First Look: Ruta Del Vino
Latin American Tastiness
Ya'll know I love Petworth. And GUESS WHAT?! There's a new guy on the block and he is AWESOME. That guy is a restaurant called Ruta Del Vino, a Latin American food and wine spot on Upshur St. that is drawing in the crowds - and for good reason. This corner bar leaves traditional tapas behind, and instead opts for larger share plates, appetizers, sandwiches and a handful of entrees to choose from. Check out my first look below.
The wine list excited me with variety and sophistication for a reasonable price. All of the Latin American wines are available by the glass and the bottle. A creative cocktail menu is also available, featuring Happy Hour varietals from 5-7pm including a classic daquiri sans crushed ice. Delightful drink, but the Happy Hour craziness deterred us from staying at the bar, where we were lost in a sea of hangry/thirsty 20 somethings. The sweet host, who seemed overwhelmed by the full restaurant on a chilly Friday evening, graciously made a two-top into a four-top for us as we settled into a table for the evening.
Hangry bf and I are true to our titles and become very very hangry right after work, so appetizers were necessary. We started with the empanadas filled with roasted calabaza, spinach, golden raisins, and toasted walnuts. The dough was flakey and buttery and the little pockets of heaven were served piping hot - I LIKE. I'm not sure if it's the hanger talking but I effing loved these. It tasted like the filling had just been sautéed minutes before it came to our table, I was stunned at how fresh and made-to-order these seemed.
NEXT! The Queijo Coalho aka grilled cheese on a stick... so it has to be good right? Right! Wood fired cheese drizzled with garlic oil and sprinkled with oregano is simple and delicious. We were dining with our friends and I found it very hard to share this one.
Rounding out our appetizer feast was the Ceviche Macho. Not only was I dancing in my seat after one bite of this spicy, tart fish marinade, but I could not stop singing macho man. Anyway, beautiful pieces of rockfish were tenderized by the bold acidity of the citrus and crazy spicy hot sauce. Gratefully, the spice didn't linger and was distracted by the crunchy radish and celery so that it became impossible to stop eating. To me, this was the star of the evening and I will definitely be back for this.
The Main Event
Ok - so there are some torta options, a whole fish, a vegetarian chile rellano, etc., but let's be real - the Parrillada Mixta for Two is where the magic happens. It's a pile of all the meats with sauces that take you to that magical place in your mind that makes you feel warm and happy. There's chile-rubbed hanger steak, house-made chorizo, smoked sausage, chicken confit, black beans, rice and the SAUCES: chimichurri, pebre, and roasted garlic vinaigrette - aka cilantro spice happiness, salsa and garlic mayo - what could be better? Each meat was perfectly seasoned and grilled, with a tangle of charred scallions on top for a little break between the meat sweats. Rice and beans were completely unnecessary but I am aware of how much Americans love their sides, so whatevs. When you go here, order lots of wine, the ceviche and this meat orgy board and you'll be very happy. NEXT!
Here before you we have the Cubano Torta and the Chile Rellano. Cubano was pretty standard, but I missed that traditional torta bread, and I was hoping for a little more juiciness. The Chile Rellano, however, was pretty freakin' delicious. I never would have guessed that I'd enjoy a vegetarian chile rellano more than one stuffed with meat, but this little guy packed some punch. The chile was crisp from the thin eggy batter and the cheese and calabacitas (squash/zucchini sauté) filling was satisfying and, well, filling! Just great.
For a first look, I'd say Ruta del Vino is on it's way to success in the thriving Petworth neighborhood. I hear brunch is coming soon, and hopefully the Happy Hour situation will be better managed with more bartenders in the future, because it's a Happy Hour that I don't want to miss! Go check out this lovely Latin American hot-spot and continue supporting local business in our already great city.