For readers who think only positive restaurant reviews grace this blog, the Chairman responds with Fuego Cucina y Tequileria in Clarendon.
Fuego occupies an attractive space at Clarendon Boulevard and Fillmore Avenue that I call The Corner of Death. Years ago, a Harry’s Tap Room satellite managed to attract old farts enamored with its spacious bar and roaring fireplace. Over the 2011 Thanksgiving weekend following weeks of renovations, HTP was reborn as Market Tavern – billing itself as part steakhouse, part “modern tavern,” whatever that means.
I never ate a meal at the location under either name. Prices were a little steep for what was promised on the display menu, even for yuppie-infested Clarendon. Wait, am I a yuppie? Nope, I’m too old! Booyah!
Anyway, introducing Fuego, which replaced Market Tavern in early October of this year. There’s an amazing absence of decent Mexican food in the D.C. Metro area, so I had high hopes for this place. After all, Chano’s is 3,000 miles away and I hear it’s in a dangerous neighborhood.
Fuego offers a tequileria on the first floor and hip Mexican food on the second. In case you’re really dense, both floors are clearly labeled “TEQUILERIA” and “COCINA.” Once you walk through the revolving front door, you’re greeted by a bizarre interior that reminds me of grandmama’s house. I half expected Larry Johnson to come out of nowhere to dunk on me.
As the wife and I sat down and began to scan our menus, our nice server said: “Before you get any further, there’s something I have to tell you.” We eyed the server suspiciously. Salmonella? Cockroaches?
The server said, “We don’t have any chicken … or carnitas … or guacamole.”
I asked, “At all?” It wasn’t a joke.
The server explained that Fuego wasn’t anticipating as much traffic as it got during the long Veterans Day weekend and was still trying to work out the kinks four weeks after its early October opening.
Four weeks. Oodles of time.
After a little head scratching – “we need a bit more time” – we worked around Fuego’s lack of protein options. The kitchen was able to scrounge up enough chicken scraps to make a chicken quesadilla for the wife. I ordered the carne asada. Our meals arrived promptly.
The rest of the night felt like a Saturday Night Live skit. First, the chips on the bottom half of the basket tasted like the oil used to fry them. Second, the wife found a bone when she cut into her chicken quesadilla.
The manager apologized profusely and picked up the tab for our entire meal. He added, “Just please don’t take it out on our server, it’s not his fault.” We didn’t – the server was gracious and Juanito-on-the-spot with, um, returned entrees. And dessert was on the house – a slice of warm French toast served topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I’m pretty sure French toast wasn’t on the ancient Mayans’ diet, but we were simply grateful it didn’t taste like oil or contain a bone.
Was Fuego awful? No, it wasn’t. The carne asada wasn’t bad, although the sauce was a bit oily (see above). The dessert was alright for something my 1-year-old nephew would dream up. And of course, the staff did everything it could to make up for everything that happened.
Of course, that’s just it: The meal would’ve cost about $45 including a tip. For forty-five bucks, we expected a dining experience featuring something as revolutionary as, oh, the option to choose the meat we wanted. Maybe a little guacamole.
Nothing personal, but we won’t be going back to Fuego. Out of a scale of 1 to 5 burritos with 5 being el primero, Fuego gets 0.25. I’d use an immature pun to describe our experience there, but I filled my quota of double entendres and poor taste with my posts about Lane Kiffin.
If you’re thinking of a cheap Mexican dining experience, Mexicali Blues is just down the street – a nice local haunt for Happy Hour. Just down the street from our house is a burrito stand called Pedro and Vinny’s, where you can get massive burritos the size of a small baby for about $6.50 – slightly cheaper than what they cost at Baja Fresh these days.