Cuba de Ayer Restaurant owners Jessica and William Rodriguez ensure their dishes demonstrate what the Washingtonian dubbed "the mandate of the Cuban restaurant: The food should never be too fine or too fussy." Their menu lets the traditional food speak for itself, from the marinated pork that arrives draped in sautéed onions to the hearty black beans and rice that accompany thinly-sliced steaks.
Steaming plates load tables inside the cozy dining room, which sports rich oxblood walls decorated with colorful artwork. Guests relax in snug booths with cups of café con leche and sweet tres leches cakes, a decadent alternative to glasses of milk.
Mexico and Italy are an ocean apart, but at Il Capo di Capitol Hill, the culinary team whips up meals that unite their culinary traditions. Pastas, such as spaghetti with meatballs and seafood linguine, represent the Italian portion of the menu, along with Italian-inspired entrees that range from salmon drizzled in lemon caper sauce to steak crowned with porcini mushrooms. For south-of-the-border flavors, diners can opt for chimichangas, chilies rellenos, and burritos, which can also come in handy in propping up uneven table legs. Margaritas and a slew of classic cocktails stand at the ready to wash down the savory bites.