The 5 Highs (and Lows) of Dine n Dash 2015

DC is a mecca for Jose Andres restaurants, and they all are conveniently located in the downtown/Chinatown area of the city. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could try them all in one night.

Enter: Dine n Dash! Now in its third year, Dine n Dash includes all of Jose’s DC restaurants (except minibar, for obvious reasons), plus other top restaurants in the area. This year the participating restaurants were:

China Chilcano
Jaleo
Oyamel
Zaytinya
Cuba Libre
Del Campo
Oya
SEI
The Partisan
Proof

Pretty solid list, AmIRight?! They’re all awesome restaurants.

SO the way it works– once you buy your ticket ($129 regular, $299 VIP) you have access to any and all of those restaurants, each serving various selections of food and drinks. Just flash your wristband and you’re in. All proceeds benefit World Central Kitchen.

I went to the event last year and it was phenomenal, so I had pretty high, positive hopes for this year’s event.

It was still wonderful, for sure, but I’d say not as good as last year. I’m going to break it down in the 5 best and worst of the night:

The 5 Best Parts of Dine n Dash 2015

1. Oyamel

I’m only giving two restaurants their own shout-out in the top 5, and Oyamel is definitely one of them. There were copious amounts of food and drink here, including guacamole, 4 types of tacos, ceviche, and multiple different cocktails to choose from. The highlights? Tuna tacos:

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and, the salty foam margaritas!

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Definitely my favorite drink of the night, the foam makes it so that you get that touch of salt with every sip, without having the deal with the salty rim!

Well done, Oyamel. Well done.

2. Cuba Libre

The second restaurant shout out in the top– Cuba Libre had the most food of all the restaurants AND tons of different drinks. From pumpkin soup shooters to Baja Bay scallops, to orange porchetta, we could have just gone here and had plenty of food. The best thing here though was the dessert they had:

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These are mini chocolate cones filled with cheesecake and topped with a guava puree. Yes, they were as delicious as they sound. This was the only thing we had more than one of :-D. Best dessert of the night.

3. The Music

Lots of live music! And if there wasn’t live music, most places had a DJ. Either way, the music totally set the mood of each restaurant and lent itself to a happy, energetic time for all.

4. The Cocktails

There were drinks everywhere! And not just beer and wine (though all had that as well) but some really interesting cocktails. I already mentioned Oyamel’s salty rim marg (amazing). Some other all-stars were the lemongrass Sangria from Ping Pong, and mojito from Cuba Libre, and a very refreshing cocktail from Proof, that I’m not even sure what it was! Good enough to mention anyway though 🙂 You could definitely drink your money’s worth if you wanted to get sloshed on a Tuesday night..

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5. The Desserts

It’s no secret, I’m a sweets gal. And though the desserts at the after-party were for VIPs only, some of the participating restaurants luckily served pretty sweet sweets 😉 The best, already mentioned, was that chocolate cheesecake cone from Cuba Libre. Cuba Libre also had a tasty-looking rice pudding:

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Others that were delicious were banana bread pudding from Oya:

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Greek yogurt with apricots (a classic) from Zaytinya:

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and a variety of treats from Del Campo:

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Now, I’m not one to want to write negative things, but I feel strongly enough to include some constructive feedback on some of the elements of the event that didn’t measure up to the level I was expecting. And so,

The 5 Not-as-good Parts:

1. The Crowds

Most of the places were PACKED! Like, couldn’t even move packed. On the contrary, a few places were totally empty. There were certain restaurants that were more desirable than others, depending on what you were looking for, but in the future it might be worth brainstorming a way to spread everyone out more. Having people all check in at different places is a good start. I’d be surprised if the places that were empty all night participate again. So maybe it’s just keeping to the restaurants that everyone seemed to want to go to, selling fewer tickets, and planning on capacity being defined by those hot spots.

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2. China Chilcano

I was so excited when China Chilcano opened a while back. They have some really good food and I was excited to try new items of theirs. So we go in, and first we walk over to an area where there is food, but we’re not aloud in because we’re not VIP. (I know those are the rules, but, it still.) So I asked the woman where we should go to find the general (ahem $129) food. She points us in the direction and we’re off. To what? A long line for some chilled soba noodles. The flavor was good, but that’s it? Can I have some chicken in my noodles? Or…something? Other than some freeze pops (which were cool) we couldn’t find any other food here. Kind of a let down– I’d expect more if they’re trying to make an impression on the caliber of place they are to come back to for dinner another time.

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3. SEI

Went in there. Couldn’t find any food. And the mosh pit around the bar made it impossible to get drinks. We just left.

4. No Lobster Truck

Ok ok so this one is near and dear to me personally, but last year, one of the BEST parts was the lobster roll that I had from the Red Hook Lobster truck, and I was SO bummed when I saw they we’re participating! This is not a jab at the event, I’m sure they just didn’t choose to participate, but, let it be known, they were missed.

5. The Price

Given the price of the event, I would have expected many other the places to have more interesting selections of food. I already mentioned China Chilcano. Zaytinya had that awesome dessert, but for savory food, they just served hummus, tzatziki, and another dip or two. It’s just kind of surprising– couldn’t you serve me more than some hummus for what we’re paying? Admittedly you could totally get your money’s worth by drinking a lot, but, for a Tuesday night, wasn’t looking to have more than a few drinks, if that.

I leave you with this– I love this event. I hope to go next year and see what changes they’ve made after seeing how this year went compared to previous years. There’s great food and refreshing drinks, but just a few areas that could be improved.

Overall, we had a blast!

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Don’t miss it next year!

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