Jaleo turns 30: How José Andrés' tapas joint transformed D.C. dining
José Andrés is celebrating Jaleo's 30th anniversary in Penn Quarter.
Why it matters: Andrés' first restaurant is among D.C.'s most influential. Jaleo helped bring Spanish cuisine to the forefront of American dining, and changed how Washington eats, one small plate at a time.
- From Jaleo's roots, Andrés founded three still-growing empires: José Andrés Group, which operates 35 restaurants worldwide (including five Jaleos); global humanitarian aid nonprofit World Central Kitchen; and recent multimedia platform José Andrés Media.
Flashback: Andrés wasn't Jaleo's first executive chef. Austin Grill talent Ann Cashion conceived the restaurant with Rob Wilder, who later co-founded the José Group. Eager to find a Spanish chef, Cashion discovered Andrés cooking in San Diego and flew him to D.C. for a tapas cooking trial in her apartment.
- Cashion went on to open Cashion's Eat Place and the rest is D.C. restaurant history.
- Maria Montes, a 29-year Jaleo employee, remembers: "No one understood tapas. People used to be surprised at the small dishes, and José would explain tapas at the table … that was the magic."
The big picture: Jaleo's hosted VIPs like Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Anthony Bourdain alongside throngs of locals and tourists, and is the site of Spanish food firsts in the U.S.
- In 2008, Jaleo carved the first legal Ibérico ham in America after an import ban was lifted. Andrés also created one of the first authentic paellas Valenciana in the U.S. following strict preparation guidelines.
By the numbers: Jaleo's still going strong. Last year the restaurant served 28,657 orders of patatas bravas, followed by 28,309 orders of gambas al ajillo — two of eight original dishes still on the menu.
What they're saying: "Jaleo has always been my home," Andrés wrote on the Longer Tables. "The place where I can be both Spanish and American, sharing the best of the country where I grew up with my new adopted home."
What's ahead: Jaleo is partying like it's 1993 over the next week.
🥘 Catch a paella cooking demonstration at the Sunday Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market.
- Fun fact: You can thank Andrés for that paella emoji.
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