Jun 23, 2023 - Food and Drink

Jaleo turns 30: How José Andrés' tapas joint transformed D.C. dining

Jose Andres celebrates Jaleo's 30th anniversary.

José Andrés is ready to celebrate Jaleo's 30th. Photo: Francois Nel/Getty Images

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.

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."
Jose Andres in the original Jaleo location. Photo: José Andrés Group
José Andrés in the original Jaleo. Photo courtesy of José Andrés Group

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."

Classic Jaleo tapas. Photo: José Andrés Group
Classic Jaleo tapas. Photo courtesy of José Andrés Group

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.

🇪🇸 Then: A global tapas crawl through Penn Quarter on Tuesday (6pm-9pm) with stops at Jaleo, Zaytinya, Oyamel, and more. Tickets are $325 all-inclusive.

🧑‍🍳 Michelin-starred Spanish chefs join the party with "surprises" including former elBulli chef Albert Raurich who's co-cheffing a blowout Minibar dinner on Thursday ($1,000 tickets).


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