Turning the Tables
8 ways we're dining differently-from fast-casual to small plates to Instagramming our meals
The revamps even encompass french fries, which aren’t simply salted spuds anymore. Now they’re made with a variety of veggies, topped off creatively and paired with different dips. Here are four bunned beauties and sassy sides that can help you switch up your burger routine.
Food Wine & Co.’s Lamb Burger
Don’t be sheepish about forgoing a beefy burger and ordering instead this juicy lamb patty with piquant tomato harissa jam and a swipe of aromatic garlic mayo. $15. (7272 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda; 301-652-8008, foodwineandco.com)
BGR’s Ahi Burger
There’s an Eastern bite to BGR’s ahi burger, which stars a seared slab of tuna gussied up with a grilled pineapple round, teriyaki sauce and zingy ribbons of pickled ginger. $14.94. (4827 Fairmont Ave., Bethesda, 301-358-6137; 7949 Tuckerman Lane, Potomac, 301-299-1600; 229 Boardwalk Place, Gaithersburg, 301-569-7086; bgrtheburgerjoint.com)
Bobby’s Burger Palace Crunchburger
Choose the top-tier turkey patty when gobbling up the celeb chef’s iconic Crunchburger, which comes decked out with two slices of American cheese and potato chips. $6.75. (Westfield Montgomery, 7101 Demo-cracy Blvd., Bethesda; 301-767-3943, bobbys burgerpalace.com)
Woodmont Grill’s Veggie Burger
The hearty cut-above house-made veggie burger is packed with brown rice and black beans, and finished off with a melted square of jack cheese and sweet soy barbecue sauce. $17. (7715 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda; 301-656-9755, hillstone.com)
Fries With That?
Eggplant fries at Adega Wine Cellars & Café
Imagine eggplant parmesan in fry form and you’ll get a sense of these crispy golden rods, which are even better when dipped into marinara sauce. $6. (8519 Fenton St., Silver Spring; 301-608-2200, adegawinecellars.com)
Big Greek French Fries at The Big Greek Café
These slivered spuds get a Mediterranean makeover, arriving dusted with oregano and crumbled feta cheese. $2.75. (8223 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring; 301-587-4733; 4007 Norbeck Road, Rockville; 301-929-9760, biggreekcafe.com)
Yucca fries at Crisp & Juicy
Starchy and satisfying, the steak-cut yucca fries are standouts, especially when paired with the slightly spicy secret sauce. $2.55-$3.15. (Multiple locations; crispjuicy.com)
House Made French Fries at 8407 Kitchen Bar
Deep-fried in duck fat, these rosemary-accented frites come with a winning malt vinegar aioli that adds a creamy tang. $5. (8407 Ramsey Ave., Silver Spring; 301-587-8407, 8407kb.com)
8. It’s a Small World
Small plates go by many names—tapas, mezze, antipasti or shared bites—and these days the little dishes are making a big impression on the local dining scene. Among the newcomers embracing the trend is Gringos & Mariachis, which opened in Bethesda in February with a menu full of appetizer-size Mexican fare. The restaurant joined Jaleo and other established tapas faves, including Share Wine Lounge & Small Plate Bistro, also in downtown Bethesda, and Silver Spring’s La Malinche, both of which opened in late 2012.
No matter where you go, results are the same: shrunken portions and a restaurant’s often outsize expectations that each guest will order multiple courses. Jose Nicolas Guardado, chef-owner of Guardado’s in Bethesda, recommends three to four tapas per guest (ranging from $5.95-$11.95). La Malinche advises diners to start with two plates, though the average order is three ($4-$12). And servers at José Andrés’ Jaleo suggest between two and four tapas per diner (ranging from $2-$24).
If diners aren’t careful, all those small plates can add up to big bills and lots of extra calories. Order too little, though, and you might walk away hungry.
The good aspect of ordering small plates: Customers can try more of the menu, satisfy a variety of diets and enjoy a communal dining experience. To really take advantage of the benefits, though, think about dining in groups of four or more.
Small Size, Big Flavor
Here’s a sampling of some of the small plates you must not miss:
Gringos & Mariachis
More than a dozen tacos vie for your attention, but hone in on the barbacoa. Slow-braised lamb’s naturally earthen flavor is leavened by fresh cilantro, chopped onion and salsa verde. $7. (4928 Cordell Ave., Bethesda; 240-800-4266, gringosandmariachis.com)
Think of the chorizo fundido as a meaty Spanish fondue. A blanket of slightly piquant Manchego cheese covers chunks of spicy chorizo sausage. $6.95. (4918 Del Ray Ave., Bethesda; 301-986-4920, guardados.com)
Buñuelos de bacalao may sound daunting, but they’re simply deep-fried rounds of mashed cod. The briny golden fritters pair nicely with the honeyed aioli. $8. (7271 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda; 301-913-0003, www.jaleo.com)
The slight gaminess usually inherent in grilled lamb chops is tamed with a rich, roasty cocoa reduction. A bed of fingerling potatoes helps make this a substantial small plate. $12. (8622 Colesville Road, Silver Spring; 301-562-8622, www.lamalinchetapas.com)
Share Wine Lounge & Small Plate Bistro
Spears of verdant asparagus come dressed with a salty-savory-spicy-sweet combo of honey, soy, Thai chilies and ginger. $7. (Doubletree Hotel, 8120 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda; 301-652-2000, doubletreebethesda.com/Food-Drinks-Fun/Share-Wine-Lounge-Small-Plate-Bistro)
Carole Sugarman is the magazine’s food editor. Nevin Martell is a freelance writer who frequently writes about food from Washington, D.C.