Located off the orange line in Eastern Market, the Banana Café & Piano Bar’s main dining room is a sight for sore eyes.
Located off the orange line in Eastern Market, the Banana Café & Piano Bar’s main dining room is a sight for sore eyes. Almost trippy to an extent, tangerine, magenta and lime hues woven throughout the restaurant’s tropical theme serve as an eclectic backdrop to a dining experience equally as flavorful.
Local D.C. artists are responsible in part for its decorative charm, as many of the pieces adorning the establishment’s interior are up for sale. Jorge Zamorano, restaurant owner and self-taught artist, yearned for a D.C. scene reminiscent of the colorful atmospheres he witnessed living in Cuba and Puerto Rico. Let’s just say the motif’s fun-filled intensity rises to the occasion.
Known best perhaps for its liquid fare, Banana Café’s popularity among locals can be attributed to the fruit-infused margaritas ranging from the signature banana flavor to Ocean Blue ($6.95), swirled with Blue Curacao. These tequila-laced treats are a hit during happy hour, which its Web site claims is everyday in the piano bar from 4 – 7:30 p.m. However, patrons beware; this means you must go upstairs to get the $3 deal on rail drinks, margaritas and domestic beer. Otherwise, much like this reporter, you will be charged full price if you’re grabbing dinner on the first floor. Geographical locations aside, the Banana Daiquiri ($6.95) aims to please, and does somewhere in between its milkshake likeness and summery presentation from the orange peel garnish. Its Mojito ($6.95) – heavy on the lime, light on the mint – is another crowd pleaser for rum enthusiasts.
However, one can’t forget the other reason folks swarm in off the streets to “Go Bananas” as its menu boasts – the Cuban cuisine. With tapas ranging from Ceviche ($8.95) to Stuffed Yuca ($7.50), along with an array of Tex-Mex favorites, Banana Café is a chow getaway from the summertime cookout blues.
But when it comes to entrées, the restaurant’s best-kept secret has got to be the Fritas ($10.95). Described as Cuba’s version of the mini-burger, Banana Café may just blow the American tiny-burger craze out of the water with its bread crumbs-meet-paprika rendition of the bite-size trendsetter. These old Havana favorites come three to a plate, permeated with seasonings and sided with shoestring-style fries. They pack a punch all their own sans condiments, but come with a bit of mayo and ketchup for burger conservatives wary of naked patties.
Tex-Mex flavors enter the picture in this Cuban food chronicle by way of the Chicken Burritos ($10.95), which can be ordered with beef instead. Jam-packed, seasoned poultry comes baked inside a flour tortilla, then topped with ranchero sauce and melted cheese. Rice and refried beans on the side serve as a little extra, but expect to leave with a doggy bag given the generous portion size of this dish.
Once the tummies settle, customers can come back for seconds during Banana Café’s Sunday Brunch Buffet ($15.95 for adults, $7.95 for children) between 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. An a la carte menu is available as an alternative, and unlimited mimosas can be added to the buffet for an extra $4. So, whether it’s the idea of live music at the Piano Bar, eating under the stars or a restaurant inviting you to “go bananas” left tickling your fancy, excuses to visit Banana Café are endless, and encouraged.
500 8th St. SE, Washington, D.C.
Lunch: Mon. – Sat., 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Dinner: Mon. – Thurs., 3 – 10:30 p.m.; Fri. – Sat., 3 – 11:30 p.m., Sun., 3 – 10 p.m.
Brunch: Sun., 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Piano Bar: Mon. – Thurs., 4 – 11:30 p.m., Fri. – Sat., 4 p.m. – 12:30 a.m.; Sun., 4 – 10:30 p.m.