Review: Local spot dishes up conscientious grub

Dos Gringos, A Mount Pleasant Café: A-

Review: Local spot dishes up conscientious grub
HEALTHY 'DOS' - Local café Dos Gringos serves up delicious, socially responsible fare at student-friendly prices. The restaurant is careful to only buy what it needs for each day so waste is kept at a minimum, and many options are vegan and vegetar

Dos Gringos, A Mount Pleasant Café 3116 Mount Pleasant St., NW www.dosgringoscafe.com 202-462-1159 METRO: Columbia Heights, green line PLATES: breakfast and brunch dishes: $2-$5, lunch and dinner: $5-$8

Living in a metropolis like Washington has its benefits, including access to great internships and jobs, awesome restaurants and cool cultural activities like concerts and museums. But all of this comes at a price and, as any college student struggling to balance paying monthly rent on that cramped studio apartment as well as dealing with hefty student loans can attest, D.C. can be pretty pricey.

But if you thought reasonable restaurants offering delicious, healthy and socially responsible food were unheard of, think again. Mount Pleasant and the adjacent Columbia Heights area of D.C. is the place to be when it comes to reasonable rents and cheap eats. There are plenty of delicious places to whet your appetite in the area between Park and Irving, especially along Mount Pleasant Street. And nestled in a quiet old 1900s-era townhouse along the neighborhood's main drag is a gem that remains undiscovered by even the most clicked-in set of D.C. insiders.

The place is called Dos Gringos, and it's the friendly neighborhood café you thought only existed in the movies. At Dos Gringos, there is always something good to eat and it's always cheap. Offering selections for vegans and vegetarians, as well as a few carnivorous delights, "Two White Guys" (a loose translation from its Spanish-derived name) is an eclectic mix of cuisines complemented by an equally eclectic mix of people. And with breakfast and brunch options as well as lunch and dinner fare to match, there is an endless supply of good food at the right price. It won't ever break the bank, with a regular menu item averaging somewhere around $5 - good news for any college-aged student.

Dos Gringos can only be described as charming. The inviting front porch is a wonderful welcoming point, and for those lucky few able to snag a table in the relatively cramped space, this is the best seat in the house. As you make your way through the front door of the former home and meander through the mismatched chairs and tables that fill the small front room, you'll eventually find your way to the kitchen's counter.

It is here that guests will be surprised to find an extensive menu in both English and Spanish. Lucky vegans seeking out reinterpretations of classic breakfast and brunch dishes will find plenty to choose from, including the delicious tofu extra wrap (scrambled tofu, roasted tomatoes, bean mash and avocado all wrapped up in a tortilla). Non-vegans can enjoy favorites like the cilantro egg wrap or the daily frittata, both comfort foods with a healthy and natural approach.

If you're there with lunch or dinner in mind, look no further than the endless array of sandwiches. Make your own or try a Dos Gringos signature like Chipotle grilled tofu and slaw, curried chicken salad or the bean mash wrap with curried rice salad and avocado. The portabella grinder is a hearty option - and a delicious one to boot. The primo turkey avocado sandwich clocks in as the menu's most expensive regular menu item at $7 (without any add-ons of course) but at Dos Gringos, you get good portions of everything. Not in the mood for a sandwich? Soups like their wholesome veggie chili and salads serving up the likes of fresh mozzarella and pesto are worth a shot.

Their baggers, which are daily "brown bag specials" for people on the go, are another great option, especially if you don't have time to sit and relax for a bit.

If you aren't in a rush, take a seat and marvel at the remarkable homey feeling. The friendly staff bring your order with haste - all served on mismatched china with silverware sourced from what looks like five different wedding sets.

The café's quirky environment and delicious fare are a plus but so is the Dos Gringos commitment to serving fresh food every day. As a policy, the café does not over-buy for the day, purchasing only what they think they will need or sell each day. That means that menu items can run out. But it also means they are not throwing out food at day's end, like so many restaurants are forced to do. The restaurant is also 100% wind-powered, adding to the charm of the establishment.

For some, not always getting what you want may be a hassle, but as Dos Gringos reminds its customers, it gives you the chance to try something new.

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