42 Comment

  • I thought Jackie was going to open an upscale Italian restaurant here — what ever happened to that?

    • That’s next door. I guess maybe this place is counting on getting spillover traffic, because there’s no other way they’re going to stay in business.

  • I’ve never been more disappointed in a place that I really was excited about. They literally hung a plastic sign over the old Rib Pit sign and didn’t even bother to make it the correct size. You can still see the old sign. This place won’t do well. From a visual standpoint, why would anyone want to go here?

  • “How wide is the current sign on the building?”

    “3 feet”

    “Perfect, order a 2 foot sign to cover it up”

    • They’re clearly retaining the brick smoker for the “smoked meat in paradise” look. Can’t you see the smoke wafting over?

  • Will reserve full judgement but so disappointed based on the exterior alone…was looking forward to that corner getting a makeover.

  • This is what happens when there is no economic development plan or leadership. This block has had eight new luxury condos built in the past year, yet aside from the Aerdale, all we’ve seen is a 7-Eleven and Golden Paradise. At least Little Coco’s will be legit.

    • 8 condo buildings, but mainly 4-10 unit buildings. so at most maybe 80 units or 160 people. not really a huge addition in the population to support a bunch of new restaurants. this area needs a few more large apartment or condo buildings to really bring in a bunch of new businesses. or it can become a destination to draw people in from around the city, but that’s a bit harder to do.

  • I don’t know, I don’t judge a book by it’s cover on places like this. Immigrants (who almost certainly are behind this place) often lack the resources–both financial capital and social capital to access loans or grants to make the restaurants fancy from the start.

    I look at Fasika up at Georgia and Allison–the place has AMAZING food. They could go head to head with any Ethiopian place in DC. And when they first opened they looked scruffy and worn around the edges. As time went on they have slowly upgrade the interior with new light fixtures, new paint job etc. Or Chez Auntie Libe (now closed) where a lovely, wonderful woman made extremely delicious Senegalese food behind an unattractive storefront.

    If you take a total success story of this genre in Thip Khao–which has world class food and a superstar chef with a personality made for PR, the place didn’t start with a fancy storefront in a new building. She started in a strip mall in Seven Corners where the bathrooms aren’t nice, the furniture is less than average and in general it’s not got much of an ambiance. But that’s how people who make great food and don’t have the “pedigree” and connections of a more classically trained chef get by. She would never have gotten the financial backing for Thip Khao if she hadn’t started out in an unassuming, inexpensive place, making top notch food.

    If the people behind this restaurant make excellent food and have halfway decent service and business sense (ie regular operating hours, regular stock of food) then I am happy to have them as a neighbor. And if those things are true I suspect they’ll improve on the place with time. If not, I doubt it will last. But I wish them luck.

    • Part of the issue that many in the area have is that along with the poor aesthetics, this is about the 10th restaurant with the same exact cuisine in a three block area. We’ve reached market saturation. Thip Khao was one of the only places serving Laotian food. That made it unique. Your comparing apples and oranges. Thip Khao’s original location also had a proper sign and a tasteful exterior. The neighborhood is changing. Expectations are higher now. Unless this food is extremely better than the myriad of other options nearby, they’ll be closed in two years.

      • But there are A LOT more Central Americans in this region than Lao people. By some kind of exponential amount most likely.

        This neighborhood has been, and remains one with a huge Central American population. It would then not surprise me that it would have multiple restaurants serving the cuisines of those countries. Just like it’s not surprising that there are a lot of restaurants for yuppies on 14th between P and W–that’s who lives there. When you say expectations are higher, are you talking about the expectations of those residents? Or just the new residents? Because even if the Central American residents have higher expectations than they used to for some intangible reason (proximity to condos?) I don’t know that they’d consider a place offering a solid rendition of their native cuisine at a reasonable price to be a disappointment.

        • The issue is not that it’s food served by immigrants, that the decor is inexpensive, or even that it’s Salvadoran. It’s that it’s crappy and bland. It has the same crappy Ceasar sald, steak and cheese, sandwhich, and taco salad as all the other places. We don’t need another place that copies the menu at Haydee’s.
          .
          Salvador food can be fantastic and interesting:
          http://www.yelp.com/biz/jaragua-los-angeles
          http://www.yelp.com/biz/mi-flor-blanca-los-angeles
          http://www.yelp.com/biz/atlacatl-restaurant-los-angeles
          .
          The issue here is that most of the ones in DC are poorly managed and have bad cooks. Thip Khao was successful in part because the cuisine was unique, but mostly because it is well run by a fantastic chef.

          • You’re kind of making my point though. What it takes is a fantastic chef, but most fantastic chefs from less than wealthy immigrant backgrounds have to start out in a small hole in the wall type place. And they don’t have budget for design (nor necessarily an eye or interest if they’re a cook). So maybe this place will be great. You don’t know until you try it.

            I tend to roll my eyes at the menus too sometimes because I had a friend who is an immigrant who had worked in restaurants for a while and decided to open his own. He literally photocopied the menu from a restaurant he’d worked at and set it as his menu. And then hired a cook from another country and specialized in the food she knew best. But for the first 6 months or so it was like a secret menu. Good cook, terrible understanding of business! Eventually he failed, but it was because he went for a way bigger venue than he could sustain, if he’d started with a little place and hadn’t invested much in anything but the food I think he might still be in business, because the food was damn good and people drove from like 30-40 mins away to eat there.

          • Your point seems to be “but sometimes cooks are good”. That’s true. But the overwhelming majority of these places suck. Probabilistically speaking, this place is much more likely than not to suck.

  • There seems to be some unnecessary hate for this place. I mean, not everything needs to be a high end tapas place. I hope they succeed and grow.

    • The unecessary hate likely stems from the fact that this area is severely underserved when it comes to places to eat despite high density and a lot of families. This was one of the prime locations that could have been used for a quality restaurant that met the needs of the neighborhood. And no, not tapas. Maybe a deli, bakery or any other ethnic cuisine. Anything, but this.

      • You mean gentrified restaurants. There are plenty of ethnic options nearby. Oh but I guess Latin American food isn’t trendy enough. I mean, how dare they try pander to the underserved immigrants that have occupied the neighborhood before anyone else did.

        • Come on. Maybe you haven’t been to El Salvador, but calling these “ethnic restaurants” is an insult to Latin food and culture. They are–by and large–terrible restaurants with terrible food. The ones that are good do very well (e.g. Taqueria Habanero) , but most are not good.
          .
          It’s not the cuisine or decor that upsets people, I think many would love a delicious hole in the wall, it’s the overwhelmingly lackluster menu.

          • Totally! Judging restaurants before you even eat at them saves everyone time. Why actually give a place a shot when you can just forego it altogether. Who cares if they JUST opened and might add more authentic items on the menu in the future? Just make sure in the event that the food is actually good I’ll be able to brag to my friends that a totally awesome ‘dive’ restaurant opened in my neighborhood and I can Yelp about it.
            Welcome to the big city!

          • Dan it’s hard to discern your point from your overwhelming sarcasm here, but when there are 20 other restaurants in a 6 block radius with nearly the same menu and 19 of them suck, there’s good reason to have a pretty strong prior about the quality of this one.
            .
            I would love to see a delicious hole in the wall Mexican/Salvadoran/Guatemala/ whatever restaurant. And the ones that do have quality food have done well, it’s just that none of those have taco salad on the menu.

          • Point taken! Taco salad isn’t really my cup of tea and saturating the ‘hood with 20 of the same place isn’t cool. Kinda like when Red Derby opened up in that neighborhood. With dives like Carolina’s and the pool hall on that block I was sad to see another dive open up. Beer and tater tots, I mean come on? I totally can’t with the low brow food. And Lyman’s with their popcorn? Who does that?

          • It seems like you have never actually been to these places. I really really want to like that pool hall for example, but it literally smells like bleach and pee. All the time. Pool is expensive there despite sh!tty tables and It still costs 5$ for a tecate.
            .
            I suspect the reason you keep using sarcasm rather than actually arguing any of the places are good is that you don’t actually believe that’s the case.

          • OK, you got me! I’ve never been to Carolina’s. I’d be totally shooting in the dark if I said that Carolina’s served good queso con jamon pastelitos, the short guy in his mid 50’s who worked the bar served drinks stronger than I ever got at Red Derby, and the DJ who used to sit in that little space over the bathrooms actually played good Bachata and Dembow. Totally theorizing!

  • We don’t need another spot like this, unfortunately, and from walking by the other night it looks like they haven’t tried at all to spruce up. The plastic sign is just so cheap. El Sol, a few doors down, is actually great and inviting from the outside–I’ll continue to walk by this place to go there.

  • I’m confused. Is Golden Paradise in the old Rib Pit space and Lil’ Coco’s will be in the old Rib Pit Lounge space?

  • I second the disappointment in hoping this corner was going to be spruced up. Between Sabor Latino (directly across the street) and El Sol (couple doors down), it will be interesting to see who wins out on this short block.
    .
    I wish I had the stones to open a bakery/coffee house with a small bar in the back (a la Tryst in Adam’s Morgan). That would be a great addition to the neighborhood. Hopefully some of the development on this strip will bring something like that. I hope Community Alliance for Upper Fourteenth St (CAUFS) reads the comments on this blog and makes an effort to recruit a more diverse retail crowd. Ditto for the ANC representatives.

  • A Latin cuisine restaurant opening in a neighborhood that has a large Central American population, that’s just awful! They should really make their sign look better because we all know that regardless if their food is amazing aesthetics is everything. Ughh, the nerve of someone who may not have a budget for a fancy sign to try and out live the American dream of being an entrepreneur!

    Welcome to the big city!

    • I think people are more worried about the signal sent by the steak and cheese sandwich on the menu than Latin cuisine. Unfortunately restaurants from all over the world can be crappy.

      • Totally. Steak and cheese? Ew. Like when I see tater tots on any menu. Elementary school cafeteria much? So glad we can agree about something!

  • Call it a hunch, but I bet the low-budget sign is temporary.

    • I can think of several businesses along Georgia Avenue in Pleasant Plains that have been using banners (rather than proper signs) for years on end. 🙁

  • There’s a lot of speculation and curiosity out here. I think people on here should get together to try it and then make a judgement call. I agree that I was disappointed when I saw what this spot finally became but I’m willing to give it a chance.

  • I would have been happier with a different type or restaurant. The place is just not attractive. The employees from this place continuously park on the sidewalk blocking it. More than once have been I have been waiting to cross the street and almost been hit by the car or trucks driving on the sidewalk. I’m concerned about the kids. I have noticed in recent days and nights that the police have been making them move. This is not a good start.

  • A lot of yuppies here complaining about too many Latin American restaurants in the Distict’s most Latino neighborhood. Not a great look…

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