I spend quite a lot of time in Shaw. I also spend quite a lot of time in coffee shops in Shaw. It’s my favorite neighborhood—and I appreciate that I am able to hop out of Compass Coffee, take in a workout at SolidCore, and then hop to meet friends at a great new restaurant, like the Dabney or Convivial, or an old favorite like Mockingbird Hill. There’s Right Proper Brewing Co. if I’d like to meet friends for a casual drink, or Ivy & Coney.
For months now, I’ve been meaning to visit The Royal, for several reasons. It’s owned by my friend Paul, who also owns Vinoteca. Vinoteca is my go-to spot for nearly anything: drinks with friends, summer birthdays on the patio, a quick glass of wine, or brunch.
Secondly, my new co-editor, Steph, raved about The Royal’s brunch.
Lastly, the restaurant is both Latin American themed, a homage to Paul’s Colombian roots, and also a café, restaurant, and bar at once. So, I can drink some coffee, do some work, and then transition to wine, cocktails, and arepas? Sounds like a dream.
I was charmed by the space from the instant I set foot into The Royal. The two-level restaurant was filled with young people chatting, eating, and working at dark wood high-tops throughout the space. People on Macbooks with coffees were working alongside groups catching up over lunch.
I met Paul and Brittany to catch up, and we began with matcha tea lattes, as I’ve not yet experienced this recent trend in caffeine.
The lattes were absolutely delicious: creamy, smooth and slightly unique in texture, plus the cream dulled the otherwise strong matcha flavor, making it a bit sweeter.
Next came all the delicious Latin American fare. First up, Paul brought out my two favorites as a kid in Buenos Aires: choripan and beef empanadas.
The choripan (chorizo con pan) was served on the most amazing loaf of fluffy white bread, slathered with chimichurri, and filled with fresh sliced tomatoes, Cotija cheese, fried egg, and home-made chorizo sausage. It was a phenomenal breakfast sandwich—on par with those at Glen’s Garden Market, but with a Latin American flair.
Meanwhile, the beef empanadas were made with corn flour, which was great for the gluten-free diners. The corn pastries were filled with seasoned shredded beef, potatoes, and peas.
Next, the cheese arepas. The only other time I’ve had arepas was in Cartagena, Colombia, so I was looking forward to trying them on U.S. soil. The corn patties were filled with creamy melted white cheese.
While they came with a simple green ají sauce, you can also request a spicy, creamy orange sauce on the side, and I recommend you do! With this sauce slathered atop the arepas, each bite was creamy and flavorful—with a slightly spicy punch. This is definitely Latin American comfort food.
Lastly, Paul insisted we try the grilled avocado, which is a healthy, gluten-free option. I love it when someone else prepares vegetables for me—so it’s a good thing that I dine out so often. Like many items on the menu at the Royal, the avocado was grilled on the wood-burning open grill, charred perfectly on the outside. It’s served in a bowl atop red quinoa and lentils, all drizzled with a house-made pumpkinseed vinaigrette that has a really spectacular flavor. It all goes together quite nicely.
As our Friday lunch pushed past the noon hour, it was time for cocktails. The Royal makes its vermouth from scratch in house and serves the liquor in lovely vintage stemware. I sampled a bit of that before moving on to another cocktail, the Newburn.
Made with Pig’s Nose scotch whiskey, tamarind pulp, cardamom, cinnamon, and lemon, the Newburn tasted like Christmas in a cocktail. The cocktail was served with a large singular block of ice and accented with cranberries. This was a damn good drink—it would be great year round, but particularly delightful around Christmas and winter time.
I love the Royal for so many reasons: the chic, cozy space and convivial ambiance, the coffee-and-cocktails options, and the delicious Colombian cuisine that meets a variety of dietary needs.
501 Florida Ave. N.W.