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Jul 25, 2007 09:27 AM

Californian needs a Mexican food fix...

I'm a recent SoCal transplant, and I am appalled by the lack of good Mexican food in D.C. I am having a massive craving and need help. Please... any other Southwesterners here who know of good Mexican food in the city?

I've tried Lauriol Plaza, Guapo and Tia Queta (all on recommendations). The food was fine, but it wasn't down-home, tasty Mexican with a little kick that makes you go back begging for more. (Just to let you know what I'm working with, one of my co-workers recently told me, "Chipotle is pretty good." Seriously?)

I'll take any recommendations... though if I can avoid the Salvadoran/Peruvian knock-offs, that would be great. My stomach thanks you.

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  1. Get thee to Riverdale. Ten good Mexican restaurants and bakeries in a ten block area.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Mister Big

      What intersection should I start with? Any favorites?

    2. Guajillo in Arlington is absolutely delicious. Mole enchiladas. they've also opened a restaurant in Adams Morgan called 'Casa Oaxaca.' I haven't been yet but the Post food critic was raving about it before it opened.

      1. I would skip Guajillo. There is nothing like SoCal Mexican food here, although Taqueria Poblano gives it a good try (it would be middle-of-the-road in L.A.).

        The best tacos/burritos in town are at Taqueria Distrito Federal on 14th Street. Very good Salvadoran versions at Taqueria El Charrito Caminante in Arlington.

        2 Replies
        1. re: MartyL

          Taqueria Poblano on Mt. Vernon Ave in Alex is very good - I've eaten many place in LA and TP does it just as well. It is a small place, so either go early or prepare to wait

          1. re: MartyL

            There is nothing 'Salvadoran' about the goat taco at Taqueria El Charrito Caminante, which is excellent. I don't claim to be an expert, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn....

            And if you want to get more of a 'down home' taste, then I also recommend Tacos y Tortas Guadalejara in South Alexandria, especially the huaraches con birria, but it is probably a fur piece from where you live .

          2. I think I am well qualified to field this question, as I am transplanted Californian now living in Baltimore, and I lived in DC for 3 years. I know what you are looking for. I ate regularly at Tacos Morenos in Santa Cruz for four years, and then lived in the Mission DIstrict in San Francisco for three years. I am sorry to say that I have given up on the search for satisfying Mexican food on the east coast. I just can't take any more disappointment. My only suggestion is to go out west more often.

            4 Replies
            1. re: honeybee926

              Honey Bee, where do you eat Mexican in Baltimore.......

              1. re: Roundwood

                I generally don't but I am interested in trying some of the places in Fells Point mentioned on these boards - I know they will not be anything like the California Mexican the OP is looking for, but I've heard good things and I am curious (and I'll confess to the occasional Chipolte carnitas tacos when I am having a fast food emergency - on the road, ravenous, and in need of a quick, cheap meal - at least I know the pork is good quality, not the usual mass industrial mystery meat, and the food is clean and flavorful)

                1. re: Roundwood

                  Not Baltimore, but up in that direction....Try El Paraiso in Owings Mills on Reisterstown Road, near the 5 Guys, Aldi and Office Depot. Not 'true' Mexican, as I think it is owned and run by Salvadorans, but they make some really great food.


                  1. re: Pool Boy

                    There's always the Tortilleria, which in addition to fresh tortillas, makes terrific tacos. They sometimes have cabeza as a special, and it's fabulous. It's on Eastern Ave. in Fell's point. Much further down Eastern Ave, La Sirinita is also very good Mexican. I don't believe either are California or Baja style, but you can't get more "authentically" Mexican than these places.

              2. I grew up in Texas, but have been living on the East coast for the past two years now. I completely understand your longings, trust me. I know that Tex-Mex and Cali-style Mexican food are generally a bit different (as far as I know, Tex-Mex tends to be a bit greasier and gooey-er, while Cali/Baja style tends more towards fresher and lighter preparations). Regardless, I think I can safely recommend Rosa Mexicano, which is in the Chinatown area.

                I've only been once, and didn't try too many things...but I thoroughly enjoyed what I did have, and I feel that their prowess at tableside guacamole is generally a good sign for the rest of their cuisine.

                My friends and I shared an order of their tableside guac. It was fun to watch the fellow prepare it - he was clearly well practiced. The guac itself was, i thought, perfect - just the right balance of lime, cilantro, fresh tomato, pepper, salt, and jalapeno to balance the buttery avocado without overpowering. The chips were fine, slightly too salty and slightly too oily but still far better than most I've had since my big move. The fresh corn tortillas that also came with the dish were delicious.

                For my entree, I had the enchiladas suiza. Now, if I recall correctly, back home in Austin suiza meant they were served in some sort of creamy/sour cream based sauce. These were simply basic chicken enchiladas w/ a slightly tangy green tomatillo sauce and cheese melted over the top. They were tasty.

                The side dishes were, unfortunately, disappointing. The black beans had no flavor and an odd texture. I'm not usually a big fan of Mexican rice, and ours looked very unappetizing (it was far yellower than I'm used to - perhaps they added turmeric for some reason?) so I didn't try it.

                Atmosphere, decor, service were all good. I would go back, especially for the guacamole and tortillas. I would NOT say this is as good as what I get back home in Texas, but it certainly fills the void better than anywhere else I've tried.

                I assume people are going to ask, so:

                In DC, I've been to Oyamel (WAY overrated. I've been twice now, have tried quite a few of their dishes, and really don't understand the fuss. And they butcher their guacamole by dumping in far too much salt, sigh.) and La Plaza (hole in the wall in Eastern Market neighborhood - it was fine, good chips and salsa, bad queso, decent enchiladas. Nothing special.)

                I actually live in Philly and am just in DC for the summer, so the rest of my east coast Mexican experiences have been in Philly. They have not been very good. On the upside, all of this sub-par restaurant experience has really inspired me to develop my Mexican cooking at home! :-)

                Hope this helped!

                5 Replies
                1. re: Aloo0628

                  Is Tequilas still around in Philly? I think it was in the 1500 block of Locust.

                  1. re: Aloo0628

                    Really? Rosa Mexicana? I'm surprised. Every thing I've heard about it says its rather generic and not at all authentic. Maybe I should give it a try then.

                    How about the new lunch spot (forget the name) that is part of Johnny's Half Shell?

                    1. re: Elyssa

                      Rosa Mexicana has its strengths but it is by no means California-style Mexican food. I had a great meal there last December - good chips and guacamole, a braised short ribs dish that was fantastic, and a great tres leches cake. But I don't think this is what the OP is looking for.

                      1. re: Elyssa

                        Elyssa: well, I suppose that depends on what you mean by "authentic." I highly doubt that Rosa would be considered authentic MEXICAN by any means. But the guac and enchiladas are definitely reminiscent of the stuff I used to enjoy back home in Texas; definitely more "Tex-Mex" than authentic Mexican. And again, the beans were not very tasty and the rice looked...interesting. So while I would go back, I would NOT say this is some of the best Mexican I've ever had, and I do hope there is better/more authentic food out there. That said, if you go, order the tableside guac and tell me what you think, b/c I really enjoyed it. :-)

                        thatfarmgirl: Yes, Tequila's is around still, but I've heard mixed reviews, so I'm scared to try it. Would you recommend it?

                        1. re: Elyssa

                          They had a really good tortilla soup there. I've only been once and was very drunk, but I want to go back just to try the soup again. It made an impression on me.