FOODSPOTTING.COM ROLLING WITH THE FLOW Every month, a new chef redesigns Hogo’s menu in order to create an innovative and dynamic dining experience.
FOODSPOTTING.COM
ROLLING WITH THE FLOW Every month, a new chef redesigns Hogo’s menu in order to create an innovative and dynamic dining experience.

4/5 Stars

$$

After recovering from midterms, my plans for the Thursday evening before spring break included settling in with questionable Chinese take-out and Kevin Spacey in “House of Cards.” However, after a call from a co-worker, I found myself downtown near the Washington, D.C. Convention Center, about to partake of dinner and drinks at a newly opened tiki bar and late-night restaurant.

From the outside, Hogo appears a bit intimidating. The enormous painting of Bill Murray’s Steve Zissou (the establishment’s self-proclaimed “doorman”) doesn’t help. And in all honesty, the inside doesn’t get much better. The dark walls, dim lighting and moderately loud R&B playlist is reminiscent of your typical dive. Did I mention the wall-sized mural of Zombie Elvis? Although Hogo advertises itself as a tiki bar, upon sitting, I was presented with a menu featuring Jewish soul food. Talk about a restaurant with an identity crisis.

According to the restaurant’s Facebook page, the word “Hogo” means “high taste” in the Caribbean and also reflects the venue’s passion for traditional aged rum. This passion is evident in the extensive display of rums — of which they have more than 80 varieties — behind the bar and in their drink menu selections. I chose the Blackheart’s Punch, which promised the perfect mix of spicy and sweet goodness. The authentic tiki mugs, pineapple and mini umbrellas almost got me to believe that I could be on a beach oasis somewhere, despite the picture of Zombie Elvis and the soul food I was soon served. I couldn’t help but notice that the table next to mine had ordered the Volcano Bowl, a shareable drink nearly the size of the table, made with four different rums, citrus and a smoothing maple syrup. It definitely looked like something to keep in mind for my next visit.

The best part of the Hogo experience, at least in my opinion, is the food. They participate in a project called Temporary Works, which offers a unique twist on late-night dining. Each month, a new chef is invited to take over the kitchen, bringing in a whole new menu each time. I caught the tail end of Chef Renee Peres’ Jewish soul food. Since my group decided to get a couple of dishes to share, I had the pleasure of tasting a bit of everything. I would suggest this community-style eating for future visits, as you’ll definitely want to try everything. I first tasted the baba ganoush, which was complemented unexpectedly by salt and vinegar chips, a unique and delicious combination. Next came the HolyHolishkes, meat-stuffed cabbage rolls that closely competed with those my Polish grandmother would make for family holidays. I also really enjoyed the kreplach — Polish dumplings set in a savory broth and paired with a pungent dill flavor. I had to resist slurping from the bowl, although due to the quality of the food, my friends assured me it would be completely understandable if I did.

While the Jewish soul food menu has been put to rest, if you visit Hogo in the next couple of weeks, you’ll be able to enjoy the much acclaimed Rose’s Luxury selections created by Chef Aaron Silverman. This menu includes popcorn soup with poached lobster, bread-and-butter fried chicken and caramelized cauliflower with Greek yogurt. However, if you are looking for a hearty meal, Hogo is probably not the place for you. The smaller portions are delicious bar food options to be enjoyed with the venue’s drinks, which tend to steal the show.

Hogo provides a unique and authentic atmosphere with quality drinks, food and service. Prices for both drinks and food average about $10 each. Whether you’re looking for a new go-to bar or want to explore unique delicacies, this is definitely a great place that keeps customers coming back month after month with its constantly changing menu.

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