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Just moved from LA...need REAL Mexican!

I'm originally from Maryland but have lived in Los Angeles for the past six years. Now I'm back and my Mexican tastes have changed since living in LA. Everyone here thinks that Rio Grande is good Mexican!! ha ha! I need some real, authentic, hole in the wall Mexican in the Bethesda/Rockville or surrounding areas. Help!!! A good sushi place too if anyone knows of one...

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  1. First you need to specify what "Mexican" you want. LA Mex is not real Mex just as Tex Mex ain't - though both are a fine thing to search for. (See - there are some who will argue with you on the RG reference AND be right)

    Second - specifics help - what ARE you looking for. Dishes, tastes in dishes, etc.

    Third - There isn't much true Mex here. A decent amount of tex mex, and some very southern mex. Apparently very little baja mex, or so-cal mex.

    Now - that you have that. The area is great in mid-AM and northern SO AM food. Peruvian, Guatemalan, Salvadoran, Yucatan-ian(?), etc!

    Let us know your distinct cravings. Open your mind and stomach. Let's go from there.

    Welcome to the area!

    5 Replies
    1. re: Dennis S

      Hm...well, last I checked the places I went to in LA were run by, cooked by and served by Mexicans. Tito's Tacos, La Cabana. I don't think you can really argue that it's not really Mexican. I'm talking about where the chips are homemade, the refried beans are fabulous and they know what a real fish taco is. or dare I say, some fabulous Sopes. I don't want tex mex, I can find that in plenty of places. I want the place that most people in DC don't know about and won't go to because they think the food is weird.

      1. re: novice16

        I feel bad for all LA and SF transplants. The realization that we have no real Mexican or good burritos is a common one.

        My recommendation is Taqueria Districto Federal in D.C. on 14th and Otis. It's tacos and posole, but very good.

        1. re: Culocho

          I 2nd the TDF recommendation. Two things though: the cross street is Oak, not Otis and I'm pretty sure the posole is only available on the weekends.

        2. re: novice16

          La Cabana used to be one of my regular haunts in the 80s. Yum. Your best bet for authentic Mexican food is in Riverdale/Bladensburg. The places are mostly not on the main drag, but there is some good stuff there, especially. They are on Edmonston, mostly. Taqueria Tres Reyes II is really good. El Tapatio is also good. Some of the places are Spanish language only. I always say that if goat, tongue, rabbit, or liver are on the menu, it's going to be a good place. What I really miss is machaca. I've never seen it here. Also, you're not going to get the fried tacos you find in some of the older L.A. places, like La Cabana or Gilbert's El Indio. Now if only we had some of the Mexican chains they have in L.A., like Pachanga, They are like really good versions of Baja Fresh. I'd also love it if there were some Oaxacan places here.

          1. re: novice16

            To say in LA it's served by Mexicans is missing the point. The stuff in TX is as well and it's different. Less Baja influence to start with, and the LA area puts a spin on things.

            Mexico is a large country with distinctions throughout, and the immigrated areas end up altering what's put out.

            Fish taco - for instance. There's the baja breaded style which you're probably referring to, but there is the grilled style

        3. I have only spent a few days in Mexico but Taqueria el Caminante Charito seems close to the real deal. Their lengua tacos with salsa verde are outstanding, as is the pork, chorizo is ok. The tortas sandwich with its chunk of avocado is very good, as is the tamarind drink they serve and the pupusa revuelta is tasty and has a little hint of herbs. This isn't like the tex-mex I have eaten, or the california mexican I had in San Diego, but it is closer to San Diego I think.
          No tables, just stools, but there is a park nearby with picnic tables. TECC is not only outstanding, but 3 meaty tacos run $6!

          2 Replies
          1. re: Ziv

            He used to go on vacation for two weeks a year when he was in the truck/trailer. I asked him once where he went, and he said "home". Asking where that was he said Southern Mexico.

            If someone could ask him, his Dad or Mom, that'd be great. I will next time I'm there, but that'll probably be a few weeks.

            Just like you're missing your Tex Mex and the OP is missing their LA Mex, the reality is that we should be happy with our DC Mex, Guatemalan, Peruvian, Salvadoran, etc.

            1. We've run into the same problems, and we live in Gaithersburg. There are a couple of so-called Tex-Mex places, but they don't live up to what we like. I used to live in Nuevo Laredo years ago (when it was fun and safe), and enjoyed many different kinds of foods there.

              So, the only best solution we've come across is for me to make our own. Enchiladas and Tacos are "comfort food" for me, so when I get the "need" I make my own Enchiladas. The sauce is fairly easy to make, and when I do it, I try to make everything the day before, that way the spices/herbs have a good chance to marry in with whatever meat I'm using.

              If I use chicken, I buy the rotisserie, but if i do beef or pork, I do them in a slow cooker in the sauce the day before, let it cool and clear off whatever fat congeals at the top. Then it's a matter of pulling apart the meat and rolling your own.

              1. As a lifelong L.A. resident who moved out here a few years ago, the closest I've found so far is Pepito's Bakery in Adams-Morgan and El Charrito Caminante in Arlington. Both are as close to the "taco truck" experience I have yet found, although both are in retail locations.

                2 Replies
                1. re: biscuit

                  TECC was in a truck (actually a trailer) until he earned and saved enough to open the storefront - which was probably around 2005.

                  The trailer was over at the end of Pershing where it meets 50 - just across from Ft. Myer's. Before that he was in Ballston.

                  There was a time when the ABC store tried to run him off. After a while they were successful and he kept switching locations. Then he shut down for a while entirely while getting the storefront going. I had a really hard time during this period - including recruiting someone fluent in Spanish and asking any Hispanic we saw in the area. I contemplated making ads using a pic of the trailer I had - "Have you seen this truck?"

                  1. re: biscuit

                    biscuit -- have you tried Taqueria Distrito Federal? I get take-out more often from Pepito's, because it's closer to my place, but I think TDF is a bit better.

                    To the OP -- Just fyi -- Ann Cashion studied the supposedly best LA taco trucks to model Taqueria Nacionale on, trying to recreate their salsas, etc. I think she probably uses better ingredients than most more "authentic" taquerias, actually.

                  2. I can sympathize (10 years in SF) all I can really say is - see a Burrito Brothers? just keep walking.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: hill food

                      THANK GOD somebody else realizes how abysmal their "burritos" are. I went to the one in international square and was quite sorely disappointed.

                      OP, i feel for you...i love mexican food and have been very disappointed by the selection around these parts. there IS a burrito cart at 17th and K that serves pretty decent (albeit meatless) ones. i always douse mine in tons of hot sauce. they're not the quality that you're used to, but they'll do to sate a craving.

                      People are always raving about Oyamel but i haven't been there so i don't know. From what I hear, i'd say it probably isn't authentic or at all like what you're used to, but i'm sure it's still good food in its own right.

                      1. re: littlew1ng

                        I think that Oyamel is authentic, I say as an Angelino, but it isn't common. It's probably more Mexican food cooked by an ambitious Mexican cook rather than just a good Mexican cook. It's not a combination plate kind of place.

                        1. re: littlew1ng

                          I don't mean to completely trash BB - just not what I'm looking for. the cart at 17 and K NW is ok, I just wish he'd make his own pico rather than rely on bottled salsa - how hard is that? (maybe that's changed, it's been a while) what really astounded me with that story was how hard he had to fight for his license selling veg burritos, at a time when one was really rolling dice eating at the dog carts.