Monday, March 7, 2016

A.G. Kitchen Food Review

A.G. Classic with Hollywood Fries

Downtown Silver Spring continues to inch its way into the DMV's crowded culinary scene; but outside of a few tasty, fast casual options (BurgerFi, MOD Pizza) I haven't been all that impressed. In order to be a serious contender, you need destination spots... the kind of places that bring you to a neighborhood for the sole purpose of eating feasting.

Red Lobster (delicious biscuits notwithstanding) doesn't count. Neither did Romano's Macaroni Grill, which thankfully gave way to a restaurant with the potential to turn Silver Spring on its collective head/tummy. The new kid in town (they turn one this June) is Alex Garcia's A.G. Kitchen. Its menu appears to be Latin American fusion; but clear-cut labels are so 20th century, don't you agree? Regardless of who they are, they specialize in friendly customer service, fantastic tacos and the aforementioned potential to become Silver Spring's "it place."

Slow Roasted Pork Tacos

I showed up late Sunday afternoon (before WJFF Closing Night at the nearby AFI Silver) and received a genuinely warm, dare I say enthusiastic greeting from A.G.'s jolly host. You can't teach this kind of friendliness, and it immediately put me in a good mood. The dining area is cozy and roomy (especially in between tables) although a bit dark. It sports an industrial floor (which I'm not terribly fond of) but the chairs (white with green pads) are comfy and give off a warm, casual vibe, which fits in well with the rest of the decor. There's also a wrap-around bar in front, that seats 40 comfortably... and an outdoor patio, that should get heavy use beginning this week.

My server (Logan) introduced himself, and I made him aware of my tight schedule. Bless his heart, he literally sprang into action, taking my order for Slow Roasted Pork Tacos ($13) and an A.G. Classic burger with Hollywood Fries. What happened next was a first (for me) although I'm not sure if I should find fault with it (or praise it.) Logan came back with my check, even before my appetizer had arrived. Sure, it saved time; but I felt funny paying for a meal I hadn't even tasted yet. Less than a minute later, my taco appetizer followed, and all I could think about was EATING!

For starters, you get five beautifully displayed mini tacos, tucked inside crispy tortilla shells and overflowing with avocado & tomatillo salsa and rich, flavorful shredded pork. The shells are crispy indeed, which might cause a mess... unless you devour them in two bites like yours truly. They're absolutely delicious, although I have to mention they're not very spicy. Looking back, I probably should have gone with the Loteria Five (only a dollar more) in order to try the Baja Fish, Chicken and Wild Mushroom tacos; but isn't that what second (and third) visits are for?  Needless to say, I can't wait to come back and pick a winner. So far however, the Slow Roasted Pork looks tough to topple.

After inhaling my tacos, I played around with A.G.'s red "viewfinder" which is supposed to showcase their dessert menu. It's obviously aimed at kids, but I found it kinda kitschy (and broken, stuck on Banana Mania.) As luck would have it, the one food I'm allergic to is bananas. I guess no dessert for me.

Gimmicks aside, it's impossible to find fault with A.G.'s outstanding service. Frequent water refills? Check. Manager checking in to see how I'm doing? Check (twice actually.) Votive candles for each table? Check. Numerous check-ins by Logan? Check. Better yet, my burger arrived quickly too, which shows the staff truly understands a customer in a hurry. Bravo.

Said burger looked amazing. It's a blend of brisket, chuck, short rib & sirloin, on a branded potato bun with lettuce, tomato and thin strands of red onion. It also came with A.G. sauce, which made the bottom bun a bit soggy towards the end. The beef quartet was top-notch, although under-seasoned (no salt & pepper?) It was also overcooked (MEDIUM-WELL, except for dead center.) I asked for MEDIUM. It was still pretty good, but better grill work could make a huge difference.

Meanwhile, the Hollywood Fries were killer good. They were the perfect combination of crispy/flimsy (don't ask how) and loaded with flavor (garlic, parmesan, parsley.) I wolfed them down, 5-6 at a time. Unique and tasty? That's hard to beat.

I'll be back soon, with double the time (and hopefully double my appetite.) Garcia's Skillet Fried Chicken (with Chipotle Mashed Potatoes) is literally screaming my name, not to mention their Pineapple Cole Slaw; and should my viewfinder be in good working order next time, perhaps a dessert (Chocolate Empanadas) as well. Regardless, it's nice to have something else to look forward to in Silver Spring, besides popcorn and a movie.