Small Plate Recipes you can make at home!

By now you might’ve figured out that we at PetitePlatesDC (myself included) love small plates. It’s also not a surprise that we are a group on a budget – living the grad school life.

If you are in a similar financial situation or just like saving a few bucks, we feel your pain (no really, we do) but you don’t have to miss out on the great taste of tapas or the fresh, crisp flavors of mezze if you’re on a budget – just make your own! There’s literally nothing you can’t create with a trip to the grocery store and an hour in the kitchen.

So, I’ve collected a few recipes that are easy to make and delicious to eat – by yourself or with friends!

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There is such a thing as too much good food

Like a lot of people, I research restaurants online before visiting. Looking up reviews on Yelp or reading about a place in a local newspaper or magazine can give a pretty good idea of what to expect, and if it’s worth your time (and money). There’s nothing more disappointing than anticipating a delicious meal out only to be disappointed by the food and/or service.

Such was the case with Lincoln. Located near McPherson Square, it serves seasonal American small plates with ingredients locally sourced from farms in neighboring states. Recently, Lincoln updated their menu for the spring season so I took to the Internet to see if it was worth checking out for the blog.

Lincoln has been featured on numerous lists for its food as well as its bar that comes complete with the city’s first moonshine menu and its own infusion room is run by master mixologists. Being on these lists adds to the notoriety of the establishment, and puts a stamp on the quality of the menu.

The reviews on Yelp were mixed, but I figured that was to be expected. I understand that online reviews should be taken with a grain of salt because I feel as though what one person thinks is amazing another might think of as boring or rude. Everyone has different tastes. Most of the bad reviews had some kind of complaint about the service, but all said the food and drink were good. From the reviews, the highest rated feature of Lincoln was its décor.

Another way I judge restaurants before visiting is through Facebook. How many likes does it have? If the establishment is relatively new it might not be a good indicator, but since Lincoln opened in 2011 and has over 3,000 likes – I figured they must be doing something right.

Ultimately though, hearing personal recommendations is what I listen to most. When I mentioned Lincoln to a friend who’s a self-described foodie, she said I had to try it – especially since Southern food is my favorite.

I’d enlisted my two roommates to check it out with me on a Wednesday night (got to celebrate hump day!). The dining room was full of families, couples and groups of friends, so I was glad I’d made a reservation in advance.

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the floor at Lincoln. Nice touch!

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Honest Abe looks over the dining room at Lincoln.

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Flamenco and Tapas at La Tasca

La Tasca is a prime spot in Clarendon for tapas and sangria after a long work week. Its Arlington location is one of five in the DC Metro area.

After making the reservations on OpenTable , two friends and I were excited to indulge in the restaurant that presents itself as an authentic Spanish experience. The atmosphere did not disappoint. When we arrived, we were ushered up the large wrought iron staircase to the top of the two-level establishment that’s decorated in rich shades of gold, red, and green.

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The upstairs bar at La Tasca in Clarendon

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American food with a twist

EatBar is one of the bright spots in Clarendon for small plates. Voted one of the Best Bars of 2013, EatBar offers up modern small plates without a big price tag.

The seat-yourself restaurant and bar has an atmosphere that’s cozy and candlelit, but noisy enough that you don’t feel like you have to whisper.  The gastropub lists wine and beer options drawn on chalkboards. The cushioned booths will make you feel comfortable hanging around a while and probably ordering more food until you’re in a food coma.

EatBar features contemporary American food with a few twists that keep the food interesting.

Classic American foods get upgrades with the use of different spices and sauces from different cultures. Like the chicken wings in Korean BBQ or chili lime sauce. My group gotthe Korean BBQ, and we ate everyone single morsel.


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Latin-Asian Fusion at Zengo

Zengo, meaning give and take in Japanese, is the perfect name for the restaurant located next to the metro station in Gallery Place/Chinatown.

Chef-owner Richard Sandoval owns five popular restaurants in D.C., including my favorite El Centro D.F., so my expectations for Zengo were pretty high. It did not disappoint.

Thai-chicken empanadas

Thai-chicken empanadas

While there are dinner entrée options, the bulk of the menu showcases small plate options that are meant for sharing. The culinary concept of Zengo merges Latin and Asian cuisine in some unexpected way, but still includes a few staples you’d likely associate with Latin or Asian food – whatever your preference. I like them both, so I was in for a treat.

The most interesting thing about the menu at Zengo is that it changes. Every few months the culinary team gets together and chooses two different countries, one Latin and one Asian, and mixes together their flavors and customary dishes for a totally unique small plate experience. During my visit, the test kitchen had produced a profile of Japan and Mexico. Some of the dishes included Thai-chicken empanadas and teriyaki pork belly gorditas sliders with Oaxaca cheese.

At first, I was unsure if sushi and tacos would make a good combination but decided to try it anyway.

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