Robyn lives in Columbia Heights and writes for The Express and The Onion amongst other publications. You can find her asking odd questions to random bar patrons (for Express’s Out There section), reporting on DC general happenings and openings, or enjoying a glass of scotch at the Ruby Tuesday on 14th and Monroe.
For Red Derby regulars (you know who you are), walking enroute to the bar means passing by more than a few nondescript Mexican restaurants. It’s easy to miss them – with little advertising (think: a single dusty PUPUSA sign in window), many of these joints beg the question: “Laundromat or restaurant?” On a weekend night when all I wanted was the Derb’s fried concoctions washed down with Schlitz, I was dismayed to see the bar packed to the brim – hence not fitting myself nor my hungry friends. So we chose to try La Molienda, about a block away. Now, I was in no mood to sample a new place. I wanted my sweet potato fries, served with Schlitz and a band recommendation from a witty bartender. I was pouty, I was hungry, and I did want anything to do with a margarita from an distrusted source. That was about to change.
At first the place seemed dead. La Molienda’s wait staff beamed at the site of us and quickly ushered us in with warm tortilla chips – the extra-thin kind with a slight sheen of grease – and salsa. GOOD salsa, chunky, not too spicy. Being the only full table in the place, we expected the food to look/taste as empty as the restaurant was. It wasn’t – the mountain of nachos reigned supreme, the corn tamales steaming, fajitas perfectly spiced, and the guac rivaled Rosa Mexicanos’- but still we asked “where is everyone?” That’s when we heard the music coming from upstairs. Lured by what sounded like a live taping of Telemundo, we ventured. And entered into what should be everyone’s new Friday night out. A polyester-clad host belts out Mexico’s top 40 hits while the packed dance floor pumps out professional salsa moves. Not speaking Spanish, I had no idea what the host was singing, but I did swoon a bit when he dedicated a slow number to me (at least I think he was when he pointed at me and winked). No one minds taking a white girl with no Latino-dance training (my mother stuck me in modern dance) for a quick lesson and a spin, or 5. It’s the Mexican version of Dirty Dancing. And nobody leaves baby in a corner – you’re pretty much forced to dance. It’s the perfect ending to a good burrito and a couple margaritas. La Molienda gets the stamp of approval. Has anyone else been here?