WASHINGTON — Javier Candon wasn’t looking to launch a new restaurant this year — it’s only been a year and a half since his traditional Spanish eatery, SER, opened in Arlington, Virginia — but an article in the paper caught his attention.
He read that the cheese- and wine-focused Sona Creamery closed its location on Pennsylvania Avenue near Eastern Market — and he’d always been fond of the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
“I think every restaurateur that is in this area, the dream is to open a restaurant in Washington, D.C.,” Candon said.
It didn’t hurt that the location already had the groundwork needed to operate a restaurant, including a kitchen, plumbing and electrical. A new tile floor, a few personal touches and furniture imported from Spain was all it needed.
“Immediately I felt this about this concept as old-fashioned Spain,” Candon said.
While the decor at Joselito Casa de Comidas may invoke a classic Spanish cafeteria, the food is anything but traditional. Expected tapas such as papas bravas, tortilla Espanola and gambas al ajillo are absent from the menu, and more contemporary dishes (chicken consommé with chorizo, spearmint and raw egg, and Wagyu bavette with roasted potato and chimichurri) take their place.
“I wanted to do something different in terms of food,” Candon said.
Another noticeable difference is the the menu’s organization. It isn’t divided into appetizers and entrees. Most items can be ordered in three different portion sizes: tapas, half-racion (entree) and racion (family-style).
“Because that’s the way we eat in Spain, not necessarily in a fine-dining restaurant … but in most of the bars in Spain almost all of the dishes are served in tapa, half-racion and racion,” Candon said.
Joselito Casa de Comidas is a personal project for Candon. It’s named after his father, who died the week Candon opened SER. Many of the recipes used in the restaurant come straight from his father’s side of the family.
“He didn’t cook, but it was the food that his mother used to prepare for him and my mother used to prepare for him,” said Candon about the Southern Spain offerings.
Limited kitchen space prevents Candon from hosting a happy hour with a separate menu for food and drink. Instead, Joselito’s “Hemingway Hour,” offers everything on the menu at a 20-percent discount.
Candon says the restaurant is working on expanding its dessert menu, children’s menu and daily specials, so stay tuned.
Joselito Casa de Comidas is located at 660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. It’s open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11:30 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.