Image: Capital letters.
Last Updated: 7/5/21
Current Status: Jaleo has reopened for indoor and outdoor seating. It continues to do take-out and delivery. They continue to do a “bodega” selling grocery staples and wine. They also have merch!
Gift Cards – go to support employees of Andrés’ restaurants.
Before Times Review:
Last Visited: July 2019
Jaleo is a vibrant and very good Spanish restaurant in Penn Quarter. Jaleo is also the answer to a trivia question. Where did this “small plate” thing start? Over two decades ago, José Andrés came to town from the legendary El Bulli in Spain and opened Jaleo on the edge of a sketchy neighborhood. He served cuisine most had not seen in D.C. He served them on small plates and said they were called tapas. It was a revolution. The good news is that the revolution did not grow stale. Jaleo remains sharp.
The food remains classic with Andrés’ hand remains evident. The tortilla is straightforward. The shrimp in garlic and olive oil is excellent. The sangria has a touch of mint. The menu is filled out with interesting combinations that have been tried and proven for years. It also continues to experiment and add. Regardless of restrictions or pickiness, you should be able to find something to eat on the menu and it will likely be very good.
The interior was redecorated a couple years back from the cliché black iron and red leather to a modern Barcelona. It is bright and whimsical. The service is solid. The noise level makes it good for kids who won’t stick out. In the summer, there is outside seating. There are also large tables for celebrations. The wine list is solid, Spanish – as would be expected – and reasonably priced.
Much changed in the last two decades. The neighborhood is a model of rejuvenation. Jaleo has been followed by half-a-dozen decent or better than decent Spanish restaurants in D.C. It also became the cornerstone of a small empire. That means it is easy to take it for granted, but we should be thankful it still is there.
Other Guidance: The vibe is casual. A coat and tie are not out of place, but shorts and T-shirts are also well-represented. The dozens of plates mean most GF and V eaters can find something. Andrés recently wrote a cookbook praising vegetables. He also recently garnered attention for his battle with Trump and gained praise for his relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
Rating: Worth Paying the Cab
Neighborhood: Chinatown/City Center (with additional locations in Crystal City and Bethesda and around the world)
Address: 480 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20004
Washignton Post: 3 (Si!) – also in Tom’s Hall of Fame
Washingtonian: #86 in 2019
Michelin: Bib Gourmand