Restaurant Review: Distrito

Even before I started writing a blog, I was a regular reader of quite a few. One of the fun things about keeping up with blogs is that sometimes your blog friends become your real life friends. That’s kind of what happened with a group of us this past October, when Shannon and Bethany organized “Always Bloggy in Philadelphia.” We hung out for an entire weekend and it was like we had known each other for years. Which, in a way, I guess we had, since some of us have spent a couple of years keeping up with each other online.

Before that weekend was even over, we were already planning for our next get together for Fall 2012. It seemed like a long way away, so, I was totally excited when Shannon announced plans for a craft workshop at her home. Not everyone from the Always  Bloggy crew was able to make it (Karen and Nellie, I’m looking in your direction), but it was great to see Shannon, Bethany and Kate again. The workshop itself was tons of fun, and I’ll have more to share about that later this week.

But, first, there were cocktails. And guacamole. And churros. And lots of yummy dishes in between.

Since Bethany came into town a few days early to stay with Shannon, the three of us were able to get together for dinner on Friday night. I sent them a list of fun places to consider, and Distrito was at the top of my list. Although Chester and I went to dinner there with a couple of friends about three weeks ago, I secretly hoped that Bethany and Shannon would pick it. And, they did.

Distrito, one of the restaurants in Jose Garces’ empire, specializes in modern takes on traditional Mexican street foods. The interior is just adorable: copious amounts of bright colors (including pink), pretty tables and chairs, a wall of Mexican wrestling masks, swings in the upstairs bar area, and a VW beetle that’s been converted into a table for four in the front window.

Here’s just a sample of the adorableness, via Bethany’s instagram:

The menu runs the gamut from soups and salads, to ceviches, to tacos, to moles.  It’s impossible to narrow the options down, so I like to go with one of the tasting menus. You get five courses, including dessert for either $45 (the Diego Rivera menu) or $55 (the Frida Kahlo menu, which includes the higher end items, like lobster). I think I’ve also mentioned before that Distrito has one of the best lunch specials around: $15 will get you two courses, plus a soft drink. It’s quite a bit of food, so make sure you build in time for an afternoon nap.

In no particular order, here are some of my favorites from this, and other visits:

1.       Margaritas—you can get the traditional mix, but I really love the fresh fruit varieties. On my recent visit, I’ve enjoyed both the mango and the pineapple.
2.       Guacamole—Not to garlicky, but not too acidic either, so you can fully appreciate the avocado. It’s also not blended to the point where it’s super creamy, so you get a chunk of avocado with each time you scoop some up.
3.       Chilango Chop Salad—it has everything a salad should have: a fruit (dried cranberries and green apples), a nut (spicy pecans) and a cheese (mild tasting queso fresco) over assorted greens. The thin tortilla strips over the top are a bit awkward to eat, however.
4.       Tortilla Soup—A bit spicier and smokier than I usually like, but the queso fresco and avocado helps to cut some of that down.
5.       Huaraches—a thin flatbread made out of corn dough (it derives its name from the oblong shape of the masa, which resembles a sandal called a huarache), and topped with a variety of ingredients. There are usually three on the menu, and my favorite is the los hongos, topped with mushrooms and truffles.
6.       Carne Asada—I’m not really a big red meat eater, but I love this dish at Distrito. The strip steak is cooked to a perfectly juicy medium rare and prepared in a slightly sour adobo. It comes with a creamy poblano corn rice, which is kind of like a Mexican risotto.

Bethany, Shannon and I had a great time on Friday night. We chatted and laughed for more than three hours, and didn’t leave the restaurant until just about midnight. The combination of three margaritas and a full tummy may or may not have knocked me out cold within 15 minutes of arriving home. A successful evening all around, if you ask me.

I know B's eyes are closed in this one, but this is the only photo I've got. And, it's also roof that those margaritas will do you in.


  1. Oh that picture is terrible. That bartender should not quit his night job. But dinner…oh dinner. I seriously cannot wait to go back. That mushroom thing is still calling to me. Thanks so much for being our culinary food guide! It’s fun not eating chicken fingers 😉

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