If ever you’re looking for an extraordinary night out, look no further than Dine N Dash, José Andrés’ annual charity event benefitting World Central Kitchen, an international organization that focuses on smart solutions to hunger and poverty.
On June 7, charitable diners turned out for Dine N Dash 2017, which broke them into two main camps by neighborhood. One group was designated for restaurants in Penn Quarter, including José’s own Jaleo, Oyamel, Zaytinya, and more, while others were to start their dining along 14th Street, and a grab bag of restaurants including Sotto, B Too, Lupe Verde, and more. When you register to go, you choose your starting point, and the sooner you register, the more choices you have.
I started at Sotto (1610 14th St. NW, DC), where I claimed a wristband and moved along to escape the crowds. I soon found myself at Estadio (1520 14th St. NW, DC), enjoying grilled chicken, amazing charcuterie, and fine sangria. A buffet table along the window provided easy access to bread, cheese, and meat (as well as cheesecakes!), while servers passed hors d’oeuvres around the floor.
A quick stop at Shake Shack (1400 14th St. NW, DC) allowed for a quick nibble on hamburger or fried chicken sliders with a sampling of fries as well as a small milkshake if one so desired. (The Penn Quarter location of the burger restaurant [800 F St. NW, DC] also participated in Dash N Dine.) While maybe not “fine dining,” the sampling from Shake Shack was a welcome respite from the dashing, and the sliders were top notch.
Next, I ended up the place I consider the Dine N Dash superstar — B Too (1324 14th St. NW, DC). It was my first visit to the “also Belgian” restaurant, which took Dine N Dash quite seriously. Not only was its bar brimming with amazing drink options, ranging from a Belgian Mule to more terrific sangria, but its ovens were humming for food stations around the restaurant that were dedicated to the likes of mussels and frites (topped with foie gras!), salmon “push pops,” and specialty waffles. It was all capped off with a dessert station offering the B Too “Doffle,” a delicious waffle/doughnut combination that will alone drop you into a food coma.
B Too went beyond my expectations in hospitality and service, and it was a decorative and comfortable stop overall. And that brings me to something very appealing about Dine N Dash — the opportunity to try up to 30 restaurants, if your tummy and feet can handle it, a great number of which may be new to you. Take a bow, B Too, for becoming a favorite new spot!
B Too marked the southernmost spot on the corridor of participating restaurants along 14th Street, so doubling back along the street was necessary to check out the rest of the pack. At 14th and S Streets, two food trucks set up shop to participate in Dine N Dash — Dangerously Delicious Pies and Dirty South Deli. Both food trucks were well-patronized by hungry dashers verifying their wristbands for their dishes, leading me to underscore how pleasant it was to pop into place after place without having to produce your wallet, settle a bill, or figure out how much to tip. A flash of the wristband, and you were on your way — even at a food truck.
Near the food trucks, the ever-dependable Doi Moi (1800 14th St. NW, DC) dished up creative dumplings and papaya salad along with some tasty drinks. From there, it was an easy matter to finally close out the 14th Street tour with visits to Lupo Verde (1401 T St. NW, DC) for their specialized vegetarian offerings, Colada Shop (1405 T St. NW) for a mini-Cuban sandwich, Ice Cream Jubilee (1407 T St. NW, DC) for cookie dough ice cream, and Taqueria Nacional (1409 T St. NW, DC) for delicious tacos, of course!
Here’s one strong lesson about Dine N Dash: Whichever neighborhood you start within, stay there. You’ll have a much better time thoroughly exploring that neighborhood and being lazy with your companions than trying to dash to the other neighborhood. For me, however, I had about an hour left on the clock and I was determined to see what Chef Andrés did with a few of his places in Penn Quarter, so I hopped into an Uber and found myself at Zaytinya.
Zaytinya is Zaytinya — the Mediterranean mezze hotspot is always nice. But only part of the restaurant, mostly the patio, was dedicated to Dine N Dash, making it feel like there could have been more to the experience at that specific moment. Wonderfully, however, a key ingredient in the mix for the José Andrés establishments revealed itself immediately with music. In the case of Zaytinya, the dapper Kamel Zennia was at hand to regale dashers on the patio with rumba and salsa music, entertaining a bustling and merry crowd happy to sip more sangria in the twilight. Kamel played songs from his album Am Assa, charming patrons with upbeat world music.
A quick treat to The Prequel DC Restaurant Incubator (918 F St. NW, DC) transported us to a place that was to mimic the offerings at MGM National Harbor, most notably Fish by José Andrés, which served up delectable lobster rolls on the third floor of the incubator. The second floor hosted desserts and more music — this time by DJ Shelly of Michelle Lee Entertainment, who poured chill dance tunes in our ears while bartenders refreshed our glasses.
I capped my night by squeezing in just a bit more sangria at Jaleo, disappointed never to catch a glimpse of José himself, but certainly satiated and exhausted after four hours of dining and dashing.
Do yourself a favor and partake in Dine N Dash in 2018 when it goes on sale. You’ll support a good cause and experience a night to remember while exploring the food of our great city. Stay tuned to www.dinendash.info for information on the next event.