A Perfect Day of Eating in DC, According to Primrose Chef Jonathan De Paz
The chef will be serving up Guatemalan dishes for a cause at Primrose's Refutar pop-up
Primrose’s chef de cuisine, Jonathan De Paz, is well-acquainted with the steak frites and duck leg confit a l’orange of the Brookland wine bar’s typically French menu. But, for two nights only on September 30 and October 1, the Guatemalan-born chef will have the opportunity to switch gears, celebrating the cuisine of his own heritage while also raising money for charity through a pop-up that he’s calling Refutar — the Spanish word for to refute.
“Essentially, the idea for Refutar comes from my own Guatemalan heritage and my experience as an immigrant in this country. I was born in Guatemala, raised in New Jersey, and have spent the bulk of my professional career in French kitchens,” De Paz tells InsideHook.
“Refutar is my way of paying homage to the cuisine of my people while also benefiting a cause I find incredibly meaningful. Sebastian Zutant (the owner of Primrose) and I had been tossing around the idea of a charity pop-up for a while, and had been considering a variety of different causes [to donate to]. Considering our current political climate, one cause that we found particularly relevant to the hospitality industry was immigration, and of course it’s very personal to me. We envisioned Refutar as a celebration of Guatemalan flavors and culture, while also recognizing the tremendous contribution immigrants make to this country — that’s why we ended up choosing RAICES as our organization of focus; they help provide legal representation for immigrants unable to afford representation on their own.”
To celebrate the launch, we asked De Paz what his absolute ideal day of eating and drinking would look like if he were to patronize only immigrant-owned establishments. Now, you can follow along on a journey to eat your way through delicious Cubanos and flavorful red coconut curry, while also showing support for a diverse community and equal opportunities.
“Supporting immigrant-owned restaurants is important to me because it shows the American dream realized. You can come to this country, open a business, and be able to express yourself. For me, there’s no better way to express yourself than through food. It’s also important as an educational tool, to teach others about flavors and cultures that they wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed to,” says De Paz.
Alright, let’s get to it. Oh, and you can check out Refutar’s full menu here.
On weekends De Paz doesn’t typically wake up early enough to enjoy breakfast, but he suggests checking out Mikko in Dupont Circle. There, Finnish-born Mikko Kosonen slings authentically Nordic pastries like freshly baked cardamom buns as well as savory options like spinach and cheese quiche and a chef’s special breakfast wrap. Chef Mikko began cooking at a young age in his native Stockholm before spending 15 years as the Executive Chef for the Finnish Ambassador to the United States.
“For lunch, I love Mi Cuba Cafe in Columbia Heights. They have daily specials, but I usually get the Cubano sandwich or lechon asado, with the platanos for dessert,” says De Paz. “If I’m not working afterwards, I’ll definitely grab some mojitos with raw sugarcane, which bring back childhood memories.” The cheery hole-in-the-wall is owned by Havana, Cuba natives and couple, Jacqueline Castro-Lopez and Ariel Valladares.
“Another place I like is Keren, an Ethiopian restaurant in Adams Morgan. I always get the Special Tibsi, opting for the chicken, which comes with Eritrean spices and veggies, all served on injera.” Injera is a spongy, sourdough-risen flatbread typical of Ethiopian cuisine. In fact, it’s their national dish.
“For dinner I love Thip Khao for Laotian food, I usually get Tam Som (a papaya salad) to start, Piing (grilled meat skewers), and Gaeng Phet (red coconut curry) for dinner. Baan Thai has some of my favorite Thai food at a great price, and New Big Wong in Chinatown offers some of the best late-night Chinese.”
The owner of Thip Khao, chef Seng Luangrath, was born in Laos and forced to flee the country during the Vietnam War. She then learned how to cook during her stay at a Thai refugee camp, taking care of all four of her younger siblings at the young age of twelve. Her Laotian restaurant is now listed in the Michelin guide to the city.
“Mezcalero in Columbia Heights has my favorite pitchers of margaritas, some bomb tacos as well. My favorite cocktail spot is definitely Copycat Co. on H Street for delicious cocktails and bao. If I’m feeling fancy, Barmini by Jose Andres never disappoints,” says De Paz.
Popular taco joint Mezcalero is owned by chef Alfredo Solis and his sister Jessica, and highlights the bold flavors of their native Mexico City.