Last year, we hated Leo’s in a semi-endearing way. Then Georgetown told us they were making it better. Instead, Leo’s has found new and improved ways to fail at dining.
Jack: Ah the good old days. Wide open lines of sight. Smoked salmon, even if it ran out at 10 in the morning. The chocolate fountain. The small things, too: how you could actually reach a cup by the milk machine while holding other things without dropping them. The loner ledge, for those who prefer to dine alone.
On Wednesdays, they had wings. At like 10 at night, before my pilgrimage to the Voice office, I’d grab a to-go box and get some wings. By “wings,” I mean WINGS, like 40. An entire to-go box of wings. It was amazing. But now, there’s a glass wall between me and the booty. I have to interact with a human, hide my shame, and ask for only a reasonable number of wings. What’s the good in eating Leo’s wings if you’re not going to get a whole plateful? Point is, I miss downstairs Leo’s. Best dish: still the pulled pork.
Emily: So, as a vegetarian-forced-pescatarian to avoid starvation, I usually have (almost) two options down here: the salad line and cereal. Neither is all bad, but neither is particularly great. Getting a salad requires some athleticism, as the highly inconvenient glass panels demand an odd contortion of the arm. Also, I’m not sure that Leo’s understands that vegetarians need protein, too—it’s not enough to give us the same bed of leaves without the meat. I used to scrape by with a hefty dose of peanut butter on everything, but the tub that used to be my only friend “down under” has been replaced by a bunch of tiny packets. Is it acceptable to pick up half of them to take back? It’s hard to say. I think everyone has to fend for themselves in this place. (Though Leo’s ameliorated the competition slightly by assigning workers to portion our food for us. Maybe I’m healthier for it, but it makes it a lot harder to justify an $18 meal swipe.) Best dish: Cocoa Puffs with chocolate milk
Jack: I have been to Sazon exactly twice. It was fine. No line. That rhymed. Anyway, food seemed fine, though it was more akin to a snack than meal, size-wise. Best dish: They have these fruit juice things that are pretty tasty, I guess?
Emily: I like this place, since they usually have some solidly vegetarian rice and beans. Once, they threw a piece of chicken on top by mistake, but they happily corrected it. I could probably give Sazon a better review if I had had a chance to try some guac on the side, but I refuse to spend flex dollars inside Leo’s when I’ve always viewed flex as a lifeline method to avoid the place. But hey, Sazon makes a solid effort on their mediocre food. Most of the time. Best dish: Plantains, when they have them.
Jack: First thing’s first: How do you pronounce this one? Bo-deaga? Bo-déga? I can’t really figure it out, but I’ve been saying the latter so far, so I’m going to stick with that. Bodega carries the dubious honor of being the latest-open spot in Leo’s, at least on weekdays. That means they replaced an entire floor of Leo’s with a single shop, where you can hardly get an entire meal with a meal exchange. OK, that’s another thing: how is it possible, in the name of all that is holy, that a meal exchange gets you so little food? At Bodega, if you don’t want a sandwich and you go for the hot option instead, you get like three green beans and the bit of meat you forgot to eat at the end of the actual meal because the potatoes were really good. Leo’s, listen up: it’s not a snack exchange, it’s a meal exchange. Get with the program. Best dish: whatever they’re serving as the hot meal, but as an appetizer for the main event, which, because you’ve now used your last meal swipe for the week, consists of the last few stale chips you bought two weekends ago.
Emily: I used to enjoy their salmon wrap, but then it became my only Leo’s meal, and I’ve experienced its decline in quality day-by-day. Maybe I’ll continue to use it as a measure of Leo’s’s(?) decline in overall effort as the year goes on. Right now, I manage to almost look forward to it when I’m really starving, but I’d hate to imagine what it will be like during finals week. As for sides, always go for the fruit. [Jack here: you gotta go for the plums, when they’ve got ‘em.] The homemade chips are a bit chewy. (I might have gotten an acid burn from the pineapple yesterday, but it’s usually decent and beats the rest of Leo’s.) Best dish: Only dish?
Jack: Olive Branch was my go-to for the first week I experienced New Leo’s, but it’s fallen off recently. Take last week’s special, the lamb chop. See, when you promise me a lamb chop, the expectations go up, then they keep going up, and then they crest somewhere around the altitude of the top of Healy. That’s pretty high. My lamb chop was not so much a chop as a sliver. It was puny—like a few bites at most. It came with some mashed potatoes—moderately yummy—and some green beans, which were so drenched in oil I felt that it was necessary to scrap the oil off on the side of the cardboard container they came in. Don’t you typically boil green beans? I can’t be the only one wondering how so much oil got on them. Anyway, if you’re not going to go for the pizza, which I’m told is decent but, like Bodega, suffers in the size department, my advice is this: get the second-best-looking option on the menu. The first won’t recover from the lofty expectations. Best dish: see previous, you dipshit—it’s the second best… whatever.
Emily: I was so excited on the day that this place offered falafel. I absolutely love falafel. However, I did not enjoy the mouthful of cotton balls that almost looked like a falafel inside the box. To make matters worse, I think that my pita bread was somehow risen. I’m not sure how that works, but hey, it’s carbs. Maybe I’ll be patient enough for the pizza someday. Maybe. Best dish: still searching…
Jack: This is the standout. This is where Leo’s shines. OK, not shines, per se, but…does best. 5Spice, which I’ve got to say is not the best name I’ve ever heard for a place that does not consistently deliver in terms of spice levels, gives you decent quantity of decent food. The line’s a little long, but it’s gotten better, especially in the past week as they’ve fine-tuned the assembly line process they use. The people who work there are cool. I’ve gotten to know one of them—we still don’t know each other’s names, but I think we’re getting there. The two best weeks are the Thai week and the ramen week. Sure, the Thai food is a little soft on spice and the ramen noodles taste suspiciously like Top Ramen (broth is good, though), but it’s really pretty good compared to the tragedies that await a poorly considered order at some of the other fine establishments upstairs in Leo’s. Best dish: Eh—pick things at random. You can’t go too wrong at 5Spice, but there’s no standout either.
Emily: So, this place seems to give you the most food—on the surface. Once you scrape out what isn’t edible, you probably have the least. I went here once and ordered the Korean bowl with tofu, because, you know, steak isn’t an option for me. Unfortunately, this place suffers the misconception that vegetarians like their tofu flavored to be reminiscent of meat, and they do so with some shitty smokey-BBQ sauce. If I wanted that, then I’d just order meat. I’m a little afraid to go back now. (To be fair, I’m a huge fan of the authentic Korean food that’s abundant in my hometown, so 5Spice was doomed to fail by comparison. Somehow, it couldn’t even reach my miserably low expectations.) Best dish: fortune cookies. Always the most authentic, right?
Launch Test Kitchen
Jack: I went here once. Apparently it changes (hence “test”) every week, which makes it hard to review. I’ll try anyway. The idea of a test kitchen is ambitious. I like that. The long row of TVs is ambitious—it sets a high standard, and I’m all about that. I like it. But the execution is just off. During Indian food week, I got something involving lamb, I think. It was fine. There wasn’t nearly enough of it, and the rice was a little watery, but that’s OK. Last week they combined Korean and Mexican food, which, given they have a Mexican restaurant and it was Korean week at 5Spice, was a little suspicious. I’ll put it this way: let’s nail one cuisine before trying to mix two. Best dish: Don’t have one, given that it changes each week.
Emily: I’ve managed to avoid this place so far. Something about it just puts me off. Maybe it’s the inconsistency. If there’s one thing Leo’s has always been, it’s predictable. Launch has broken that trust. Best dish: suspense.
Jack: The most important thing you can know about me is that I hate bananas. Not hate like I hate you, like you’d say to Voldemort or whatever. No, this is something deeper. I hate bananas on a spiritual level. On a genetic level. (My mom tells me I liked bananas when I was really little, so my hereditary theory of banana hatred may not hold up.) Now, if you just ask the folks at Whisk for a smoothie, they’ll throw a banana in. Aware that this was likely the case, I prepared for disaster when I asked for a smoothie without banana. The storm never came. They made me a really half-decent blueberry-only smoothie, possibly worth going back for. They’ll also serve you a surprisingly half-decent fruit tart, and you can even get cake, but I’ve never actually seen anyone get some. I should say, anyone besides me. I got some once. It was carrot cake, and it may have been a little frosting-heavy (heresy, I know), but it was really passable overall. The rub was, it cost some incredible number of dollars. Best dish: the fruit tart, accompanied with some appropriately cooled-down coffee. Fruit optional.
Emily: Let’s start with some perspective. If you’re a Georgetown student, there’s a solid chance that you enjoy indie coffee shops and bougie bakeries. You’re willing to drop $10 on that iced-soy-dirty-chai and the toasted everything bagel, because you get atmosphere and a solid snapchat story. I’ll admit, the coffee at Whisk isn’t half-bad, but is a coffee and a dry pastry really worth an entire meal swipe? I think they tried to compensate by adding extra brown sugar into my miniature bowl of oatmeal, but the gesture unfortunately rendered my breakfast an inedible, syrupy mess. It improved significantly when I asked for it plain, but if you really want a positive experience at Whisk, stick to ordering what they have delivered from other restaurants—I’ve heard District Donut has a better reputation than Leo’s. Best dish: iced coffee.
Image Credits: Voice Archives