In general, I try to lead a relatively healthy lifestype. I run or go to the gym 6 days a week, stick to eating salads for lunch during the work week, and try to go low-carb when I am cooking for myself. Now when I eat out, I go hard, but that’s because I believe in balance (and in the occasional indulgence). What is not supposed to be included in this balanced diet is drunk eating. I do try my best to stay away from eating at 2am after a few drinks because I know I’ll wake up the next morning filled with sodium and guilt. Unfortunately, my self control goes completely out of the window if someone mentions eating at El Rey at the end of the night.
This past Saturday, we had a couple of friends from college come visit from Baltimore, so we headed to American Ice a little past midnight. Shortly after arriving, I met Gordan, a guy with too many buttons unbuttoned and a permanent smirk on his decently good-looking face. After a brief chat about book clubs , he leaned in and asked if I had a boyfriend (points for directness, I suppose). I jokingly replied that I currently seeing several non-special men on Tinder but did not have a significant other. So he grabbed my phone and put his number in before heading back over to his friends. A few minutes later, I felt my phone buzz and checked. Oh Gordon:
Ladies, don’t let anyone tell you chivalry is dead. Clearly, romance is alive and thriving and it comes in the form of a cocky man offering to drunk drive you home because he doesn’t have a free app on his phone. Since I was definitely not hungry for d*ck (hard pass, Gordon), when a few friends mentioned stopping by El Rey on the way home for food, I enthusiastically agreed to join.
El Rey, located on U Street, opened in December 2013 by the Hilton brothers, the same team behind American Ice, Brixton, Satellite Room, Marvin and several other bars. The tacqueria/beer garden is built out of brightly painted industrial shipping container, with a take-out window at the side so that you don’t need to deal with the drunk 22 year-olds inside of the bar (just the wasted 22 year-olds fighting or crying outside).
The line moves fairly fast, and you are served your food immediately. Well, unless you put in a colossal order (for example: two orders of nachos, 4 taquitos, 2 tamales), then the cashier tells the rest of the line they have to take a 10 minute break to frantically prep your food. After I produced a river of saliva in anticipation, we grabbed our mountain of food, hopped into an uber and headed back to SBS’s apartment to consume everything. The El Rey nachos con carne are giant pile of crunchy tortilla chips drowning in meat and cheese, although I have noticed that the serving is more generous when ordering and eating the dish inside of the bar. One of the most important, basic criteria I use to judge nachos is the quality of the chip used. The El Rey nacho chips manage to stand up to the heavy assault of the hot, gooey toppings. Speaking of toppings, these chos are covered in shredded beef, black beans, jalapeno peppers and an incredible cheese sauce that manages to stay creamy (and un-congealed) down to the very last chip. Now to be fair, I do not actually think these nachos are the best nachos in the city. The toppings can be a little one-dimensional, and the layering of the toppings versus chips could probably be slightly more even, but when it comes to late night eats, this definitely hits the buzzed spot in my brain and stomach.
We inhaled the two messy pile of chips within a few minutes, and after wiping away some of the melted cheese spilled all over SBS’s coffee table, moved onto the next victims: the tamales and taquitos. The taquitos are covered in shredded lettuce and sour cream, which is completely unnecessary because if I wanted a salad I would not have gone to El Rey. Well, actually if I was craving a salad at 2am after too much wine, I would be wondering if someone had secretively given me a lobotomy. Anyway, the El Rey taquitos are filled with your choice of beef or chicken, and lightly fried to perfection. Despite being pre-fried, they are not dried out, and taste best when rolled around in the leftover nacho cheese sauce (it’s all about resourcefulness). By this point, my stomach was starting to feel a slight resistance from the waistband of my dress so I took it as a sign that I should throw in the towel and make my way back across the street to my apartment. The next morning, I woke up feeling completely dehydrated but not at all regretful. I mean, come on, I’d rather have ended my night with cheese sauce then Gordy’s sauce (kidding, that was never even entertained as an option).