El Centro D.F.
Where? 1218 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Brunch time? Saturday and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
As the winter months drag on, nothing sounds better than genuine Mexican food and endlessly flowing cold tequila-based drinks on the beach. If a trip to the coast isn’t in your future, brunch at El Centro D.F. in Georgetown might be your best backup.
Though there was no beach in site – only the icy, crowded Georgetown sidewalks – I felt like I was going to stroll out the door into the hot sand and sun. But that might’ve been thanks the tequila – and wishful thinking.
Brunch is an interesting phenomenon. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, a meal that is typically a piece of fruit or a bowl of cereal suddenly becomes a feast. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert are simultaneously acceptable, while drinking a solid six hours before 5 p.m. is not inappropriate. It is an indulgent endeavor, but a D.C. favorite.
So, if you plan to partake in that indulgence, I suggest embracing it fully, in quantity and quality, and springing for El Centro’s $35-per-person bottomless brunch. I consider myself somewhat frugal, so I know that price can make a student wince. But this is not some all-you-can-eat hot bar with piles of rubbery eggs and room-temperature bacon.
We sat down to a basket of chips, guacamole and salsa. For the first round of ordering, we got the grilled chicken and carne asada quesadillas. Both were delicious, but the perfectly seared, pink-centered steak make the carne asada variety a must. Perhaps arrogantly, or at least just trying to get the most bang for our buck, we added an order of bacon, egg and cheese tacos – a fun take on the traditional breakfast sandwich.
Our entrées came up next. We had eggs in nearly every form, from enfrijoladas – scrambled, with a bean sauce and chorizo – to chilaquiles – fried, with onion, beans and salsa. Best, however, was the carne asada con huevos, which is an expertly grilled hangar steak with a fried egg on top served over roasted potatoes and topped with chimichurri.
Though we certainly did not need more food after all that, the churros left us no choice. We put in our order after seeing the gloriously golden-brown, fluffy, sugary fried-dough on neighboring tables. Now, I’m not a dessert person, but churros are the heart of my sweet tooth that I keep buried under my preference for black coffee and meats. I’ve sampled churros from a host of notable places: a bakery in Spain, a market in Cancún and a street vendor in Union City, New Jersey. I never expected a restaurant in Georgetown to make it on this list, but El Centro’s take on the traditional pastry, paired with chocolate and caramel dipping sauces, will make my list a foursome.
Helping us through this marathon of eating and easing – any sense of buyer’s remorse – were the unlimited brunch drinks included in the $35 flat fee. I started off with a Michelada, a beer Bloody Mary made with Tecate, tomato juice, lime, spices and rimmed with a spicy salt. I moved on to the seasonal, spiked agua fresca for the rest of the meal. This drink mixes fruit-infused water with tequila and Triple Sec, for a fruity, refreshing cocktail. I tried at least one of each flavor: hibiscus, pineapple and watermelon.
How many of each I had, however, is up for debate – and, in this reporter’s opinion, irrelevant to the article. Toward the end, our waiter topped off my half-finished watermelon agua fresca with the rest of a pitcher of mimosa. To my knowledge, there is no known hybrid drink that combines mimosas with spiked agua fresca, but there should be.
Unfortunately, there was no sun-bleached sand or crashing turquoise waves on Wisconsin Avenue upon our exit. But we ventured into the cold, gray February afternoon tipsy, full and satisfied. El Centro D.F. is the perfect place to take a visiting friend to cure last night’s hangover, celebrate a great week or drown the sorrows of a bad one.
And, if you do all the eating and drinking you can for the day, you’re practically saving money. Don’t check my math on that, but as far as indulgences go, this is a more than worthwhile one.