains to be seen how police will handle the new law and if Congress plans on leaving us the hell alone.
The Rent is Too Damn High, MoCo Style
Greater Greater Washington features a dilemma most Washington area residents face at some point in their first three months here. Where the heck can you rent a place that allows you to be in a safe neighborhood with some urban amentities that allows you to get to work in a reasonable commute…that you can actually afford?
In Montgomery County, the problem is even worse. The build outs represent what young families want, namely detached housing, parks and some single-car garages. But the fastest growing population in MoCo are millenials, who are desperate for affordable units near Metro stops. The author has some ideas on how to address both challenges, and they aren’t half bad.
For our series in local business owners Borderstan sat down with brothers Manuel and Juan Olivera to find out more about Fast Gourmet, which they opened with two other investors in October of last year. A take-out/dine-in restaurant would not normally cause a stir — unless you open it in a gas station.
That’s right, the gas station/restaurant at the Southeast corner of 14th and W Streets NW has been talked about by U Street Girl, WUSA9 and BYT, so we thought we would find out more about their unique business model and the food that is getting great reviews.
Borderstan: How did you come up with the concept of a restaurant in a gas station?
Manuel Olivera: Well, sometimes things don’t always happen as you plan. We originally wanted to do delivery only, but the neighborhood was changing so fast that we added eat-in and take-out.
Borderstan: Do you own the gas station as well?
Manuel Olivera: We lease the building for Fast Gourmet and also manage the operations of the gas station for the owners.