Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >
Aug 28, 2009 09:21 AM

Best Jose Andres restaurant in DC

I'm coming to DC in a couple of weeks. Lots of raves on the site about all of Jose Andres' restaurants. What are the differences? Which do you like best? Which has best food, drinks and atmosphere?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Minibar is by far the best, but it is hard to get that reservation. Cafe Atlantico is very good and I love their brunch.

    Cafe Atlantico and Zaytinya probably tie for me, then Jaleo. I haven't been to Oyamel, but it gets very mixed reviews (although most of the Andres places do).

    1. I think Cafe Atlantico -- no contest. In addition to a great dinner menu, they have a phenomenal Latin dim sum brunch on Sundays. It is really amazing. Anything you eat at Cafe Atlantico will be terrific, I promise.

      I was underwhelmed by Zaytina, although it is a fun place to go with a group. I've never been to Jaleo, but my brother, a foodie who lives in NYC, says it is one of the best restaurants he's been to. Only had drinks at Oyamel; they were great!

      4 Replies
      1. re: maslovma

        You're going to get a lot of varying accounts on this one...

        For me, Jaleo is underwhelming both in food and atmosphere. I find service and food to be a little sloppy. Everything feels like its on top of everything else. Tables are very close together etc. It feels like even waiters are constantly running into each other.

        Zaytinya has a better atmosphere and IMO, better food if you are looking for small plates. People are a little more dressed for an evening out here than at Jaleo. Better bar scene before dinner if that is what you are looking for. This is my favorite of his establishments.

        Cafe Atlantico's latino dim sum brunch is excellent, although I found my one dinner there to be sub par. The three dishes we ate (an appetizer to share and two entrees) were VERY heavy on the salt. My entree was so salty it was nearly inedible. Atlantico has a great atmosphere and cool decor, but the dinner offering wasn't great for me.

        My girlfriend took me to Oyamel for my birthday this year. The food was good and they have a lot of different options. It is always busy and pretty loud. I remember thinking when I was there that it would be a good spot for a bigger group of people.

        If given the choice, I would try Zaytinya first, then Oyamel. Also, if you have a larger group, remember to book well in advance. Both places are usually very busy on weekends.

        Good luck!

        1. re: caphil07

          As long as we all agree on Cafe Atlantico's brunch, we're good!

          I would have to say in general that Zaytina (or any tapas), no matter how good you think it is, is really enjoyed to the fullest with a good size group of people. That way you get to enjoy more dishes.

          1. re: maslovma

            But the more people the smaller amounts of the dishes you get to try. I actually really like going as a party of four because the dishes divide well that way.

            1. re: ktmoomau

              I guess everyone has their tapas strategy!

              I was underwhelmed by the food in general... and certainly when asked to compare it to my experiences at Cafe Atlantico.

      2. I'm a long time fan of the Andres places and I can tell you that they are not what they used to be. With regards to Jaleo, the great complimentary olives are no more and have not been for awhile. This was a major draw for me (and many others, I presume). The generous portions of crusty bread, same. It is now a more pedestrian french bread style, not necessarily bad, but not as good as as in pre-recession times. The last time I went (wednesday, last week), the waiter put the bread down, poured an inadequate portion of olive oil, AND TOOK THE BOTTLE! The olive oil is not as good a quality as it used to be. The great chicken croquettes that just a few weeks ago came with a delicious dipping sauce, must now be endured dry. I requested a bit of aoli, accustomed to the dipping, and got charged .75 for it. The service, well, not absolutely lousy, but leaning towards the poor side on my last several visits. Oh, and absolutely no need to make a reservation, the place is half empty. I remember when it was madness to appear after noon at the DC location and expect a table. Those times are long gone and you can believe that I regret them, it's sad to see this place gradually sliding downhill, something new on every visit. It used to be my top lunch out place. These developments mostly in the last year or so, the cost cutting is really impacting the experience. Still the best place for tapas, just not what it used to be. I'm surprised this hasn't gotten more attention here on CH, I know its a forum favorite.

        4 Replies
        1. re: justaddwater

          I've had equally decent experiences at Oyamel and Cafe Atlantico's lunch, but now I just drive up to Isabellas in Frederick if I want tapas.

          1. re: justaddwater

            I have to disagree with your assessment of Jaleo after my visit there this week.

            Yes, it's true the olives are no longer free. I find it hard to fault a place for not giving away free food, though.

            And I was never a fan of the bread service before, so I don't think the bread they serve now is a step down. Neither was particularly interesting. While they don't leave the olive oil on the table, my waiter gave me a generous pour that I did not run out of, although I am guessing I could get more if I just asked. The quality seemed the same to me.

            I ordered three dishes I had not had before, which was not easy to do. The baby wrinkled potatoes, a rather daring special of anchovy with nectarines (!), and the fried pasta with shrimp. This food gets to the heart of rustic European cooking better than any place I have been to in the US. And I couldn't finish it all. The food came out to $25. I was thrilled with it.

            And to think, I didn't even get my free olives!

            1. re: Steve

              If you ate there yesterday for lunch, then you experienced the thin crowds of late. An infrequent diner may not pick up on the slide, but there have been a number of minor changes throughout the menu and not for the better. The prices on many items have also crepted up a buck or two. The bang for the buck--the overall value--has declined, but it still is the place for tapas.

              1. re: justaddwater

                I ate there two nights ago before attending the theatre, and the place was hopping. Almost full, though not like when they first opened when you couldn't get in without a serious wait. Also, they take reservations now, so even at peak times a diner can make sure there's not a wait.

                Anyway, talk of popularity has always been besides the point on Chowhound. Great places bite the dust, and mediocre ones thrive with or without excellent food.

          2. I still like Jaleo too; especially right now when the pimientos de Padrón are in. And I love their summer drinks, the Sol de Limón and the lemony gin drink. It's true that you never have to worry about getting a table anymore, though.

            Anyway since I still haven't been to Minibar, I can't really answer the question.

            1. I don't agree with the other posts. It is hard to define "the best" Jose Andres restaurant since they all have different themes but IMHO, all are great and fun and unique. Jaleo is a classic Tapas restaurant with cold tapas, hot tapas and seasonal tapas adding up to about 60 choices. Zaytinya is also small plates but is a middle eastern/greek like theme. Cafe Atlantico is caribbean/latin american but also houses The MInibar which seats 6 at a sushi like bar for 2 sittings twice a week. It is truely unique, about 20-25 tastes, not much bigger that a tablespoon of a chemistry/physics lesson in food gastronomy. Very fun. Very tough reservation. Oyanel is his attempt at authentic mexican cooking. So the truth be said, all his restaurants are good, fun, different and worth visits....just decide which direction you want to take that night.

              1 Reply
              1. re: dining with doc

                Good point, dining with doc. I too believe that all of Jose Andres' restaurants are unique. I like all of them, especially Jaleo and Minibar. The others are good, but in terms of the food alone, I guess I prefer other Middle Eastern and Mexican restaurants to Zaytinya and Oyamel. Now if we were going on the basis of atmosphere alone, that would be a different story.