Boqueria | Penn Quarter

By Kathleen

A sign at Boqueria in Washington, D.C.

In November we head to Spain to visit Barcelona, San Sebastián, and Madrid. A must stop is Barcelona’s Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, a large public market often shortened to La Boqueria. Till then, we will feast on local tapas at D.C.’s own Boqueria.

For Paul’s birthday this year we had a blowout meal at the newly opened Penn Quarter location of Boqueria. 6 people, rivers of sangria, and mountains of tapas we toasted to food, friendship, and another year round the sun.

Flushed with delight (and alcohol) we believed we’d found our new favorite D.C. restaurant. Weeks later, our minds kept returning to the meal. “Do you remember how sweet and herbal that vermouth was?” “Did I hallucinate how delicious those churros were?” We decided further investigation was in order to ensure our initial impression wasn’t a fluke. Barely three weeks later, we returned just the two of us to try it again.

We arrived for an early dinner and the bar was already crowded for happy hour. The start of D.C. summer, hot and slightly humid made me want AC…bad. But the front windows were open and the inside was barely cooler than the outside. Inside we were seated at a high top table which makes up most of the seating in the front of the establishment. I’m 5’2” and fat, so high top tables aren’t my friend. I gamely hoisted myself into the chair, but we both soon agreed that meals over 50 bucks are not meant to be consumed at that elevation. We requested a table outside and the staff were reasonably happy to oblige.

Unknown to us, outdoor tables let diners order happy hour specials. We decided to do a deep dive of the happy hour menu, supplemented by a sampling of vermouths—vermouth blanca, La Cuesta vermouth tinto, and my favorite Casa Mariol vermouth negre.

A glass of vermouth blanco at Boqueria in Washington, D.C. A glass of vermouth negre at Boqueria in Washington, D.C.

Over the course of a few hours, we shared aceitunas (marinated olives), cojonudo (quail, egg, chorizo, on toast points), almejas (Manila clams) in salsa verde, huevos con anchors (eggs and sardines), pan con tomate con manchego y jamon (tomato bread with cheese and ham), montado de bistec (steak, aioli, salsa verde, shishito peppers on toast points), and tortilla espanola (a frittata like dish of eggs and potatoes). We finished the meal with Nutella stuffed churros.

The aceitunas soaked in oil and paprika are the perfect acidic, briny foil to nibble between or alongside the other tapas. I’m learning to deftly bite around the pits, so I can eat the tiny bright green olives with an alarming rapidity. Paul ignores them, much to my delight.

Similarly, I can take or leave the creamy blandness of the tortilla espanola and garlic aioli, so Paul pulls double duty eating that.

The cojonudo’s only complaint was its size. More of an amuse bouche than a tapa, we downed these yolky treasures in about 10 seconds flat.

Olives at Boqueria in Washington, D.C.Tortilla Espanola at Boqueria in Washington, D.C.Cojonudos at Boqueria in Washington, D.C.

Pan con tomate made an appearance twice in our orders, as we greedily ate the tiny slivers of manchego and serrano. Serrano in the States can be bland, but this had a pleasant salty fattiness that melted on the tongue. Both visits we’ve had raptures over the perfectly toasted bread, soaked in tomato, garlic, and olive oil.

Pan con Tomate at Boqueria in Washington, D.C.

We sucked the plump Manila clams right from the shells and sopped up the parsley sauce with the lightly charred bread. The bistec was grilled to a perfect medium rare and the garlicky salsa verde helped cut the greasiness of the meat and aioli.

Clams at Boqueria in Washington, D.C. Steak at Boqueria in Washington, D.C.

The star of the evening, the huevos con anchoa, featured perfectly cooked jammy eggs with Cantabrian anchovies. The anchovies were tiny salty, briny, fishy flavor bombs draped over the golden yellow orbs of creamy yolk.

Eggs with anchovies at Boqueria in Washington, D.C.

To finish, we returned to the Nutella stuffed churros which were every bit as good as we remembered. The dough manages to be both crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, the crackle of sugar and cinnamon yielding to the tooth aching sweetness of the Nutella as you bite and it bursts through the dough. This time, it was the order of five. Next time? The order of nine!

Churros at Boqueria in Washington, D.C.

Second meal complete, we have decided that Boqueria’s allure is well deserved and our desire for churros will never be sated.

2 Comments on “Boqueria | Penn Quarter”

  1. My mouth was watering with every detail! You should quit your day job and become an internationally recognized food critic! 😀


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