Commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month with “fast-fine” cafe eats at Southeast D.C.’s La Famosa.
Bringing “soulful” Puerto Rican food to 1300 4th St. SE, La Famosa is one of Navy Yard’s newest establishments. The restaurant doesn’t currently offer delivery or accept reservations, so show up early for either breakfast from 7 a.m. to 2p.m. or dinner from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. – people were waiting an hour for outdoor seating just 10 minutes after it opened Sunday.
The joint dubs itself as a “fast-fine” cafe, fit with homemade pastries and an espresso machine that offers Caribbean coffees throughout the day.
Like a coffee shop, I was seated at a bar-like shelf that wraps around one of the walls painted pink and green – an homage to the colorful houses that line Puerto Rican streets. La Famosa is an ideal spot to study, with a socket and USB outlet by your seat.
The restaurant uses a contact-free ordering system – after scanning a QR code to view a digital menu on your phone, you prepay your meal and drinks using a credit card, Apple Pay or Android Pay. Food and drinks are delivered to your table once you’ve placed your order.
Wanting to relive my time on Puerto Rico’s beaches, I decided to first pick one of La Famosa’s several signature concoctions. I opted for the “la pasion” cocktail ($10) – a mix of light rum, pitorro parcha, fresh lime juice and spiced demerara syrup juice. For an authentic virgin drink, you can try a “batido” ($5) – a blend of milk, ice, sugar and fresh fruit like mango or tamarind.
While relatively small, the dinner menu covered all the essentials of island-style cuisine. From what I observed, the most frequent entree being served was the “chillo frito” ($28) – a whole fried snapper accompanied with coconut rice and a spicy slaw. Other appealing dishes include the “chuleta kan-kan” ($26), a Puerto Rican-style pork chop, and the “pollo en fricasse” ($15), a chicken stew with rice.
But there’s no food that screams “Puerto Rico” like “mofongo” – a clump of mashed-up fried plantains that’s topped with chunks of juicy meat. I tried La Famosa’s pork version ($14), but there are also shrimp ($17) and vegetarian ($16) alternatives.
You may think fried plantains are sweet, but the crispy, mushed-up fruit tasted like crispy seasoned breakfast potatoes. The pork’s fat crusted around the edges, so every bite was crunchy and salty. The portion size isn’t giant, but the dish is incredibly hearty and will fill you up.
To top off any Latino dish, eat something sweet like flan ($4.50), guava “pastelillo” pastries ($3) or a “cafecito” – La Famosa’s signature coconut iced coffee ($5). I opted for the flaky, salty and sweet guava “pastelillo.”
Opening a new restaurant during the pandemic is a difficult task, let alone keeping up business. But La Famosa’s filling food and drink menu is keeping customers coming back.