Fork into salmon carpaccio at Bistro Agnes
West End’s French bistro, courtesy of the Ox folks, turns out a surprisingly light seafood starter for lunch and dinner. The delicate, house-smoked salmon comes dotted with grated horseradish, pipette dots of crème fraiche, dill, and curls of crunchy, bitter endive lettuce. It hits a multisensory sweet spot without busting your gut. (It does, however, make a good front-runner to a 12 oz steak frites.)
Manhandle a gordita at Los Alambres
With orange floors, pastel-painted picnic benches, fake flowers, and light pouring through its dining area’s plastic walls and translucent transom (a flattened Mission Foods crate), food-cart taqueria Los Alambres perches at the end of a SE 82nd Mexican market and bakery like a cheerfully ramshackle annex. Big appetites can opt for the house special of alambres—a meaty mess grilled with peppers and cheese, served with warm tortillas and a slice of ham thrown over the top like a blanket—or one of the many generously packed tortas. For a snackier one-hander, Los Alambres’ gordita, a corn-flour pocket stuffed with pork, cilantro, and queso fresco, is one of the best around.
Slurp a hefty cioppino at Jacqueline
This is a deluxe take on the humble fisherman’s stew. Atop a thick, tomato-rich jumble of mussels and clams sits a thick, skin-on salmon fillet with a crispy skin and a soft, tender center. And on top of that? An overflowing wedge of toast, slicked with garlicky remoulade, spicy slivers of jalapeno, and a generous pile of Dungeness crab. The seafood jamboree will easily feed two hungry eaters.
Wolf down a media noche at Palomar
Only a few weeks in, SE Division’s Havana-channeling Palomar isn’t quite ready for prime time: most of the Cuban fare is one-dimensional, with bland fricassee de pollo, under-salted empanadas, and an unbalanced slushie daquiri. (The kitchen is slow as molasses, to boot.) The exceptions? A buttery media noche, with house-roasted pork, ham, pickles, mustard, and melty swiss. It’s like a Cubano, but with softer, sweeter bread, and no panini press treatment. Wash it down with a sweet, fruity Hotel Nacional (shaken with rum, lime, apricot, and pineapple), and make it your go-to while this buzzy new bar gets its feet.