August 19, 2005
The message: Just go to GuaRapo; you won't be disappointed. There are two floors to this restaurant-lounge and outdoor sidewalk seating as well. There's always a good crowd here, but the wait, if any, is pretty short--20 minutes max in my experience. And the 20 minutes can be well spent at the bar, slowly sipping one of GuaRapo's mojitos, the best in the D.C. area. Once you're seated, either inside or outside, you'll open up the menu and see a wide range of choices. You could eat entirely off the tapas menu, which I have done many times, or you could eat some tapas and then split a main dish. Getting tapas and a main dish for each person is, in my experience, too much food. Now--what to eat. You can't go wrong with any of the empanadas, particularly the chicken- or beef-filled ones. I would avoid the just cheese one, as I found it to be a little too greasy when I had it. In addition to ordering an empanada, be sure to order an arepa, an open-faced corn cake topped with either shrimp or beef. Next up, garlic shrimp. And if you like chorizo but haven't had a lot in your life, it's not bad here, and good for American standards. If you're a chorizo lover or are accustomed to eating it in Spain, I'd skip it. It comes sliced in half lengthwise and grilled. The entrées I've had with friends--ropa vieja, chicken, and the paella. It was all good from what I can recall--the ropa vieja tasted delicious, and the chicken was good as well. The paella was good also, but not as great as these two other dishes. It's pretty difficult to go wrong at GuaRapo--and when you do, your reaction is: this is not as good as my last dish. GuaRapo is named for the juice that comes from sugarcane, and they have drinks with that name. Personally, I never strayed from the mojitos, but if the mojitos are any indication of how could the other drinks are, I'd highly recommend them too.
Now, for the atmosphere. Guarapo definitely has a hip, trendy scene. And the abundance of Spanish speakers frequenting GuaRapo is another testament to the quality of its fare. In the downstairs, there's a live band playing Gypsy Kings-type tunes, and upstairs there's a lounge with a DJ. You can venture up there after dinner or go there and make a night of it.
From journal D.C. Nights--Dining and Drinking