At El Carretero 66, the aroma of sizzling steaks and baking Colombian sweetbreads triggers visions of family panaderias, cups of café con leche, and vibrant salsa music. The staff chats animatedly in Spanish as they fold fresh meats and seafood into Colombian specialties, including empanadas, mondongo (beef tripe) soup, and lomo salteado (sautéed beef and peppers served with french fries). Meanwhile, bakers line the shelves of their panaderia with still-warm cheese breads, rich cakes, and rolls that are ready to melt the most stubborn of butters.
The chefs at Pasion Latina aim to pay tribute to Latin American cultures by serving distinctive dishes. Taste buds are engaged with sweet plantains, black beans, and fried cassava, which are nestled beside piquant entrees from Cuba, Colombia, and other nations. Diners can sip BYOB selections on the patio, chat in the intimate, colorful dining room, or feverishly try to hitchhike to Puerto Rico without putting on swimmies.
Burrito Joint's meal maestros stuff traditional Mexican fare with the freshest fillings available. The cooks steadfastly refuse to employ reheated or frozen ingredients, banning microwave ovens and outlawing Mr. Freeze from the kitchen. The Joint's nine varieties of burrito wrap a whole-wheat or white-flour tortilla around a choice of protein such as steak, tofu, or carnitas pork, with additional fillings including black or pinto beans and lime cilantro. Burrito Joint's menu fills out with Kick Ass fajitas, Bravas enchiladas, and Bumpin' tacos such as the original baja fish, a creation that nestles grilled or breaded tilapia inside soft corn tortillas, all crowned with chopped cabbage, mild salsa roja, and chipotle-ranch sauce.
Of all the utensils and appliances in the kitchen of Let It Be Grill, few are as crucial as the thermometer. The kitchen staff uses it to monitors the level of doneness in an host of rib eyes, sirloins, and T-bones, as well as nearby meats such as meatloaf and turkey. They also prepare Italian dishes such as spaghetti with meatballs and southwestern eats such as Texas-style ribs, churrasco skirt steak, and flan. The BYOB eatery, which also serves up large pancake stacks and omelet ziggurats for breakfast, lets diners take up the mic on weekends during karaoke evenings.
Twenty years as a chef has taught Bua Nartpranin, a self-proclaimed cooking perfectionist, the secret to delicious food: fresh ingredients combined with just the right amount of spices and herbs, grown in her very own garden. Her culinary talents have taken her to northeastern Thailand, Atlanta, New York, and finally New Jersey, where she whips up dishes in the kitchen at Lotus Thai Cuisine with the motto of "always cook with love and passion." Her garden-fresh herbs and spices are found in a smattering of sauces—from the spicy chili sauce that blankets crispy red snapper to curries and basil sauce that flavor chicken and tofu. And when she is not busy cooking at the restaurant, Bua happily cooks for her three children at home or for anyone she hears is hungry and stuck in a nearby elevator.
Bolts of sheer fabric dangle from the ceiling of Havana Dulce's dining room, filtering the soft lighting before it hits the burnt-orange walls and mimics the sight of a Caribbean sunset. Meanwhile, the aromas of fried plantains, lemon-marinated ceviche, and roast pork drift throughout the space and tempt diners with their combinations of sweet and savory flavors.
The nightlife at Havana Dulce revolves around the bar's refreshing cocktails and fruit-filled sangria, as well as the spirited dance floor. To help to keep feet stepping and hips swaying, the restaurant features live shows throughout the week, including DJ sets, band performances, and staged readings of colonial Virginia's first tax code.