Al pastor, marinated pork finely sliced from the standing spit

Monday date night: Part 1

September 15, 2011 | 4 Comments.

Like many of you, I have a slight disdain of Mondays, knowing there are four more days in the week before I can engage in debauchery with minimal implications the next day.

I may have to reconsider my stance as I recently discovered Monday is a strong candidate for best date night:

  • There is no drama and way easier to get a table without reservations
  • Some restaurants offer discounted menus or do a special themed night
  • Pop-up restaurants commonly set up shop on Mondays when the kitchens of a lot of restaurants are closed

Destination #1:

Mexican Mondays at Sitka and Spruce:  On Monday nights from 5:30pm to 9:30pm, this hip restaurant in Capitol Hill’s Melrose building transforms its greenhouse/farmhouse cottage digs from their usual Pacific NW genre with a tinge of North African to a South of the Border theme with veteran staff member Alvaro Candela-Najera at the helm, cranking out food from his homeland.

Always a treat sitting at the communal table

Alvaro debuted Mexican Mondays in February of this year, but he and his congenial wife have had a catering business for five years.

Drink: Start by refreshing yourself with a glass of agua fresca with watermelon or a classic margarita made the authentic way with tequila, lime, and sans any artificial sweetener.  The margarita arrived looking more like the silty run off from a glacier than that typical teenage mutant ninja turtle nuclear green (no disrespect to Donatello or Rafael).

Appetizer: Definitely hit up the made-to-order guacamole and chips.  The crew applies a simple recipe of avocados, onions, Serrano peppers, and lime, but it is still better than any dip I have ever made.

For the main course or courses should I say,  beware.  It is virtually impossible to limit yourself to one order of tacos, but thankfully, nothing on the menu exceeds $10.  Each taco comes in a set of three.

We start with the legendary suadero (milk soaked beef), which make it difficult to order anything else besides this juicy brisket concoction.

Suadero, long-cooked milk-soaked brisket "almost" looking too pretty to eat

After seeing one of the staff members meticulously shave off thin slices of  pork from the standing spit and topping it off with pineapple and cabbage, my next conquest is a trio of al pastor tacos.  The spicy and sweet combo is a winner.

We finish off with the black cod tacos.

There must be many pescaterians in the hizzie as the black cod tacos seemed to be the most commonly ordered taco of the evening
Don’t fret, vegetarians.  Alvaro has got your back with non-carnivorous variations of tacos – the nopales (cactus grilled in the fireplace with avocado salsa) and the alambre de hongos filled with shitake mushrooms, poblano and onion.
Cactus is the key ingredient in the nopales taco. Yes, those are homemade chicharrones (pictured left) in the background, which are one of the ingredients in the chorizo and salt-cured beef tacos


Tip: I like to sit at the communal tables and take in all of the cooking action, but if you are a hot-blooded mammal like my eating companion, opt for a seat by the window as it can get a bit toasty by the open fire.

Walk-ins only on Mondays, although they accept reservations for parties of 6 or more.

Stay tuned to read more about my Monday night shenanigans in Capitol Hill:

  • Monday date night:  Part II – Cocktails and dessert at Shophouse’s (now renamed Little Uncle, from what I am hearing) new pop-up restaurant location at La Bete
  • Monday date night:  Part III – Learning crab cracking techniques and eating a whole lot of crab with legendary shellfish master and James Beard award winning author  Jon Rowley


4 Responses to “Monday date night: Part 1”

  1. Ack! what are the chicharrones used in??? the caption is incomplete and I’m hungry for more info! (God – I could SO eat a ton of those cactus tacos.)

    • Jen (Roll with Jen)

      Suz – Sorry for keeping you in suspense. I have completed the caption and now I am hungry. I am already starting to wish it were Monday;-)

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