April 28, 2011

Birthday Brunch at Distrito

Distrito has been a 22nd & Philly favorite for a while now. Bradd even found Jose Garces' recipe for hamachi ceviche and adapted it for his birthday dinner last year. But we're not frequent brunchers, so when I had the chance to celebrate a friend's birthday over a Distrito brunch, my stomach immediately started growling.

If you haven't been to Distrito yet, the ambiance is cool enough to at least stop in the door one day and check out. The downstairs area (shown below) has a nice long bar and a good number of tables. The bar tables are not up for grabs, though, you have to be seated by the hostess. The backs of the chairs downstairs are pretty funky and look to me like giant versions of those thin rubber bracelets we used to wear as kids. Upstairs has another bar, a smaller bar seating area with fun porch swings and a ton of tables and big round, basket-looking booths.

The emptiness in the photo below is deceiving - it was about 2pm on a Saturday at this point, and we were just about the only people left. Understandable that it would be pretty quiet! At night, we've never had a problem getting a table but it can't hurt to make a reservation just in case. Especially for more than 2-4 people.

The brunch menu at Distrito is much smaller than the dinner menu and offers two options: $20 per person for two courses (incl. coffee) or $10 for a cerveza (beer) and one of three breakfast dishes. The latter is appropriately called "Kegs and Eggs." There is also a small kids menu, which is a rare find at hip places around Philly.

And of course there is the full drink menu! Can't go wrong with the Distrito margaritas, which are a little expensive at $9-15 each, but very tasty. They don't offer all the typical flavors all the time though, so be prepared. Distrito usually has two fruit specials, so the options on a particular night will only be, for instance, traditional, guava and peach. Plus there is a frozen pomegranate margarita permanently on the menu, too. It's a fun way to force yourself to try something different than boring old strawberry again. Chances are you'll like it.

Having had the margaritas before, I opted for the "XO Hot Chocolate" which has Patron XO, vanilla vodka, and Mexican Hot Chocolate in it. Yup, Patron-spiked hot cocoa. It was definitely different... I wouldn't say I loved the flavor but it was fun to try and did hit the spot on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Friends around me really liked the traditional and frozen margaritas, but one thought the Bloody Mary had a little too much horseradish.

We all opted for the $20 two course meal. The options for both courses all looked amazing so it was hard to decide. For the first, you pick between a hefty portion of chips/guacamole/salsa all for yourself, quite a large pile of nachos, tortilla soup or two types of salads. (Love Distrito's guacamole, BTW.)

I had the Chilango Chop salad and seriously could have sat and ate 15 pounds of it. It has romaine, baby arugula, watercress, green apples, cranberries and spiced pecans with honey-lime vinaigrette. I am not creative enough with food to think of combining those ingredients at home, but they were fabulous together. The other salad was pomegranate, galia melon, orange, pepitas and lemon vinaigrette, which also sounds great but if I went back, I'd be really tempted to get the Chilango Chop again. It's reminiscent of the obsession I have with the crispy calamari salad at Continental Midtown.

Chilango Chop comes in a fun bowl in case you share.

But they also give you a plate to scoop it onto.

For the second course, there are nine different options - five breakfasty egg dishes including a breakfast burrito, steak n' eggs, and huevos rancheros. Although no one in our party got them, I recommend tossing whatever traditional image you have of those dishes out the window and just letting the Garces empire surprise you with their version cause it will likely be delightful.

You can also opt for the Torrijas, a.k.a. french toast, which looked and tasted like, well, really good french toast. The only real Mexican flair to it is a Cajeta sauce on top, which according to Wikipedia is a Mexican confection of thickened syrup usually made of sweetened caramelized milk. The Taco de Hamchi - yellowtail fish tacos - were the big hit. Most of the table got them and said they were amazing. You just get the three shown in the photo here, but it was plenty after the first course.

I could not resist the chicken enchilada. I wrangled with the decision in my head until the last second, feeling like I should try something with eggs and other traditional breakfast food, but my stomach just kept telling me it wanted needed enchiladas. It probably had something to do with the fact that I ran nine miles that morning in the rain (training for the ODDyssey Half Marathon!) and my body had more or less expended every last ounce of fuel.

I've had their enchiladas before and knew they were great. I'm a wimp when it comes to spicy, so the Distrito low-spice version is perfect for me. If you're the same, don't let the red chile sauce scare you away. It's not strong and rather delicious. In addition, the enchiladas aren't smothered with cheese. I know, "you can never have too much cheese," but sometimes you really can. Instead these enchiladas have just enough chihuahua cheese to give you the best flavor. There are also big pieces of pepper inside which surprised me but I liked it. It made it so I didn't feel like I was just eating hunks of chicken.

I don't think I've admitted this on 22nd & Philly before, but I have a rule about new restaurants: always check out the bathrooms. Making your bathroom funky or ultra-modern or like a three-minute trip to paradise seems to be the trend these days, and I don't mind it one bit. So, of course I checked out the Distrito bathroom and was thoroughly amused by these little strong man guys on the back of every door to function as hooks. Too cute.

Distrito is shaping up to be a Cinco de Mayo hot spot next week, with $5 margaritas, specials on their delicious guacamole, tacos and nachos and a late night tequila tasting. I suspect it will be jam packed, especially if the UPenn crowd is just about done with finals by then. That's cool though, who wants a sparse crowd on a holiday? Err... I mean a Mexican holiday-that's-not-actually-a-holiday for Mexicans, according to my Mexican friend.

You can always find a party at Distrito or make your own, whether it's a small party of two friends catching up or a group of girls out for birthday celebration. It's a must-try for dinner and a nice option if you're looking for something different - but really tasty - for brunch too.

Opening presents... how great is that box!

Distrito on Urbanspoon


A and J said...

I love this post-- so much of Distrito's awesomeness is in the decor/atmosphere/bathrooms. Yup, I'm a fan of the bathrooms too.

The Chilango Chop was part of the All You Can Eat Monday Night Football deal last fall-- such a good deal, and the whole all-you-can-eat-salad on top of all-you-can-eat-tacos almost pushed us over the edge. If they do it again next fall.. go.

Kristy said...

You just can't have a super hip restaurant withouth a super hip bathroom. It's anti-climactic.

I think Monday Night Football there would make me explode!

benilhalk said...

Thankful to you for sharing such useful information on birthday parties. I am planning to arrange my daughter’s birthday next month so I am in search of excellent NYC venues. My sister suggested me few venues and now planning to book most affordable soon.