Washington boasts some of America’s best Mexican, from simple taquerias and fun Tex-Mex joints to high-end explorations of regional cuisine
Washington’s Mexican food has been described as the best on the East Coast of the United States. With the recent explosion of interest in Mexican food and culture, the city has added even more places to its roster.
The city offers a diversity of options, from authentic market-style food served in simply decorated rooms to lively corporate restaurants that provide much needed happy hours to government employees to menus that offer inventive and modern takes on what is a complex cuisine, if you really explore it.
Many of the new outposts include impressive lists of agave spirits and cocktails, meanwhile, served by people who are passionate about them. Whether you are after a massive cheese and sauce covered burrito, a pitcher of margaritas to share with clients, or a mole-and-mezcal pairing on date night, DC has you covered. Here are Billy’s picks of the best Mexican in town.
This new addition to Washington represents the contemporary interest in Mexican cuisine and beverage culture that is sweeping the nation. The space is expansive and airy, with Mexican inspired graffiti covering the walls for a decidedly cool and modern vibe.
The passionate young staff are eager to guide you through one of the best mezcal lists in the country, and their inventive menu that celebrates tradition in a playful way. The tacos and salads are made from fresh, high quality ingredients, but it’s their selection of mole and salsas that sets their food apart from the rest.
1250 9th St. NW, 202-621-9695
One of the original spots in the U.S. capital to embrace the complexity of agave spirits, El Chucho had a cool mezcal and craft agave cocktail list before it became fashionable. The casual atmosphere lends a feeling of being part of a secret club, and accordingly the spot is a favourite among food and beverage industry insiders. Despite the no-frills vibe, El Chucho has mastered the details, and nowhere is this more evident than on their small-food menu: Real insiders know their tacos – the list includes classics including pescado (fish), asada (marinated beef) and al pastor (marinated pork) – are some of the best in the city.
3313 11th St. NW, 202-290-3313
Oyamel Cocina Mexicana
This Mexican restaurant from industry leader Jose Andres is in line with his legacy, offering top-notch food and drinks in a relatively high-end atmosphere. The colourful and open restaurant is meant to be reminiscent of Mexico City, and come evening becomes home to an upscale D.C. working crowd looking to relax with margaritas and small plates.
Oyamel Cocina Mexicana
The tapas-style menu strikes a balance between creative and traditional, and is meant to be shared and encourage conviviality. The food dodges the temptation of being overwrought or pretentious, if a little more elevated than typical tacos and burritos. Attention sightseers: The Washington Post included Oyamel on its list of the best places to eat within walking distance of the National Mall.
401 7th St. NW, 202-628-1005
Oyamel Cocina Mexicana
Those looking for a bare-bones taqueria owned and run by Mexicans will be happiest here. The colourfully minimalist outpost boasts authentic food that starts with hand-made sauces and tortillas. The menu is reminiscent of offerings one would find in a poblano market, from the comfort of DC. The owners are from Puebla, near Mexico City, and opened their own spot after working in the restaurant industry (including time spent with Oyamel’s Jose Andres). The drinks list is basic, but there’s a particular charm to this place that attracts a casual and diverse crowd that is really all about the food.
3710 14th St. NW, 202-722-7700
This is the place to go for a serious Tex-Mex indulgence done well. The cross-border style of cuisine may not be taken as seriously in foodie quarters as Mexican itself, but the freshness and quality of the ingredients, coupled with all homemade salsas, takes a menu of burritos, tacos and quesadillas to the next level. The friendly regulars vibe makes everyone feel at home, as do the Texas-sized portions. It’s really all about the burritos here: Those who are feeling up for a challenge can take on a four-pounder (!); you’re supposed to try to eat it in 45 minutes. To wash that monstrosity down, enjoy a simple margarita or your typical selection of spirits and beer.
1406 Florida Ave., 202-518-6820
1629 Columbia Rd. NW, 202-518-0076
Prepare to be defeated by this nacho platter