Rumberos Get’s Outdoor Seating

DSCN1120, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

I had seen that they applied for a permit a couple of weeks ago and was happy to see it went through so quickly. I’d say it improves the feel of this section of 14th Street 100%. I’m really glad this trend is catching on.

36 Comment

  • Now if only their food weren’t overpriced, underspiced and uninteresting versions of something you could eat at any of the other dozen Latin restaurants in the neighborhood for cheaper (and much, much tastier).

    Sigh, at least they’ve got great caiphirinas and mojitos.

  • Actually, both the caipirinha and mojito had there were bad (former way too sweet, latter with not enough mint. Some of the food, on the other hand, was not bad at all. So I guess this might be a case of different tastes or a matter of luck. 🙂

    To me the place is more of a party feel/bar+restaurant combo anyway, so I am not expecting culinary heaven – of course it would be nice to have it too.

  • In an attempt to avoid posting two negative comments about local restaurants in a row, I’ll just say that the tables look pretty level… ooh… and the flowers seem slightly taken care of.

    P.S. Word of advice: don’t order the “Cuban sandwich” unless you’ve never had such a sandwich before and happen to believe that the deprivations of totalitarian communism necessitate an authentic “Cuban” sandwich tasting like shoe leather basted in warm hot patch and motor oil.

    Damn. I tried.

  • Concur with everyone else. Gorgeous space, great atmsophere. Poor service. Horrific yet not cheap food. Unfortunately the food is bad enough to trump the atmosphere. Not sure why they can’t improve the quality there, they would do amazing businesses if they had a really solid, tasty tapas menu. But I don’t know anyone who thinks it is good. What a shame.

  • Oden – I had a very good Cuban sandwich at the Argonaut the other day. Not in the neighborhood, but so it goes.

  • Oh this saddens me, I haven’t been yet but had high hopes. 🙁

  • The Argonaut is awesome. How is it that H Street is getting soooo many awesome places to eat (the Arg, Granville Moore’s, I hear Sticky Rice is great, a lot more coming). There are a few solid places in CH, but nothing up to that caliber of culinary quality yet. I do have high hopes for Commonwealth … and I think Pete’s is very solid, if pricey.

  • The Argonaut is awesome. How is it that H Street is getting soooo many awesome places to eat (the Arg, Granville Moore’s, I hear Sticky Rice is great, a lot more coming). There are a few solid places in CH, but nothing up to that caliber of culinary quality yet. I do have high hopes for Commonwealth … and I think Pete’s is very solid, if pricey.

  • Mayorga has made a decent Cuban in the past; perhaps this has gone by the wayside with the change in menu (or it may still be offered downstairs).

  • New2CH – H St is getting those places because Joe Englert has finally found a neighborhood where he can afford to buy all the buildings (as opposed to so many of his past places where he rented and pulled out as soon as the rent went up.)

    No, not all the good places out that way are Joe’s – I love the H St Martini Lounge (for example) and that’s not his – but he’s got a lot of money sunk in out that way.

  • I’m a big fan of Rumberos, go there often. Almost always have a great experience with the food, try the full platters instead of the small plates, they never fail. I find the flavors delicious, and you get south american and puerto rican/domincan/cuban dishes you can’t get at the plethora of central american eateries in the area. The drinks are always perfect, especially the mohitos.

    The live music at night is a great touch and the decor is very, very cool.

    Don’t get all the bad reviews here, I always have a good experience at Rumberos. Although i will admit the prices are too high for the size of the small plates.

  • I too have had several very positive experiences at Rumberos. I think the food is tasty and a good value. Far better and more interesting than the Heights.

  • The food has always been lackluster and the prices far too high. That’s why it always has too little business. New2CH is correct that a reasonably priced tapas place, aka Jaleo (although he would never come up to us, I think), would likely be packed, and I hope well-integrated in its clientelle.

    DCDireWolf, we need to get you to some good Cuban, Puetro Rican, and Domincan spots.

  • Ugh, Jaleo’s food is gross!

  • Also, Rumbero’s sister place, Rumba Cafe, in Adams Morgan has the basically the same menu and does very well. I think Rumbero’s is hurt so far by being at the end of the CH “strip”. That will change as 14th Street is yuppified going north.

  • DCDire: I beg to differ. The flavors in the Cuban plates aren’t very authentic at all and I think it’s a stretch to even call them “flavors”. It’s like eating some cardboard version of what Cuban food might be… but it must take some skill to make Cuban food bland, sapping all the flavors out of soggy plantains and making truly “authentic” ropa vieja that actually tastes like a moldy old shirt.

    Now granted, I come from a place where you can get a decent quality Cuban meal (and a tall, cool cup of horchata, yum) at the drive-thru for under $10 (oh how I miss you El Rey!), so my expectations may be high, but the last time (and I mean LAST TIME) I ordered at Rumberos I picked up a “cuban sandwich” that was, literally, inedible. If I hadn’t already walked 5 blocks back to the apartment I would have taken it back, slammed it down on the counter, demanded my money back and cash for a bottle of pepto.

    But, they do have nice tables.

  • Jaleo is “reasonably priced”? Wha? I have to agree with DCDire about the quality also. The only tapas i’ve enjoyed in DC so far is that little joint with the upstairs dining room next to the bike store just off Columbia Road between 18th and 17th Street… whatsit? Damn. Can’t remember the name.

    But this whole thing is making me depressed and longing for food back home…

    Thankfully (for me) Lil’ Gal feeds me well and I get the best tex-mex in town in the kitchen downstairs.

  • Well, food is like art, music and anything else subjective, we’re gonna have different experiences. I just hope people who haven’t been and want to try it out won’t be discouraged by the negative reviews on here. I know the rent is super high there and I’d hate to see the place go down and be replaced with a TGIF’s or something similarly horrible.

    I have had nothing but very pleasant and enjoyable eating, drinking and having a great night out experiences at Rumberos. I plan to keep going back multiple times a month like I have been doing for the last year.

  • Oden, I think we just have different tastes. Tex-Mex is my least favorite food, although I do like Mexican food quite a bit.

  • Thte idea of not haviing a TGIF is certainly on-target!

  • Odentex, I understand what you are saying as well. My better half is a stellar Cuban and Puerto Rican chef. And although I have had mixed experiences at Jaleo downtown, it seems to be higher quality at the Crystal City site. We also once went to the place above the bike shop, and I can’t remember the name either. We enjoyed it, but still didn’t think it was high-enough quality. Of course Zaytinia (spelling) is very good, but a bit pricier, and not Spanish.

  • The place above the bike shop is Churreria Madrid, and it’s been there since at least the mid/late 1970s. Wonderful place, although now a bit more upscale than it used to be.

  • I am NOT a Jaleo fan. Best tapas style food I’ve had in D.C. (not spanish tapas however) is the Tapas brunch at Cafe Atlantico, yummmm (but pricey, beware!). I would love D.C. to have a place at the level of, say, Tia Pol in NYC (of course I’d also love D.C. to have pizza, chinese or bagels at the level of the better NYC places … the lack of top-notch Chinese w/in the District drives me particularly crazy).

  • DCDire: I think it’s more than a matter of “taste” with regards to Rumberos. When a sandwich is inedible because the meat has gone off, that’s more than just “taste”. When you order a dish you’ve had dozens of times and receive a flavorless mash of over-stewed meat and flavorless plaintains, that more than just “taste”. I’ve had plenty of Cuban meals at places which consistently win national raves (El Meson for one), and hole-in-the-wall dumps run by people who fled the island, so when I find myself in DC where the Cuban choices range from the sad and mostly bland (Banana Cafe) to downright disgusting (Rumberos), I think I can compare that fare to the better versions I’ve eaten of the same dishes.

    While I appreciate that the folks that run Rumberos are probably hard-working and mean well, the food is terrible based on the three meals (and one bite of a sandwich) I’ve had there. This isn’t a shock considering, for example, that most of the alleged “mexican food” in DC isn’t “mexican,” and sometimes isn’t even “food”. When I venture out of my house to spend money I expect the food to be worth it, and in DC that’s often a challenge.

    I think you have a soft spot for Rumberos because they are local and they are trying to make a go of it. Kudos. But would it kill them to hire somebody from Cuba (or somebody who can cook, at least) if they are going to pretend to make Cuban food? Just because the overall state of restaurants in DC is so damn dire doesn’t mean the standards get lowered. Rumberos CAN’T be recommended as a good place to eat by anyone who is serious. A good place to drink? Sure. A business run by socially conscious nice folk? Possibly. Good food? Pull the other one.

    And finally, if you are basing your opinion of “tex-mex” on what you’ve had to eat in DC (or anywhere outside of Texas, for that matter), you may be missing out. A mess of properly prepared tomatillo-sauced enchiladas, for example, is a special gift from the Big Vaquero in The Sky.

  • Princy, you really must proofread your work before you submit it. Get’s? with an apostrophe? Is it a contraction? No. Is it the possessive form? No. Gets is the third person singular present tense and gets no apostrophe. Now try again.

  • Teacher, don’t look at the post where someone “interview’s” the owner of Red Rocks. I hear ya.

  • Don’t understand all the Rumbero’s hostility. We always get the shrimp in the garlic butter sauce (all the better to be sopped up) and really like it. The heart of palm salad is good too. We are probably tolerant of the food because neither of us is any expert in Cuban tapas.

    Fact of the matter is that there are few locally-owned restaurants that get everything right. Domku has very good food, nice atmosphere, and hit or miss service. Red Rocks has occasionally soggy pizza, great antipasto and nice owner/service but needs to clean up its exterior. Other places have great food, great service and lousy atmosphere or too loud music. The reason that “chains” become chains is that an exceptionally good local business manages to catapault itself into a chain by imposing a number of quality-control mechanisms on food/service/atmosphere that try to ensure that all those elements are reasonably decent. That then comes with “authenticity” being replaced with a sterile environment.

  • Hmmm. So much to respond to. I base my Tex-Mex dislike on my experiences living in Los Angeles and my travels all over the American Southwest. I just never liked it very much and instead gravitated toward authentic Mexican dishes (not the crap they call Mexican at most places in D.C.).

    I do have a soft spot for the folks at Rumberos for the reasons mentioned and others, but also because I enjoy the food there. Like I said, I’ve had it repeatedly over the past year or so and have enjoyed everything I’ve ever ordered (most of the menu). I do think the small plates are overpriced, but I’ve never had a problem with the quality or taste of the food.

    I’ve never been to Cuba or Puerto Rico but I have been to the Dominican and have eaten there and at Cuban and other places in the U.S. I’ve found Rumbero’s food to be on par with those places. I’ve also found Rumbero’s South American dishes to be done very very well.

    I’m sorry some here have had bad experiences there, I don’t pretend that somehow my good ones can take away your bad ones. I just simply thought I’d balance out the negativity with some sincere positive experiences of my own.


  • Stop being such food snobs… everyone thinks they’ve had the best everything. Take a look at Yelp and you’ll know what I mean. “In Tijuana, I had way better Mexican… blah blah blah…” Uhh yeah, and in Mexico, the burger joints probably aren’t as good either, but so what?

  • DCDire: I think it’s great that you’ve had such good experiences there, it certainly is an attractive space and a fine place to drink a beer, no denying, and I’m glad that people who haven’t yet gone there can read all the messages here and decide for themselves if they want to spend their money at Rumberos to find out who they agree with more, or eat somewhere else…

    …or better yet, we can make up a whole mess of enchiladas and black bean burritos and bring them over to DCDire’s house for Tex-Mex fiesta!

    SG: Expecting my sandwich not to have rancid meat on it makes me a “food snob”? Really?

    I see that I’m also “hostile” for mentioning details about my meals there, such as the rubberized shrimp that I later used as replacement motor mounts on a 1968 Nova. I’m curious, how many times should I eat meals that I don’t care for before I am allowed to form an opinion without being “hostile” or being accused of not recognizing “authentic” cuisine? 6 times? 20? The fact that Rumberos blows up your skirt is just dandy with me — so don’t y’all take my *opinion* as a personal attack… UNLESS you happen to be the sumbitch what made that disgusting sandwich I was given last spring… if you are that person, well, it’s pistolas at noon, pardner.

  • BTW SG,

    “Baja Burger is located on the oceanside of the Tijuana-Ensenada Free Road, about four miles south of Rosarito and just north of the Califia Towers complex. A classic roadside shack, small and simple, with two outside decks for eating; one with a priceless ocean view and the other facing the hillside homes and the highway. [The] burgers were cooked perfectly and tasted great. We were stuffed and satisfied. Check please! Less than $9.00 US.”

    Having eaten burgers, fried chicken, and even gyros in Mexico, I can also tell you that Nueva Laredo alone has about a half-dozen great spots for burgers in the old town alone — and the old Cadillac Bar (now called the El Dorado) even has some damn good gumbo. So, take it from the food snob, your expectations about places you ain’t been may not always be 100%.

  • I bought my condo in CH in ’99, then my house in ’01. I’m soooo happy there are so many places for people to complain about now! Back then there was nothing.

  • Odentex, I’d probably get violently ill eating anything in Mexico, what with the piss-water they use. hahaha

  • You’ll drink water that comes out of the Potomac but are worried about the water in Mexico?

  • I’ll agree that it’s not super outstanding, but I’ve always enjoyed myself at Rumberos. I can be a nerd and drink and read at the bar without being hassled and I can have my plantains and ropa vieja and sit back and be fat. Was just there the other night with a friend. Many hangovers I’ve had from the mojitos there.

  • Rumbero’s currently has the best food in the neighborhood. This year I’ve been there about 6 times and it seems consistent as well.

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