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Fearless Critic restaurant review
DC
Food
Feel
Price
7.7
6.4
$25
Caribbean
Casual restaurant

Hours
Mon–Thu 11:00am–10:00pm
Fri–Sat 11:00am–midnight
Sun 11:00am–8:00pm

Features Outdoor dining, Wi-Fi
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Not accepted

www.sweetmangocafe.com

Petworth
3701 New Hampshire Ave. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 726-2646
Sweet Mango Café
We’re thankful for how the food makes us feel, but we’d like a warm place to hang out, too

We associate Jamaica with colors, warm smiles, and exotic flavors, so the bare-bones setting at Sweet Mango is off-putting and a little frustrating. Yes, we constantly tout the importance of a dumpy and depressing atmosphere when in search of the Authentic Asian Holy Grail, but man, who among us isn’t dreaming of Caribbean escapism when they stroll into this neat, clean Jamaican dive? We have screen savers and calendars that are more evocative than the inside of this place. That said, its three levels teem with amenities designed to keep you there, including a covered rooftop patio with a view, a full bar, HDTVs, and free Wi-Fi. The walls are a cheery bright green and yellow, with sophisticated-looking black and white photographs, but it still feels like a cafeteria, the lights inside too bright and the lights up top nearly nonexistent. For this reason, most people get take-out, which is ordered at the ground-level counter (there’s table service on the next two floors).

The food is more successful. Beef patties are delicious, although they’re not homemade (they’re culled from Royal Caribbean Bakery in NYC). Curried goat is always a good choice, tender and rich, but—sorry, vegetarians—the tofu version doesn’t hold up as well. Brown oxtail soup is a deep and nourishing choice when seeking a recovery of any kind, as is gelatinous cow’s foot.

Their biggest seller, jerk chicken (choose dark meat, not white), is good and juicy, and absorbs some nice charcoal flavor, although we like it even spicier. Dirty rice is well seasoned but can be slightly dry, depending on where you are in the batch. An escoveitch of red snapper is a touch overcooked by the vinegar. Eggy ackee and saltfish runs the gamut of sweet, salty, savory, and spicy, and makes a good breakfast. Try it with a cup of excellent, mild Blue Mountain, something of an appellation d’origine contrôlée for Jamaican coffees. Or you can wash it all down with homemade ginger brews, black cherry lemonade, and coconut water.

Sweet Mango was destroyed by a fire a few years ago then rebuilt, which we are thankful for. So we can pick up tasty Caribbean flavors and take them back to our cubicles, where an iPod and a 1680 x 1050 resolution makes us almost feel the ocean breeze.

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