One of the more popular additions to the 14th Street NW area of DC is Tico, an American restaurant influenced by Spain, Mexico, and South America. Created by Chef/Owner Michael Schlow, a James Beard award-winner who has restaurants all over the country, this restaurant brings color to a block of old and new establishments. From the sign on the outside to the graffiti-inspired artwork on the inside, it is clear that Tico is going for flare and style.
We were lucky to snag a 7:15 p.m. reservation on a Saturday and were seated promptly. What you first notice about this place is the huge floor to ceiling windows from the outside, but from the inside it is just as wonderful as you watch the city dwellers walk by. Inside, the dark wood floors are contrasted with bright graffiti-style paintings on the wall and other more subdued Latin-inspired artwork on the ceiling. The dining room is huge with a full view of the open kitchen. The overall feeling was one of warmth.
I had heard great things about their drink menu so me and my friend, Josh, ordered cocktails. Josh started with the Hibiscus margarita, a fruity margarita made with blue agave tequila, citronge, lime, lemon, and hibiscus. I started with the Papa Made Bail, a delightfully spicy drink with a bit of fruit made with pisco, pineapple, lemon, and chile. Josh went for the Papa Made Bail as his second drink as well!
This is a tapas restaurant with typical tapas-sized plates so you'll want to order at least five small plates. Vegans have a limited menu to choose from of about eight dishes. We ordered a bunch. First, we got the olives -- a nice mix of green, red, and black olives with orange zest and marcona olives. This was a hit at the table!
Next up was the Brussels Sprouts hold the bacon. This was one of my favorites. Crispy fried Brussels sprouts cooked with sweet red onion and tangy kumquats and garnished with scallions. So good.
Then, we went against our server's recommendation and ordered the Roasted Cauliflower hold the cheese. She mentioned it might taste like it was missing something and right she was. It wasn't bad, but the cauliflower with chipotle and crunchy favas was a bit too dry -- it really needed like a tahini sauce or cashew cream to give it some oomph.
The Shishito Peppers are vegan as-is and I love a good shishito pepper. Made with crispy shallots, lime zest and sea salt, I found them a bit oily, but otherwise pretty good.
Lastly, I wanted to try the Roasted Golden Beets. These were fantastic. The soft roasted golden beets complemented by crunchy pistachios and capers made for a perfect dish.
Other dishes that could be made vegan include the sweet corn, shredded cabbage salad, and spinach salad. Sadly, there are eggs in the edamame tacos so they are not an option. All in all, we had a great experience. At $7 to $10 per tapa, it is pricey, but in line with DC prices. The atmosphere is lively and the service was great. I will say there is a greater variety of vegan tapas at other places like Zaytinya and Estadio, but this adds another option to the list of good tapas restaurants with vegan options. If nothing else, go to the bar for drinks, olives, and peppers. Next time, I want to dive in to their impressive tequila menu!
1926 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009