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Is there decent mexican in DC?

Just moved to the district a few months ago, and I have been to a couple of places like Cactus Cantina and Alero that serve OK but unmemorable food. I'm looking for a place with more atmosphere, better food and reasonable prices. Any suggestions?

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  1. To make the rounds of the DC classics for Mexican you'll want to hit Lauriol Plaza in Dupont, Austin Grill near Chinatown (or in Alex) and Cactus, which you've been to. There is also a neighborhood favorite in Capitol Hill (name escapes me - Tortilla Coast?) that as I recall is more a 'ritas and nachos kind of place. Rosa Mexicano, near the MCI Center, is hip but pricy, crowded, and not worth the overhead. The other major chain around is Rio Grande, which is very similar to Don Pablo's if you've ever been to one of those.

    I've recently come to appreciate Mexicali Blues, a Mexican place in Clarendon with Salvadoran influences. They are attentive to the details, make great salsa, have excellent specials and good prices in general. I recommend the fajita platter for lunch.

    Another VA favorite is about a mile and a half from Ballston Metro--it's called El Paso Cafe. They do yeoman's work on all of the classic tex mex dishes and serve it up in a neat neighborhood restaurant atmosphere. Pricing is good.

    5 Replies
    1. re: traveler

      I've heard that the best actual Mexican food is out in Riverdale, MD, but I like Guajilo on Wilson Blvd in Arlington for good food and a cute place. Always a good backup when Rays is mobbed too.

      I hate Lauriol Plaza. I'm just saying.

      1. re: caphill2320

        I am with you - not huge fan of LP. But it is kind of a Warshington institution.

        1. re: traveler

          yes but cactus and LP have the same problem, which is they have only flour tortillas. no corn tortillas. its insane. but the owner (who is cuban) is making money hand over first so don't expect anything to change. the old LP, which was down the block, was great for lunch, the ambiance was great. and he used to do a cuban food buffet at CC, on tuesdays, but i don't think for a long time (10 years). that was good. as was his 1980's adams morgan cuban restaurant, el caribe. but he figured out that mediocre tex mex is what sells, and that's the history of latin american food in d.c.

      2. re: traveler

        "Rosa Mexicano, near the MCI Center, is hip but pricy, crowded, and not worth the overhead."

        I used to think the same way until I actually went there and had the tacos asados. Now I believe it is very fairly priced given the quality and quantity. Highly reccommended.

        1. re: NoVaDog

          Have to agree. It's not cheap eats, but the quality is excellent. Duck tacos, lamb shank baked in parchment paper. I was actually blown away. And now Oyamel is going to open right down the street.

      3. im from corpus christi tx, and the only place i've found that i really enjoyed was Mi Rancho. i frequent the germantown location, but there's one in silver spring as well. Guapo's is good too as well as Rio Grande - both @ the Rio in gaithersburg. these are tex/mex places im mentioning

        1 Reply
        1. re: Antonio Montana

          I second Mi Rancho. I've been to the SS one many times.

        2. Lauriol is so overrated...

          1. Do you want Tex-Mex or real Mexican? If it's the latter, go to Taqueria Distrito Federal in Columbia Heights or Tacos Pepitos in Adams Morgan.

            If you want a cross between the two, the Taqueria Poblanos in Alexandria and Arlington are pretty good. Guajillo is also okay.

            I would agree that unless you like atrocious waits for average food Lauriol Plaza is to be avoided at all costs. So is La Loma, its Capitol Hill counterpart.

            3 Replies
            1. re: CMACDC

              Taqueria Poblano is, I think, Cal-Mex. I have had a couple of pretty good meals there a few years ago, but on my last visit the food seemed to have slipped several notches. It might have been an off night but I'm not inclined to return.

              Most of the Tex Mex in DC sucks. The best places are not in DC, but mainly out in the suburbs, in small taquerias or roadside trucks (and these are not Tex Mex, but what CMACDC calls "real Mexican", or Mex Mex if you prefer :). There are several in Bladensburg (e.g. La Sirenita and Taqueria Tres Reyes). Costa Alegre in College Park/Berwyn Heights is on par with anything in Bladensburg. I've found all of them to be very uneven, although on their good days they are really good.

              1. re: alopez

                I've has some major disappointments recently at the Taqueira Poblano in Arlington. Tacos al Pastor that must have been from previous day(s). Enchilada that was a huge mound of refried beans mixed with icebox cold shredded lettuce (beef was AWOL).

                I think the baja fish tacos are a safe order because they don't pre- cook them.

              2. For a well-rounded menu, then Guajillo in Arlington outshines the local options. If you are looking for a taqueria, then there is no better quality then the cabrito or chorizo tacos at Taqueria El Charrito Caminante, also in Arlington. Only a few stools.