I was jacked for The Royal. Empanadas, arepas, and a mess of other Latin American food. That’s my jam. Or my jam-o, as they say down south of border. The problem with being overly excited for a menu is that if you don’t have enough people to share with, you’re gonna either a) eat too much, b) order too much, or c) do both. Let’s just say I know a lot about myself and am not the best at applying that knowledge. C’est la vie-o.
The restaurant itself is very simple. It’s actually a normal ol’ coffee shop during the day that turns into a bar/restaurant in the evening. Kind of like the laziest Transformer in existence. There were about 20 seats in the entire place, and luckily Becky snagged a seat outside so we could enjoy the beautiful day. Or so we thought. More or less right when we sat down a construction crew rolled up, dug a big hole in the ground, and moved a big metal slab around at the same time the garbage truck was making the rounds. Add a couple of DC’s obnoxiously loud fire trucks, and you’ve got yourself a nice relaxing dinner.
Once we got more settled in our urban jungle, it was time to order some drinks. The drink menu was pretty standard, but it had all of my favorites: G&Ts, mojitos, caipirinhas. Basically all the refreshing drinks perfect for sunny, construction-y day (and it was happy hour!). One strange quirk of The Royal is that there are no servers taking orders; everything is ordered at the bar. I might have been annoyed by that, but the restaurant is about 10 feet long end-to-end so I couldn’t really complain about the journey. While that wasn’t the fanciest set-up, that was offset by the fact that The Royal has Miller High Life (the champagne of beers) in its fridge in tiny little bottles. We would later come to learn that The Royal is all about tiny little containers. Also it smells amazing inside; there’s some crazy aroma fusion of coffee/lime/fried food/mystery smells that I just let soak in. I ordered a caipirihna and Becky went with a G&T. They were alcohol so they were good.
The first order on the food side was a plate of empanadas. Both Becky and I have spent time tooling around South America and they didn’t quick bring back the nostalgia of a $1 street empanada (prolly because they were more than $1), but they were pretty solid. The green salsa that came on the side was tangy and a good compliment. While we noshed on the empanadas, they brought out a shredded beef arepa. Problem was, we ordered the fried squash arepa, which we were both really looking forward to (everything else we ordered was very protein heavy). In true Midwestern fashion (Becky hails from Wisconsin), we both debated the merits getting what we ordered versus not-wanting-to-be-a-bother for a good five minutes. Eventually we broke free of our Midwestern shackles and swapped it out for the correct order. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and it was awful and it’s never happening again.
Next on the list was the chicken sandwich. Out of all things on the menu, we were both strangely drawn towards this boring sounding item. I don’t care though. It was great. It had some serious zip to it, the chicken was super tender, and the veggies were fresh to death. The fries that came with were decent too, though we ended up having to take them as leftovers once the other food came (pro tip: re-heat the fries in the oven and pour leftover sauce from the Peruvian place down the street all over the fries and experience some lunch-time bliss [assuming all people have strange Peruvian sauces in their fridge]).
After the chicken sandwich is where we started to run into trouble. With only the two of us to tackle the meal, we couldn’t really keep up with the next few dishes. As we were still digging into the chicken sandwich, out came the sausage platter and the fried squash arepa. Becky opted for the arepa while I went after the sausage. There was really only so fast we could go. It was a lot of bread to that point. Also, the sausage missed the mark all over the place. First of all, it looked like someone had taken an intestine, exploded it with a fire cracker, and put it on the plate. I can typically forgive that as my own home-cooked meals look so much worse. Problem was, the flavor wasn’t there and the potatoes & onions on the side were pretty bland as well. Becky seemed to be digging the arepa, but it was unfortunately pretty tepid once I made my way around to it. Probably would have been pretty great hot, as it at the very least actually looked appetizing.
Both feeling pretty bloated, we grabbed another round of drinks as we watched the construction crew continue to move the metal slab back and forth with no apparent goal. I ended up with a Dark & Stormy, which I’m usually good with, but I really really enjoyed it here. It was very ginger forward, to the point of being kinda of spicy (aka it ruled). Becky got another G&T, so I knew we could continue to be friends. As we sipped on our next drink we both came to the same conclusion about The Royal. While it’s not a great place for coming and splitting a bunch of food (eyes > stomach), it is most definitely a great place to sit and relax with a drink (and a chicken sandwich). The Royal earns itself 2.5 out of 4 on noms; absolutely buoyed by the chicken sandwich and the cocktails, but can’t say it’ll be on our favorites (although next time we won’t let our food get cold).