July 4, 2012

Local 16

Location: 1602 U St NW (U Street Metro)
Cost: $15 (Happy Hour)
Local 16 on Urbanspoon

You don't get a lot of free time as an intern, so when you do have some time off, it's important to spend it being productive.  And by productive, of course, I mean making the most of happy hour.  So, last week, after a particularly rough day on the wards, I showed up, scrubs and all, to Local 16 to grab a bite and a couple drinks with my coworkers.

Nestled in the middle of the U Street neighborhood, Local 16 is all about its name.  That is, keeping things local.  It's one of the few restaurants I know of that partners with one local farm to source most of its ingredients.  Local 16 uses Whipple Farms in Virginia to provide the fresh veggies for their dishes.  It's a cool concept, and one that I wish more restaurants invested in.  But enough gushing about the source.  On to happy hour!

Every weeknight from 5:30 to 8, Local 16 offers $5 beers, well drinks, wines, and apps.  It's a pretty sweet menu, and they have Summer Shandy on tap - who doesn't love that on a ridiculously hot Washington afternoon?  But I was here to try the food and see how those fresh, local ingredients translated into taste.

First up was their classic pizza, made with simple tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil.  The portion size is not bad for five bucks, either, as one whole pizza is enough to satisfy your hunger but won't fill you up.

I really liked it.  The crust tasted like it was from freshly-made dough, and it was just thin enough to be crispy on the outside with a hint of chewiness in the middle.  The sauce was very simple tomato sauce, no seasonings besides a bit of salt, which went along with the theme of the pizza.  It did taste a little too tangy for me, but I like a bit of sweetness in my tomato sauce.  Maybe their tomatoes weren't that fresh?  In any case, the cheese and basil definitely were fresh, and all of the simple ingredients came together really well as a finished product.  Definitely worth the price, especially during happy hour!

Next came the oven roasted lamb meatballs, served in a tomato-based sauce with some cheese sprinkled on top and crostini on the side.

These meatballs were amazing, but what really made the dish were the crostini.  They were cut just thick enough to be crunchy and a little soft in the middle, were seasoned with garlic butter, and best of all, they were melt-in-your-mouth buttery.  Terrible for your arteries, I know, but man do they taste good on the way down.  The meatballs themselves were tender, juicy, and had that nice bit of char on the surface.  Drizzle some of the sauce on a bit of meatball & crostini and it's about as close to heaven as you can get on a crowded rooftop bar in the middle of 95 degree summer heat.

Last came the oven roasted tiger shrimp with garlic, lemon, herbs, and olive oil.  It's not usually on the happy hour menu, but when the kitchen ran out of shrimp croquettes, they offered us this for the happy hour price instead.  I bring it up last because it kinda was the least of the three.  The shrimp were cooked quite well, just a little on the overdone side but not so much you'd notice.  The oil and seasoning were nice and all, but I thought the lemon just overpowered everything.  Instead of accenting the flavor of the shrimp, it became the flavor, engulfing everything in a swath of tangy citrus.  You might like that with your seafood, but I would much rather have had the shrimp be seasoned in something simple - like sea salt and crushed pepper - over that tremendously powerful lemon flavor.

For giving my coworkers and me a fun, convenient place to get cheap drinks and a few tasty, farm-fresh tapas to spend happy hour on, Local 16 earns 3 Cherries.


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