I really like Surfside.
Surfside has several locations. I used to go occasionally to the one at the top of Glover Park, by the gas station. I gather that it’s now closed in favor of locations in Dupont Circle, the Wharf, and, nearest us, in Tenleytown. The move has taken things upscale. They now have table service, plus they’ve replaced the plastic utensils and dishes with grownup silverware. Of course, prices have risen commensurately. Rising which seems to be the fashion with everything at the moment. The new location in Tenley is very pleasant. Nancy and I had a mid-pandemic outing there some time last summer or fall. We met Doug Jacobson, the Kansas City Barbecue Maven, and his wife Emily, our Senior Art Consultant, for dinner. It was a wonderful break. We were able to sit outside with fans dispersing any and all germs, and we had a good meal in what was then an all too rare comfortable setting.
Things have loosened up a lot now, and there are many more safe feeling places to eat, but there really aren’t a lot that can beat the outside tables at Surfside. Nancy and I just had dinner there with two formers — our former council member and now Auditor, Kathy Patterson, and our former pastor, Dean McDonald — who are also current very close friends.
They are both lovely people and delightful dinner companions, although Dean is inflicted with a rare disease involving a reluctance to spread malicious gossip. We had a nice chat, and eventually the server persuaded us to get around to looking at the menu.
The stars of Surfside are the fish tacos, which Nancy and I always have ordered with religious regularly. Kathy and Dean both ordered fish tacos, the Maui
and the Antigua. I think.
Don’t they look good? At least the one in focus looks good. My bad. Surfside’s fish tacos are always tasty. I took a break and refrained from cross-examining Dean and Kathy on their food, but I can assure you that they were pleased and did full justice to their dinners.
Nancy and I decided to branch out beyond fish tacos for once. Nancy ordered a salad, the Tahiti.
She could not have been more pleased.
You can see the grilled shrimp — cooked properly, not tough. And those are mangoes and avocados, and, yes, bean sprouts, which I haven’t seen in ages. Those are macadamia nuts on top, and there’s some mint in there. That’s a ginger lime vinaigrette that Nancy said was just right.
I ordered the ceviche to start and the St. Barth’s burrito, with blackened fish, romaine, avocado, pico de gallo, and a lime caesar dressing.
The burrito was pretty good. The highlight for me was the layer of fresh raw diced jalapeños. These added some crunchy texture, more heat, and that nice fresh jalapeño flavor. Jalapeños have the best flavor of any chile pepper, other than the really hot green chiles, at least to me. Note, however, that after I’d ordered the burrito the server returned to question me closely about my experience with jalapeños and spicy food generally. That was’t necessary in my case, but it was a thoughtful thing for Surfside to do. I imagine that some customers have been unpleasantly surprised at the heat.
So far, so good, but the burrito had far too much lettuce, as you can see in the photograph. That may just be me. One of the attractions of Surfside is that the foods are at once light and flavorful, and it is in the nature of burritos, which, as part of the scientific species, viscera gravibus telum, which loosely translates as “Gut Bomb,” to be anything but light. But romaine lettuce has very little flavor per unit volume, and the pico de gallo and lime caesar were but afternotes. The blackening spice on the fish was pretty ho-hum after Red Fish, and even with the jalapeños, the burrito as a whole was pretty bland. I should have asked for salsa.
That’s a lot of seafood. The ceviche appetizer is certainly enough for a table to share. It has lots of lime juice and red onion and bell pepper and cucumber, but mainly lots of fish. I initially assumed that the jalapeño warnings referred to the ceviche rather than the burrito. The server explained that the ceviche wasn’t spicy, the burrito was. I should have asked for some diced jalapeños to be added to the ceviche, but the trail of my life is littered with things I should have done and didn’t. The ceviche was a bit tame and, like the burrito, pretty good.
While I’m grousing I guess I should add that our server was new to the job. Restaurants all over the country seem to be finding it extremely difficult to find trained workers — or any workers at all. I mentioned places cutting back hours and even days of operation here, and there have been places that should have cut back but did not. I’ve turned around and left rather than suffer interminable delays. Here the problems were minor, and my hat is off to Surfside for finding as many workers as they did in the crisis. No waits and the most minor of glitches: we didn’t get a drinks list, and my ceviche appetizer arrived with my entree. Those are issues I’ve come to expect — Ward 3 problems — and to bear with a good grace. They certainly did not detract from the pleasure of a dinner with good friends. Surfside is such lovely place to eat. The porch is huge and open to the air. Ceiling fans whir overhead. The shade and the artificial breeze whisked away the summer heat and humidity, and we all enjoyed a delightful meal in perfect comfort.
Hustle on over to Surfside for some fish tacos and a cooling beverage or two, which will put the Washington summer out of your mind.
And while you’re at it, click “follow” on our front page to receive blog posts in your email box. Or bookmark us and check in from time to time. If you’re planning a trip, you can “Search” the name of the city, state or country for good restaurants (in Europe, usually close to sites, like the Louvre or the Van Gogh Museum, that you’ll want to visit in any event). Comments, questions, and suggestions of places to eat or stories to cover are very welcome. And check out our Instagram page, johntannerbbq.