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Nov 11, 2008 12:15 PM

"Real" Mexican in Bladensburg/Riverdale

I am looking for suggestions for restaurants not too far from Univ. of MD. Great chiles rellenos, etc. I prefer a place that has beer/wine/drinks but don't want to give up quality of food. Recommendations, please. Thanks.

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  1. Well, aren't you lucky. It is my understanding that the only Mexican community in the DC metro area is in Bladensburg. There are a small cluster of authentic spots close together. The one that comes to mind is La Sirenita. There is a lot of talk about it on these boards.

    La Sirenita
    4911 Edmonston Rd
    Hyattsville, MD 20781
    (301) 864-0188

    22 Replies
    1. re: sekelmaan

      El Tapatio and Taqueria Tres Reyes are the other highly regarded places in that neighborhood.

      La Taqueria Reyes
      5403 Kenilworth Ave, Riverdale, MD 20737

      El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant
      4309 Kenilworth Ave, Bladensburg, MD 20710

      La Sirenita Restaurant
      4911 Edmonston Rd, Hyattsville, MD 20781

      1. re: DanielK

        La Placita is the best taqueria in Riverdale. Their tacos al pastor are reliably good. I didn't think much of la Sirenita, and Taqueria Tres Reyes is somewhat disgusting. I haven't been to El Tapatio, which has received some praise on Chowhound over the years.

        1. re: Steve

          Thanks for the heads up. I thought La Sirenita was average, but probably as good as the area has to offer. I think I am headin' east this weekend. Vamanos a La Placita!

          How does La Placita stand up to the one in Arlington and one in south Alexandria where you fulfill your goat cravings?

          Taqueria LA Placita
          (301) 277-4477
          5020 Edmonston Rd, Hyattsville, MD 20781

          1. re: sekelmaan

            Thanks for the info. Does La Placita have table service? Do you know if they serve beer/drinks? Thanks again.

            1. re: jeb

              La Placita is a taqueria. You go up to the counter, order, and pay. Plenty of tables to sit at; it's quite a spacoius place, in fact.

              It's not as good as the goat or chorizo at TECC in arlington, but La Placita is a big step up from almost anywhere else. The place in Alexandria, Guadalejara, I've only been once, .but I would say that it might be a real gold mine. I need to go back soon.

          2. re: Steve

            I thought that the only good thing we had at Tres Reyes was the hurrache which was huge. We tried tripe which was griddled in a lot of fat (probably lard) which left it a touch greasy but with a few of the jalapenos in eschebeche was fine. The pozzole was so so and the tacos pretty off, cold store bought tortillas and bland filling.

            I have had better luck with La Sirenita than Steve: the tacos are really good (tongue & salty beef) the seafood cocktele is good if you can forgive the use of the fake crab, same cane be said of the cevice tostada. The Pozzole is pretty good.

            1. re: deangold

              oooh, yes, love the ceviche tostada.

              FWIW, had a couple of bad meals recently at El Tapatio, and have crossed that off the list. La Sirenita remains a regular stop on the way to DC United games.

              1. re: DanielK

                What is funny is that at La Sirenita, almost every table filled with Latino guys orders a bowl of the Korean seafood soup! I guess it is a left over from a previous restaurant there, but I haven't even thought about trying it. I do want to try their chile rellenos.

          3. re: DanielK

            I would now add La Fondita on Decatur Street west of Kenilworth to the mix. Also owned by the La Sirentia folk, this is a tiny place {7 tables} in a former house in a residential neighborhood. The menu is short with Quesadliias, tacos, Tortas and a couple of soups. There are a few things listed on papper plated attached to the wall not on the menu. But with you choice of meats, the short menu fills out to two pages.

            Kay had a quesadilla with pumpkin flower which was good, but I suspect another filling would have been better as the pumpkin blossom was wet and made the whole thing have a slightly soggy texture. The flavors were good and he size humongous. She also had a taco de Barbacoa which was shredded lamb and very nice. I had the Lamb Soup which blew away La Sirenita's Pozole. Lots of fatty shreds of lamb (fatty in the best of ways), garbanzos beans, something starchy, maybe some rice boiled in the broth till it fell apart, maybe something else, and a very rich broth with a few fat globules floating on top. It came with a trio of bowls to accompany: green salsa with a touch of heat and a good sour flavor profile, red salsa with a lot of earthiness but not much flavor and wedges of lime which added to both the tacos and the broth. I had a taco with lengua where the tongue was a little crispy from a visit to the griddle and not as soft as that of La Sirenita, but the crispiness and the flavor were outstanding. For $2 it is a tasty feast compared to the tongue taco at Oyamel for half the price. We added two unnecessary desserts: Frieses con crema, strawberries in a tihick, somewhat flavored crema, maybe a little dulce de Luce blended in?, and Flan Napoletano which was dense, almost chewy in texture but very caramel in flavor. With a generous tip it came to $36 and any thoughts of going to La Placita to compare tacos were wiped out by distended stomachs.

            The big drawback and La F is a lack of beer or other alcoholic beverage. On a return trip, we will be sure to try a torta and probably a quesadilla of either tinga or hongos which they describe as huilatoche. I think I will also try the Carne Azada as they spell it which I suspect will be tough as shoe leather and, if the lengua is any indication, well spiced and crispy.

            Right now, La Fondita is my favorite of the three placed I have been to in the area with la Sirenita a reasonably second and a palce I go to for different dishes, and Tres Reyes a very distant third (I would only go back for a hurrache and their excellent Horchata)

            1. re: deangold

              This sounds outstanding. I am going to go have my Sunday hangover soup now. I have been dying for a good pozole and La Sirenita just wasn't like the one that I had in Atlanta in the back of a carneceria being made by an abuelita. Your description of the lamb soup has that oily, rich goodness that is missing from sirenitas pozole. Thanks very much for the tip.

              1. re: sekelmaan

                Ok. La fondita is definately my new favorite. The lamb soup was excellent. The tacos were good and fresh. The lamb was nice and the tongue was browned well and flavorful. The horchata was the only miss. It was way too sweet.

              2. re: deangold

                I've been meaning to check this poace out. Thanks for the report.

                It's pretty close to Franklin's. You can go to Franklins for beers after you eat there.

                1. re: 4X4

                  Yeah but eating a bit of Taco adn then running to Franklins and back would be too exhausting but I bet I'd work off the beer faster than I could drink it! ;-))

                  Sekelman, I had the Liquados de Melone and it was super. Kay had the Orchata and I thought it sweet but within normal range.

                  1. re: deangold

                    I know this reply is way late, but does anyone know if the horchata there is homemade, or from a mix? I'm going there tomorrow, assuming they're open Saturdays!

                    1. re: kallisti

                      The only place I know of that makes horchata NOT from a mix is Taqueria Nacional on Capitol Hill.

                      I believe they serve lunch from 11am until 3pm daily.

                      Taqueria Nacional
                      400 N Capitol St NW, Washington, DC

                      1. re: Steve

                        Yeah, it was from a mix.

                        The lamb soup was great, as were the tacos al pastor! Mmmm... Next time, barbacoa or lengua. Maybe both!

                2. re: deangold

                  Second trip to La Fondita wasn't very rewarding> I had th Torta Cubana which was three different types of fried cutlets and ham on bread with wimpy mayo spread. I got about half of one down the hatch before I gave up. Kay had another quesadilla and it was sort of greasy. The lamb soup and the tacos remain the best things there. I need to try the enchilladas and the carne Azada.

                  Steve, La Placita is a great call. I had acouple of tacos: Al Pastor and Lengua nd they were both great. The green salsa is a warm cilantro heavy puree and the red packs a little heat. But the star is a jar od slivered onions and fresh chiles that really is hot. @ tacos, a tamirindo soda for $6.30 and I am ready for a nap.

                  1. re: deangold

                    Glad you liked it. The first time I got the taco al pastor, they gave me half a roasted onion on the side, but that didn't happen on my return trip. Good to know it's still a good address.

                    1. re: Steve

                      They did serve up some plates of white and green "strips" to several other tables. Could ahve been chile strips and onions, or potatoes. Didn't see anything on the menu that looked like it and I didn't ask. I returned for barbacoa, carnitas and cesina {salty beef}. The first and last were incredible again, the carnitas a little dry and dissapointing. The spit for the Al Pastor ahd the layered pork very crispy on the outside so if you are in a pig meat mood, that is the way to go. They also ahve Buche which they call "mixed pig".

                      1. re: deangold

                        I believe that buche is pork belly.

                        1. re: ChewFun

                          Buche is supposed to be esophagous. It will look and taste a bit rubbery. I had one at Orale Taqueria in Alexandria once. It is an acquired taste. Maybe in California or Mexico buche is better.

                          Here is a picture. The headline is wrong, and the blogger corrects his mistake in paragraph 3.


                  2. re: deangold

                    Pozole is hominy stew. That's probably what the starchy things were. It can be made with any kind of meat, but it has to have hominy to be pozole. In New Mexico and Arizona, it's mostly mutton.

              3. A Riverdale institution is the Alamo Restaurant, not far from La Sirenita. They are more Tex Mex, but they have the table service and alcohol you are looking for - and the chips and salsa are awesome. They've been around for more than 20 years.
                Alamo Restaurant
                5508 Kenilworth Ave
                Riverdale, MD 20737
                (301) 927-8787

                In Hyattsville/Riverdale on Route 1, 1 block up from East West Highway they are about to open a new restaurant called El Rancho Mexicano. They'll have table service and alcohol as i saw a posting for the liquor license in the window. I'm hoping their food will be great!

                My favorite Mexican food is at El Mexicano in Beltsville, on Rout 1 just north of the beltway and Ikea. No alcohol - but the Carne Asada and Horchatas are to die for.

                15 Replies
                1. re: michellerb

                  Actually, the Alamo Restaurant has been around since 1954. It was an institution when I lived in Riverdale over 20 years ago.

                  1. re: dinwiddie

                    Yes the Alamo was in operation back when Acme and People's Drug were in the same little shopping center and Mexican food was considered somewhat exotic (especially in PG County) . A true native of Mexico was even more unusual!

                    Obviously that has changed.

                    I moved to California in 1975 and returned here failry recently. I'd hope that the presence of Mexicans and Mexican cuisine in the area meant I could find something close to the Mexican food i'd enjoyed in CA.

                    Unfortunately I have been foiled in my quest. Perhaps being vegetarian is part of the problem (it never was in CA) but the places noted above (Sierenita, Tapatio are so meat-centered that I've given up hope.

                    I actually have gotten ill trying to order meatless at these places and that leaves a lasting impression.

                    I tried the RanchoGrande on Rte 1 in Hyattsville (next to Shagga) but was not impressed. Struck me as yet another Salvadoran- run place that offers Mexican and attempts to cater to the gringo by melting huge gobs of cheese over everything.

                    I saw another board about authentic California Mexican in NOVA and though I don't get over there often, I will look for it.

                    1. re: OlSloaner

                      The places in NoVa are taquerias. What do you want to find meatless at a taqueria?

                      1. re: Steve

                        In California it was never hard to find a basic bean taco or burrito at a taqueria. Some had cheese and/or guacamole as an option,some even had offerings such as a chile relleno burrito.

                        Typically these taquerias had a table wtih hot sauces and other garnishes (e.g. pickled carrots and radishes).

                        Nothing fancy just something that doesn't taste like they went in back and tried to pull all the chunks of meat out of their standard dish and presented the result as meatless.

                        1. re: OlSloaner

                          But THAT'S authentic Mexican! When I lived in Mexico City, a vegetarian friend would order something without meat, and it was always obvious that they had pulled the meat out of the dish and served it as "vegetarian." They just didn't understand the concept!

                          That happened in restaurant after restaurant!

                          1. re: OlSloaner

                            That sounds more CaliMex than Mexican.

                            1. re: DanielK

                              I understand the quest for "authentic" especially given some of the Americanized versions of various cuisines (not just Mexican of course).
                              However it does seem to be a bit of a slippery slope. Obviously beidses Tex-Mex", New Mexican and Cali Mex there are numerous regional versons of Mexican food. I've only been to Mexico a couple of times and I don't claim to any Dianna Kennedyesque knowledge of the cuisine but clearly there is a lot of variety from Chiapas to Sonora.

                              As I said my lament is simply that when I was in California (and also New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona) it was never hard to find very tasty Mexican style vegetarian food(however you wish to categorize it) and not just at some trendy or hippified place but at your classic holes in the walls, take-outs, lunch stands, taquerias, places that catered primarily to the local Mexican population etc.

                              Here in the DC region however, it seems that the typical "mexican restaurant " is actually operatied by someone from El Salvador and features standard americanized cheesy versions of a few mexican standards , while the "authentic" places such as the ones along Kenilworth Ave are so authentic that the concept of meatless is alien.

                              For a lot of people these restaurants (e.g. Sierenita) are clearly a fun and tasty alternative to the Guapos, Chilis and Austin Grill versions of Mexican food . They just don't work for me and are one more reason I miss California.

                              1. re: OlSloaner

                                I think this topic was started to address "Mexican" as you would find in Mexico, at least as far as taquerias go.

                                There's a separate topic somewhere of someone lamenting the lack of "Cali-Mex" (or even Southwestern, as you describe), and I agree that there isn't anything really like that around here.

                                1. re: OlSloaner

                                  Most of the places in the Bladensburg/Riverdale area are oriented towards Mexicans. If a place serves liver tacos, nopales, buche, carnaza, etc., they are orienting themselves towards Mexicans.

                          2. re: OlSloaner

                            HIGHLY recommend La Mexicana Bakery and Tacqueria as well as Tacos El Costalilla. The former is your standard tacqueria, but the latter specializes in antojitos: sopes, huraraches, torta ahogada, and tacos. The cook is a great guy and is really proud of his work and would have no problem making anything veg friendly. Even without the meat, those sopes are pretty damn tasty. Can't recommend this place highly enough.



                            Tacos El Costalilla
                            7862 Richmond Hwy, Alexandria, VA 22306

                            1. re: monkeyrotica

                              Thanks Very Much
                              I will make a point to look for La Mexicana
                              (sorry if I got out of the topic lane with the comments)

                              1. re: OlSloaner

                                I would probably recommend El Costalilla for a more CA Taqueria. La Mexicana was good, and in fact I liked their tacos better, but in my limited experience with them, El Costalilla has much wider options and does the other things better.

                                1. re: OlSloaner

                                  Since I was one of the people jumping in, I don't want you to think that anyone thought your comments were out of line!

                                  I was just trying to point out that this thread grew out of a separate discussion on Mexican, which had also spawned it's own thread on Cali-Mex.

                                  1. re: OlSloaner

                                    They're a short distance from eachother. You'd do well to try both and find which is more to your liking. In spite of the name, Tacos El Costalilla is MUCH more than just tacos.


                            2. re: michellerb

                              The Alama dates at least to the '60's.

                            3. I love the posole at Tapatio. There's also an authentic little Salvadoran place a little farther north, on Rte 1 at Powder Mill (in the little shopping center down to the right if heading north). They started without a liquor license, I don't know if that's changed. Again it's the soup that draws me -- the mariscada. Awesome.

                              1. I had lunch with the wife at El Tapatio on Sunday. I had 3 tacos (lengua, carnitas, birria de chivo), and she had pozole. The pozole, eh. It was okay, but nothing special. The carnitas was a miss - pretty dry, and needed salsa to save it. The goat was fantastic. The real star, though, was the tongue. Maybe the best lengua taco I've had in the States.