Judging Restaurants – Banana Cafe


Banana Cafe is located at 500 8th Street, SE on Barrack’s Row. You can see their menu here. By the by, I haven’t visited Barrack’s Row (8th Street, SE) in quite a long time. Holy cow has it changed. Tons of bars and restaurants. Anyway, I’ve heard folks talk about this spot for quite a while. So any fans out there?

33 Comment

  • Excellent mango margaritas and mojitos. The White Ray Charles upstairs at the piano bar is awesome.

    Now that we’ve got what they do well up front…

    The food is spotty at best. Mostly it’s bland bordering on not good. I’ve probably had everything on the menu here twice, and there is nothing that stands out as remarkable or special. The fajitas are probably your best bet.

    But, the patio and piano bar are both good spots. Just stick to chips and salsa and drinks.

  • Eh, it’s okay. Food isn’t spectacular, but also isn’t horrible. Long, kinda cramped outdoor patio. Pretty good happy hour specials, tho, and they’re available all night Mondays and Tuesdays and 5-7:30 on weekends, too.

  • Ditto on the Margaritas. Gordon (The White Ray Charles) is a great way to spend a Wed, Fri or Sat when he plays.

    I’d recommend going in on Wednesday catching the finger food buffet and happy hour then waiting for Gordon to come in. He’s much more likely to experiment with songs you ask for during the week. He does a great “Waterfalls” by TLC and my personal favorite is “Never Been to Spain” by Three Dog Night.

    Nichole is right, the food is nothing spectacular IMO. If you like plantaines, then you’re in luck. The desserts are good and the outside seating is ideal for 8th St. people watching.

    Come early on Friday nights, particularly if there is a Nats game, the Marines have a parade and the streets are full.

  • Food is pretty mediocre. But karaoke is fun.

  • I’ve found it to be very noisy and difficult to carry on a coversation.

  • Not a fan of the food at all. Lively place with ok drinks, but I wouldn’t go beyond chips and salsa.

  • horrible… i repeat… HORRIBLE service. worst in the city.

  • Off topic, but Trattoria Alberto next door is delicious.

  • Agreed on the food. I prefer Las Placitas on the other side of 8th.

  • My worst/most infamous happy hour ever happened there. So… there was no beer on tap, and I drank a lot of margaritas from a pitcher. No beer on tap!??!?!? What?!?!?!?

    When I left the bananabananacafecafe to get on the metrometro (that’s how things appeared to me), I was a mess. But my partner in crime? Well, she ended up trying to get back to Courthouse with a friend in a taxi, but puked into a jacket on the way, passed out on her bathroom floor and my friend ended up having to stay on her couch to make sure she didn’t die or something… He woke up the next morning wearing her roommate’s hospital scrubs. Because of the puke.

    We’ve never been back.

  • Yup. Las Placitas has them beat in the food department, although the cuban sandwich at BC is pretty good. Banana Cafe remains the office lunch “safe bet” since nothing’s great but nothing’s terrible either. But why bother with Cafe 8 down the block with doner kebabs and Matchbox across the street? Shame the latter’s only open for lunch F-S-Su.

  • @ScottahB – So that’s Banana Cafe’s fault? If that’s the case, then every TGI McPickle$h!tters should be shut down since they’re responsible for a veritable hail of Bubblegum Mugarita® vomit, soiled britches, and roofie incidents. (Not necessarily a bad thing.)

  • The vegetarian combo plate has long been my favorite dinner in DC. I love this restaurant!

  • It’s OK food. Not great, not bad. Good spot for a pre-game meal before seeing DC United though.

  • Las Placitas better?!?!? you all are crazy people….that place is trash! You need to try the carnitas cubanas at Banana Cafe, best thing on the menu…as for the worst service in the city, thats a bold statement…this is a neighborhood eatery, not a 4 star restaurant, take it for what its worth.

  • I’ll second the calls for Las Placitas. As for neighborhood, i’d venture it’s been there much longer than BC

  • You need to do a piece on the fabulous Fragers (11th and Penn). Hill east is the new columbia heights

  • Las Placitas is far superior to Banana Cafe. End of Story.

  • My one experience involved terrible service and mediocre food. Don’t plan on returning.

  • This may curve a skosh off topic, but I’d be remiss not to throw a little shout out to La Villa on 14th Street, Las Placitas cousin.

    Both La Villa and Las Placitas have extremely good food– try the Pollo Encebollado at La Villa. Its so good, I had trouble typing it out because I started daydreaming about its deliciousness! Don’t be fooled by the seedy-ish feel from the outside: It’s a hidden gem.

  • I remember BC from back when I was an intern in 1998 & 1999 — my boss went there all the time from what I remember, and I was taken there the following summer by a Cuban friend. Back then that stretch of 8th St was not as trendy as it is now, believe me. I haven’t been to BC in awhile but I would echo the comments that the food is tasty (why are people comparing it to Las Placitas? BC’s specialties are Cuban and Puerto Rican food), the margaritas are good, and service is usually decent.

  • The food is mostly meh, but the Cuban sandwich is pretty good, as are the margaritas. Protip–order the Jose Cuervo margarita. It’s only a little more expensive, but has an extremely generous pour that makes it a better bargain if you’re drowning your sorrows.

  • @Sunny Florida Avenue: Really? Trattoria good? That place I will NEVER return to, ever. Worst. “Italian.” Food. Ever.

    So as not to threadjack: Banana is ok. Not great. If you want great, check out a place down on Penn, closer to the river. Hole in the wall, but amazing. I go to Banana for plantains and hope to make it to the piano bar some night, but that’s about it. I’m about to move two blocks away from it and I’m sure it will come up as a meal option when we have guests in town, but it won’t be our first choice for that type of cuisine.

  • Best Salsa in DC! ! ! ! ! ! This is our favorite Latin rest. in the city. In addition to the Salsa, the vegetarian Mex/Caribean plater is out of this world. Too bad we don’t have anything like this around here (CH).

  • I enjoy their Sunday brunch buffet. Especially if Belga or Matchbox has an hour wait, you can get good a bunch and its usually pretty quiet with nice outdoor seating.

  • hill east is the new columbia heights? i don’t think there are enough running gun battles in hill east to claim columbia heights’ crown.

  • @GiantSquid – That “hole in the wall near the river?” Are you talking about La Lomita? Good stuff, and cheap. A block from Potomac Avenue Metro.

    Also, I prefer Tortilla Cafe to pretty much everything mentioned in this thread, just because the owner also owns Canales Meats in Eastern Market, he’s really cool, and the food’s ridiculously cheap and filling. The joint’s always crammed with Salvadorean construction workers, which is my bellwether for Latino comfort food.

  • I’ve only been once, for dinner… the food was pretty good (I had quesadillas, and the salsa & chips were delicious), but as someone else has mentioned, the noise level was obnoxiously high and the place wasn’t even full! Don’t see myself going back, except maybe for margaritas.

  • I prefer the Brunch at Banana to the regular food and prefer Las Placitas over them all.

  • @monkey I love Tortilla Cafe for the Russian decor. The food is great, but the Moscow skyline near the ceiling makes me giggle every time I’m in there.

    La Lomita is also terrific, and of their three locations around the Hill, the 14th street one is the best. But the last time I was there, they had raised their prices substantially. I was surprised when I saw the menu. I’m still a regular (especially on an afternoon like this one) but it’s not quite as cheap as it used to be.

  • For a long time I thought it was a local place, but it’s actually a national chain.

  • @Giant Squid

    You’re referring to La Lomita. So. Delicious.

    As for Banana, they changed the menu a year or so back, and the food is much better now. I think the the service is pretty good, but the piano bar is far too loud.

  • @anon 11:49, I’m not sure one other location in Cumberland, MD really constitutes a “national chain.”

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