Hood Guide: D.C.’s Penn Quarter with Jordi Paronella, Head Sommelier at Jaleo

Chef José Andrés is at it again, with the opening of Jaleo in Orlando, Florida and a new wine shop in Crystal City, Virginia. The fifth Jaleo location in the United States, the Walt Disney World Resort location will feature Chef Andrés’ signature dishes including an extensive menu of tapas, authentic paella and, of course, cocktails.


Gin + Tonic at Jaleo Penn Quarter (image: Greg Powers)

But the Washington D.C. location, which opened in 1993, is the OG in Spanish cuisine, design and all things drinks. Under the watch of Head Sommelier Jordi Paronella, the bar program at Andres’ ThinkFood Group’s restaurant Jaleo in D.C., along with this latest Florida location, continues to be one of the best spots for sipping in the nation’s capital (Paronella’s latest creation? Sangria with sangria ice cubes for beating the summer heat).


Now, Jaleo, located in Washington D.C.’s Penn Quarter, has been named a James Beard Foundation finalist for Outstanding Restaurant, and we got to chat with Paronella about his favorite places to eat, drink and hang out in the ‘hood.

What is your tie to Penn Quarter?  Do you work there, hang there, live there, etc?

“I live in Van Ness, and I take the metro every day to ThinkFoodGroup’s Home Office [in Penn Quarter],” Paronella tells thirsty. “I mostly spend my mornings at the office, checking my emails, running numbers (wine costs), working on training materials and taking conference calls with all Jaleo locations.


Jaleo D.C. (image: Greg Powers)

During dinner shifts, I’m mostly in our Penn Quarter restaurant Fridays and Saturdays, and the rest of the day I try to rotate between our Crystal City restaurant, home to the best Spanish wine shop in DC area, and our Bethesda location.”

What is the vibe of the Penn Quarter area and community?

“Penn Quarter is the most central area in the district and everything is in walking distance.” Paronella continues.”The Monuments, museums, the White House, our local sports arena, Capital One, and more.”

Walk through your day:

·         Start Your Day (coffee, tea, juice)

“My day starts early in the morning because I’m a dad of twins, so I normally have my first coffee at home,” continues Paronella. “But sometimes when I have winemakers visiting, I normally walk them to Compass coffee in front of Capital One arena. Spaniards love ice coffee, and it’s really hard to find a good one. The nitro cold brew at Compass is simply delicious.”

·         Lunching or Brunching

“Well, I don’t have much time for lunch, but in winter time I try once or twice a month to escape to Daikaya Ramen,” says Paronella. “I’ll try to go alone, because it’s easier to get a spot at the bar. Super tiny, loud music and noisy. The spicy ramen is phenomenal – balanced, tasty broth and handmade noodles.”

·         Happy Hour or Sunset Drinks

“I’m not available during Happy Hour to hang out at the bars, but my favorite spot is Oyamel,” he says. “Best tequila and mezcal selection in the neighborhood, and of course the unique Salt Air Margarita is a favorite.”

·         Essential Eats for Dinner & Drinks

“If you’re lucky to get a reservation, The Dabney is what I’m looking for,” Paronella reveals. “I personally look for taste and quality product. The difference here is their open kitchen and wood hearth, its a new vision of farm to table.”

·         Crafty Cocktail Strolling

“Without a doubt barmini,” Paronella says. “A large and impressive selection of drinks, around 100 different cocktails, divided into distillate sections. The service is impeccable, the snacks are awesome and it has great vibes.

The Ramos Gin Fizz is worth the wait. Also, Maxwell wine bar surprises me with their monthly selection.”

·         Late Night Libations OR Classic Dive

“There are 2 classics that are a must,” adds Paronella. “At Clyde’s, you will see all restaurant people having oysters and a drink. For the ones that finish late, New Big Wong Chinese food is the best. For bourbon lovers Crimson Whiskey Bar and draft beer at The Partisan.”


Image: Serious Eats

Jaleo details

480 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20004; 202-628-7949; www.jaleo.com; @jaleobyjose

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