Before it's current revitalization 14th St. mainly in the Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods was heavily influenced by latin culture. As these neighborhoods are rapidly transforming you can only catch glimpses of what it used to be. One of the remaining pieces happens to be one of the best restaurants on the entire block.
Restaurant Judy lies alone on a street whose transformation is like night and day. Restaurant Judy offers it's patrons a glimpse of traditional Salvadorian and Mexican cuisine. A brief look at the decor and you would think you stumbled in hole in the wall restaurant and that there is no reason to be here. But this is an instance in which you would have to use the age old adage of not judging a book by it's cover.
One quick glance at Yelp or Urbanspoon will have you scratching your head in bewilderment. Restaurant Judy is one of the highest rated restaurants in the U St. area which contains a number of great establishments such as Ben's Chili Bowl, Birch and Barley, and Masa 14.
Back in my early years my parents would take us to a number of Spanish restaurants including this one. At the time our neighborhood was inundated with restaurants similar to these. But I remember this one standing out among the rest which may be the primary reason why it is one of the few left standing.
I visit Restaurant Judy from time to time and chuckle each time I see a group of yuppies that are taking in the experience as the rest of the patrons look with the same enthusiasm at these gringos (Spanish for white people) thinking, what are these people doing here?
(Taco De Lengua)
Eating here reminds me of my young days. Whether it's a family BBQ, a reunion or even back in Honduras visiting my extended family. The food tastes that authentic. Every dish I have had here is spot on, from quesadillas to tacos I have never been dissapointed with my meal.
For those who's knowledge of Spanish cuisine stops at Taco Bell let me share with you some traditional dishes that are some of my all time favorites. We start off with the tacos of which everyone has tried. But I will take a gander that little to no one has tried a beef tung taco.
While it may sound unappealing let me tell you that beef tung has some of most flavor you will find in any cut of meat and is definitely worth a try. You should also try the tamales which are a personal favorite of one of my best friends. She, like Michelle Obama has an unending passion for them.
If none of these plates floats your boat then I highly recommend sampling their pupusas. Pupusas are a traditional Salvadorian dish which compose of tortillas stuffed with a variety of ingredients including beans, cheese and pork. Pupusas in the pantheon of my all time favorite foods. This dish is so good that I would include at least one in my final meal.
Luckily Restaurant Judy serves up some of the best pupusas in the town. My favorite type is revuelta which consists of mixture of cheese and chopped pork which are to die for. Thinking about them makes me want to get up and get 3 or 4 even though I am currently stuffed. Take my word for it, if there is one Latin dish that you must try it is a pupusa, you will become addicted.
All in all Restaurant Judy lives up to the reputation that the masses have give it. The food is authentic and very cheap, the service is good and there are no gaudy lines unlike most of the neighborhood restaurants. The decor and atmosphere is dive but there is nothing to fear. I would however eat here relatively early especially on the weekends because at night it becomes a pseudo dance club where immigrants who are brand new to this country meet to relive life back in the old country. This sight may be a bit odd to the average person but if you want to experience Latin America then go for it.