Capitol Cuisine: Little Chicken, Big Meals

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At the District Wharf, Little Chicken’s new “nest” is outfitted with a sleek stone bar, lively atmosphere and generous portions.

We’re back from sunny–if sometimes chilly–Florida. Yes, we miss the glorious sunsets, amazing wildlife and flopping fresh shrimp and grouper plucked from the Gulf of Mexico. But Capitol Hill has greeted us with early blooming cherry blossoms, a new Nationals baseball season and exciting new restaurants. At the District Wharf, Little Chicken has found a new perch at 11 Pearl St. SW. The 60-seat poultry newbie is the new nest for the original Little Chicken, which flew its coop at downtown’s Midtown Center last summer. On a gorgeous early spring day, we checked it out.

This place is a hoot, and a bargain to boot. As husband Peter declared: “They ought to call it “BIG chicken!” Portions are large, but prices are relatively small. The snazzy, mainly pink space is outfitted with a sleek stone bar, birdcage-framed booths and an all-weather glass enclosed patio. That’s where we sat. I started with a Jungle Chicken, a potent concoction of Jamaican rum, pineapple and lime. Other drinks include Orange Crush (orange, vodka, Triple Sec), Pineapple Express (mezcal. Thai chili, lime), beer and (canned) wines.

The District Wharf’s Little Chicken dispenses Buffalo wings with ranch or bleu cheese and a side, maybe pickled cukes.

Here’s Peter: I ordered the “Pinky’s Out” chicken sandwich—messy but delicious.  Crispy fried breasts are slathered in garlic sauce, Duke’s mayonnaise, pickles, cabbage, and cilantro. For extra flavor I glopped on some Alabama-style white BBQ sauce. This tangy mayo-based dipping sauce was made famous by Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Que in Decatur, Ala. It was a perfect dip for Celeste’s six chicken wings as well. In addition, we requested a side of cucumber salad. Other options are “Tendies” (chicken tenders), salads (including a Little Chicken Cobb), 15-piece fried chicken buckets and sides, mac-and-cheese, curly fries and hushpuppies. Desserts? Specialty ice cream cones like Bam Bam, Crunch and Uncle Reese.

Lunch for two including my $14 cocktail, came to $50 before tip. Service was excellent. For more information visit www.justlittlechicken.com.

Pascual: High-End Mexican on Maryland Ave.

Another new hot spot is Pascual, a “contemporary” Mexican enterprise at 732 Maryland Ave. NW.  If that address seems familiar, for years that site housed Kenny’s BBQ. And before that—Hogs on the Hill. Named for San Pascual, the patron saint of kitchens and cooks, Pascual is created by award-winning chef Isabel Coss—who grew up in Mexico City—and her husband/fellow chef Matt Conroy.

At Pascual, the “contemporary Mexican” newcomer on Maryland Ave. NE, skate ala brasa is an exotic showstopper.

On a busy Friday evening, we appreciated our 7 p.m. reservations. The restaurant’s small space was packed; decibel level was high with tables close together. From the brief menu, we started with guacamole, presented in an earthenware bowl. The dark glaze was made from torched avocado leaves, unusual to say the least. Saucer-sized tostados crumbled as we scooped up the chunky avocado spread.

Among appetizers we considered citrus ceviche, chayote salad or an evening special involving raw scallops. Peter chose prawns ala Diablo, which we found rather mushy. Heading the entrée menu was lamb neck—tagged at a lofty $50. We passed on that, but a fellow diner assured us that the portion was huge. Instead, we went for the skate ala brasa, an exotically different grilled fish served with shredded cabbage, pickled onions and soft tortillas. A chipotle mayo-like dip added zest.

From the bar, margaritas and other potent potables flowed, including an offbeat red wine tagged at $16: a French Malbec. Service was excellent. Dinner for two, with a drink apiece and a 22 percent service charge, came to $141.  For hours and more information visit www.pascualdc.com.

Navy Yard Plant Life and Mom
Plantish, an all-day “wellness café,” has debuted at 1 M St. SE, next to the Bullpen outdoor watering hole near Nationals Park. The healthy newcomer specializes in freshly squeezed juices, smoothies, sandwiches, wraps and all sorts of coffee and tea drinks. For more information visit www.plantish.com.

Canales Quality Meats stand at Eastern Market carries alligator sausage in a frozen pack of three for $17.99.

Nearby, Maman, the charming New York-based French bakery/café, has unveiled its fifth Washington outpost; this one at 141 N St. SE.  (Other spinoffs are in Union Market, Penn Quarter, Dupont Circle and Georgetown.) At Maman (French for “mom”), folks can nibble on assorted pastries including Danishes, croissants, scones and chocolate covered pretzels, as well as daily quiches, breakfast sandwiches, and make-your-own omelets. For hours and more information visit www.mamannyc.com.

More Latino
Providencia, an upscale “Asian/Latino” restaurant, is due to arrive at 1321 Linden Court NE, in an alleyway just off H. Created by chefs Erik-Bruner Yang, (who brought us nearby Maketto), Pedro Tobar and Daniel Gonzalez, Providencia explores the cross-cultural ingredients of the partners’ native Taiwan, Mexico and El Salvador through the eclectic menu. (No website yet.)

Market Watch
No, we’re no longer in ‘gator country, but we’ve discovered alligator sausage right here at Canales Quality Meats stand at Eastern Market. Sold in a frozen pack of three plump sausages for $17.99, the Cajun Alligator boudin comes from Beau Bridge, LA. Eastern Market is closed Monday. Visit www.canalesqualitymeats.com.

Gone

Stadium Sports Bar & Smokehouse, 300 Tingey St. SE, has departed the Navy Yard neighborhood. Nationals fans and other patrons will miss the vibe, TV screens, tacos, wings, nachos and lively happy hours. No word yet what’s going into that spot. Stay tuned.