Location: Dupont Circle
Rating 3 out of 5
Summary: Surprisingly delicious Tex-Mex is a boost to a place best suited for happy hour drinks
We visited Fiesta Restaurant and Lounge fully expecting it to be just another hole in the wall Tex-Mex place. There is no shortage of them in DC (Banana Café) and it so happened that one evening the mood struck us for cheap drinks and tacos. Armed with a Groupon, we sought out Dupont Circle and made our way up the front stairs of Fiesta to be seated near the bar window overlooking Connecticut Ave. Arriving near the end of happy hour, we swiftly ordered our drinks.
It’s important to note first that the drinks at Fiesta are strong. Where some restaurants’ margarita slushy machines spit out more sour mix than tequila, Fiesta is very generous with the alcohol that’s mixed in, a kindness boosted by happy hour prices ($3.50 for a single, $18.95 for a pitcher). Their mojito wasn’t anything to frown on either ($4.50). The beers on tap and by the bottle are limited, but the price makes for a good deal ($2.25 draft, $2.75 bottle).
Our first order of the night was the Bacon-wrapped Dates, dates first wrapped in bacon before being battered and fried. Although sweet on the inside with hints of savory meat flavor, the overly thick batter kept the morsel from achieving that melt in your mouth texture. Tasting more like a sweet fritter or hushpuppy, these were not the best version we have seen of the dish, but are still worth ordering. Fiesta’s happy hour special of “buy one tapa, get one free” makes ordering the bacon-wrapped dates with another appetizing tapa really worth your while.
Our next appetizer was the Mango Gazpacho, a classic summer chilled soup with an infused mango flavor. A small amount of herbs and diced veggies make up what is otherwise a bowl of pureed mangos, far from the usual light and refreshing balance of the typical gazpacho. Without any balance or spice, this was just a mango smoothie served in a bowl, a disappointing interpretation of the tropical flavor that could have given an interesting take on this classic dish. Order yourself a Mango Margarita instead and be thankful you’re at least getting tequila out of the deal.
Per the advice of our server, who swore Fiesta had the best fajitas in town, we ordered the Steak Fajitas, slices of steak served alongside sliced peppers, onions and tomatoes on a sizzling plate. The cut of meat was surprisingly flavorful, exhibiting all the features of a well cooked medium-well steak. The nice variety of grilled vegetables extended the life of the savory juices, wonderfully softened in the grease and fat of the steak. The paired Spanish rice was nicely mixed with chopped cilantro while the black beans were typical serving. The quality in this dish was an unexpected delight that we wouldn’t have expect from the usual Tex-Mex restaurant, but were happy to enjoy.
Our second main course was a combination platter of a Chicken and Beef Taco with a Chicken Tamale. Both tacos were wrapped in soft, flour tortilla shells, our server informing us that hard shells were not an option. The sliced chicken was fair, but the steak was again a treat, following the same delicious trend as the fajitas. Still the bigger surprise of the combination platter was the chicken tamale, the same chicken as the taco shredded, wrapped with cheese and baked in a corn tortilla. Easy to cut and even easier to eat, the tamale is extremely soft and flavorful. While it could have done with more chicken, it was nonetheless the best item on the plate.
Just about everything at Fiesta took us by surprise. Whether it was the well made drinks, the disappointing gazpacho or the savory steak, what we were served was not what we had expected when first entering. While we wouldn’t recommend this restaurant for a full dinner out, it hits the mark as a great place to start your night during their happy hour. Grab a margarita and few tapas at Fiesta Restaurant and Lounge before heading out into the rest of Dupont and you won’t be disappointed.