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Posted at 3:51 PM ET, 06/ 9/2006

Starting a Rumberos

By Erin

Like girls who got gussied up for the school dance and then spent the night sitting on the sidelines, Julia and I had a huge letdown at dinner last evening. We boogied over to Rumberos, a brand new restaurant in Columbia Heights' Tivoli Square in hopes of a spicy feast and delicious summer cocktails. We emerged from dinner with lighter wallets and less spring in our step.

From the posse behind Rumba Cafe, this Latin American restaurant promises a full menu that represents regions throughout South and Central America and lists dishes from a seafood paella to an Argentine platter of grilled meats with chimichurri. But for now, there is a smaller selection of dishes available. Starters include a cold avocado soup and sauteed shrimp in a spicy butter sauce, and among the entrees, we tried the chicken in mole sauce and langoustines and lobster tail in garlicky white wine and lemon.

The restaurant has a spacious bar, and the drinks were delicious. We delighted in watching our bartender mix together vibrant green leaves of mint for our freshly muddled caipirinhas and mojitos. But the food, well, left us wanting more drinks. The prices are high -- entrees range from $16 to $25 and the meat platter for two will be $40 -- and the quality does not match the price tag. The mole chicken, which was advertised as boneless and spicy, was actually a quarter of puckered white and fatty chicken under a layer of mole-inspired cumin-scented paste. The langoustines were dry, but certainly more passable than the chicken.

Promising nights of live music and walls displaying local art work, the restaurant may, we hope, grow into its ambitions. The area could use some unique independent flavor. Until it does, stop in for a drink and maybe an appetizer, and then hop over to Taqueria Distrito Federal or Tonic to grab a bite.


By Erin  | June 9, 2006; 3:51 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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I also went to Rumberos over the weekend, and had a good experience with the food. I think the key here is to order tapas, not the more expensive entrees. The grilled calamari w/tequila was excellent, my wife enjoyed her black bean soup, and the corncake sandwiches (arepas) were delicious.

Posted by: Ted | June 12, 2006 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I thought the bartender dude was super nice, and the space was perfect. I think this place has a lot of potential as a destination spot--the reviewers missed the boat.

Posted by: Nathan Becker | June 13, 2006 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Hey Nathan,

We actually adored the bartender. He hung out with me for like 15 minutes before Erin got there and couldn't have been nicer. His drinks were yummy and his conversation was great.

As the last paragraph of our post says, we also think the space is rad and the live music will be a great addition to the rapidly changing neighborhood.

We weren't wild about the main courses this time, but it's only been open since June 2, so we're hoping for good things to come. Just wanted to clarify - especially about the bartender. I didn't get his name, but he totally made my night.

Posted by: Julia | June 13, 2006 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Wow, give the place a chance! They just opened last week! The chef told us he has been testing out different recipes/ideas and trying to work out the kinks in these first opening days, as most restaurants do. Everything my husband and I had was great (second the fantastic tequila grilled calamari), the service was excellent, and the space one of the coolest I've seen open recently in DC. I think this will be a great addition to the neighborhood and has the potential to become a new hot spot in DC, but not if you guys give them a negative review before they even get started! Please, follow Tom's example and let a place have a few months (or a few weeks, at least) before discouraging people from going. Luckily I went before reading your review, because if I hadn't, I probably wouldn't have gone.

Posted by: Anna | June 14, 2006 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Anna, give the place a chance to work out the early on kinks. My experience there has been great every time I've been. Lastly, the decor is fantastic - as soon as the food is consistently on track and it gets popular, standing room only is my bet.

Posted by: Stuart | June 14, 2006 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I went last week and the food was great. We ordered apps as "tapas" - Each person got two to share. Surprisingly a good amount of food. Just what Columbia Heights needs. Plus the bar is super-cool too.

Posted by: Adam | June 19, 2006 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Went last night for dinner and had a great steak! Loved everything about the place!

Posted by: Jonathan | June 26, 2006 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I went there for drinks on a friday night and had a wonderfull time. The atmosphere and the deco are amazing, while its pretty big inside it has a very cozy feel. The live music was very good and the drinks were very yummy. The staff was very friendly! I will definatelly go back, I'm happy to have this option in Columbia Heights.

Posted by: Eleonor | July 17, 2006 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Rumberos is excellent. I don't recognize this delectable restaurant from the original review.

I went to Rumberos the first week they opened and found the food divine... as did the rest of my party. Tonight, after 2 months in Latin America, I returned to Rumbero's to find the same excellent food and a fantastic band to boot.

The "Going Out Gurus" may need to go back to remedial Guru School.

Posted by: Sam | August 27, 2006 3:03 AM | Report abuse

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