I’ve mentioned before that my young adults group at church likes to do brunch once a month. It’s usually the second Sunday of a month, but in May, that fell on Mother’s Day, and none of us felt like it would be fair to ditch our moms and have brunch with each other instead. Also – brunch tends to be crazy on Mother’s Day, and sometimes the menus are changed. So we decided to switch things up a little, and instead had a happy hour. Someone in our group said that the happy hour was good at Paladar Latin Kitchen in Tysons, so that’s where we met up.
I got there at 6:15 or so, and the bar area was packed. Since the happy hour is in the bar area only, I wasn’t surprised, but I had to keep my wits about me to snag an available table as soon as it came up. Thankfully, the happy hour starts at 4 and goes until 7, so there were a lot of larger groups that were winding down their evenings, and my friend M and I were able to snag a table fairly soon after we got there.
Let me tell you this – the drinks are fairly cheap, and they are also fairly strong. You will get a bang for your buck. I started out with the pomegranate-ginger mojito, and it was very fruity, and also definitely full of rum. This is something I like in a happy hour, so it was a pleasant surprise. M got a mango white sangria, which was also strong with alcohol, but with a tasty flavor. After taking that first sip of our beverages, we figured out we needed to order food too. Luckily, there are lots of food deals, so we started to order a few things. At this time, our friend G also showed up, and she contributed to the spread of food you’ll see that follows:
Yucca fries – because sometimes when you’re drinking you need carbs. And it doesn’t hurt that the sauces that came with it was super delicious. I had a hard time choosing because they were all so delicious. I really could have used a second order of just the fries so I could scrape out sauce out of the little containers.
M ordered these guacamole deviled eggs, and we agreed that they reminded us of the potato cups with guacamole that I made for Easter. Since I don’t like hard boiled eggs, I took her word for it that the combination of texture for the guacamole and the egg itself was a little off. And she also wasn’t expecting quite so much topping.
G ordered ceviche, of which you can see my bite on a large vegetable chip. I remember it as being very bright and citrusy, and with all the other things in the ceviche, barely being able to taste the fish, or at least the fish not having an overpowering flavor compared to all the other ingredients. And that’s definitely something I look for in a fish dish.
Finally, we had a few orders of empanadas. I got chicken, but there were also mushroom empanadas at the table, which I didn’t partake in because I continue to be picky and mushrooms are not my thing. These empanadas didn’t look the way that I expected – they were more haphazardly dough-wrapped than your standard empanada which tends to be a little more precise with flakier crust. No matter that they didn’t look the way I expected, they still tasted delicious, and the garlic pesto (the green sauce) and the slaw were both amazing additions to the chicken.
So – that’s what we had at the table. And sometime in there I snuck in another mojito – a standard one this time – before the happy hour special ran out. All told, two (strong!) drinks, two appetizers and tip set me back $29, including tax and tip. At Happy Hour (which runs from 4-7) you get $2 Off Beer, $2 Off Wine by the Glass, $5 Off Rum Flights, $5 Sangria, $5 Margaritas, and $5 Mojitos. Latin Street Food (the appetizers) starts at $4.95 (the yucca fries and eggs were both in this category), but some of the items are slightly more expensive (empanadas were $6.95, I think?). All in all a pretty good deal for what was a filling and fun evening spent chatting with some terrific ladies.
Is it the kind of place that I would go back to for dinner? Based on my happy hour experience…maybe? But the food – while not your boring TGI Friday’s style super-fried pub fare – wasn’t really special Latin American cuisine. Perhaps if you’ve got someone in a group going to dinner who isn’t an adventurous eater (I can think of at least one of my friends…), this would be a good balance between something more exciting for the rest of the group, and “safe” for whoever that person is. But if you’re going for happy hour, I say yes. Do it. It’s crowded, but the deals are good, the drinks are strong, and the food is tasty and just the kind of thing you’d crave when you were slightly tipsy. So especially if you work in the Tysons area, and can get there closer to 4pm to take advantage for longer…it’s a good option.
Details: Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar, 1934 Old Gallows Rd., Vienna, VA 22182; locations in Rockville, Gaithersburg and Annapolis. Reservations here.