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Terrapin Taco House

This was the best mexican food in maryland. i know there are alot of fans out there. i have been searching for years for mexican food to even come close to Terrapin Taco House. I know the owner has posted on this site. david we need a great taco house in this area. i would drive from new carrollton to collage park. all the time. the best mexican food..... there's a nice store front at the four seasons shearaton this is a NO BRAINER i myself know 100's of people that would eat there all the time and i'm only 1 person . come on everybody post your thoughts I myself have been searching for years for MEXICAN FOOD as good as Terrapin Taco House THANK YOU

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  1. I really miss the place in College Park too. Does anyone know the sauce recipe for the sauce they put on the tables? I can't duplicate it! I even worked there one time and I never saw how it was made. Tomatoes and crushed red peppers is all I can remember. Thanks!

      1. Have you tried Toucan Taco in Laurel?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jason1

          Toucan Taco used to be a Tippy's just as the Terrapin Taco House was a Tippy's. According to the owners and operators of Toucan, they still use the Tippy's recipes. As my wife and I have been there twice, I can say that it is reminescent of Tippy's if not exactly a duplicate. What I have eaten there as I used to at Tippy's was the burrito and I would swear it was the same.

        2. Terrapin Taco House is Tippy's. Are you serious?

          9 Replies
          1. re: Joe H

            The one time I ate at Terrapin Taco house, not long before it closed, it tasted to me like the Tippy's in Arlington.

            1. re: theoneontheleft

              The Terrapin Taco House was Tippy's. Literally. It opened as Tippy's and continued as the Terrapin Taco House just as Toucan Taco opened as Tippy's. In fact there were hundreds of Tippy's around the U. S. with the first opening in the D. C. area on Flower avenue one block off of Piney Branch in the early 1960's. Today, there are at least four places in Northern VA which serve Tippy's original food and probably as many or more in Maryland.

              There are some who believe that Tippy's/Terrapin/Toucan had/have a "taste" that is addictive. Whether or not this is good is another matter. The first taco I ever had was at the Tippy's on Flower Avenue (next to a High's) perhaps 45 years ago. At the time I thought it was incredible.

              I didn't know any better.

              1. re: Joe H

                Me, either. There was a Tippy's on Hillwood Avenue in Falls Church for years. It was formerly Taco Tico, but the food stayed the same. I loved the red gravy they put that came with the enchiladas. You can actually buy it at Safeway as a house brand.

                1. re: flavrmeistr

                  Hold the presses - guilty pleasure alert for me - but you're saying that the Tippy's on Hillwood in FC is really a Taco Tico? The two are similarish (though it's been years for either for me) but I was just longing for Taco Tico.

                  1. re: Dennis S

                    I think that's Taco Laredo on Hillwood, not Tippy's.

                    1. re: theoneontheleft

                      Yep, Terapin was Tippy's. I grew up in College Park and it was Tippy's all through my childhood back when the Starlight Go-Go was also nearby on Route 1 and Tippy's parking lot was often filled with bikers and some nice Harley Davidson's. Our family "go-to" places back then were Ledo in Adelphi, Harley's in Laurel for subs and Tippy's and the Alamo in Riverdale for Mexican.

                      In retrospect, having authentic, fresh Mexican tacos in Baltimore that are killer, I'm not even sure Tippy's was great like I thought it was when I was a kid, but what does it matter? I loved it back then. Getting a Monterrey Dinner or Sunken Burrito and squeezing in a game at Monte Golf afterwards was just about right!

                      Damn, now I want some Tippy's!

                    2. re: Dennis S

                      It started out in the 60's as Taco Tico, then became Tippy's, then Taco Laredo some time after that. The food never seemed to change that much. I don't know what it's like now, though.

                      1. re: flavrmeistr

                        I attended Whittier Intermediate (now razed) right across the street on Hillwood Ave. from what is now (still?--I have not been by there in a couple of years) Taco Laredo. I am nearly positive that it was never a Tippys. It was a Taco Tico in the late 60s and early 70s, and there was a name change at some point (but not to Tippy's, something like Taco Amigo), then to Taco Laredo. Up through about 5 years ago (the last time I ate there), the food (beef tacos, burritos) had not seemed to change much from when I went there as a young teen. To me, it is definitely different from the taste of Tippy's, for better or for worse. The place did have some kind of odor lingering (like a mustiness), so I made my order "to go". Taco Laredo also had a place at Springfield Mall for a number of years, don't know if it or a successor is still there.

                        EDIT: I am now thinking that the intermediate name was "Taco Bueno", but with no relation to what I now see on the net as the franchise with that same name. Maybe the further change to Taco Laredo was as a result of trademark infringement issues.

                        1. re: SoxFan1

                          Taco Bueno sounds about right, now that you mention it. The place was always kind of funky-smelling, but it was cheap. In the late 60's- early 70's you could get like 5 or 6 tacos for a buck. It didn't matter that the meat was sort of like warmed-up dog food.. The cheese and hot sauce took care of that. In the mid to late 70's we ate a lot of their tacos next door at the Catholic War Vets, washed down with 40-cent draft beers. I thought for a short time it might've been a Tippy's, but I could be wrong. There was a Tippy's up on Lee Hwy. near Cedar Lane. It's all a bit of a blur at this point.

              1. Thanks for your love of our food. I am Dave who owned the Taco House from 1989 until
                our unfortunate closure in 2004. I am about to go on vacation, send your e-mail address
                to dallen8704@aol.com and I will give you the receipe for queso and hot sauce.

                Taco House
                515 23rd St S, Arlington, VA 22202

                1 Reply
                1. re: tacokid

                  Hi, Dave! I miss the bean-and-guacamole tacos most of all, but I'd love your queso recipe. I miss you and your wonderful food. Have a great vacation!

                2. Terrapin Taco was great. I worked there until Dorris kicked me out. I knew everyone. I drove up from Norfolk to be with Dave the last knight of the taco house in CP and went down to Willmington NC to be with Jeff when the Cantina Closed. END OF AN ERA.

                  Best tacos and food anywhere. I have never found better at any price.

                  1. I worked here. maybe 1988. Doris, Grady, Phil (passed) a couple of others I recall faces. When I interviewed for the job with Doris and she said I got the job, I reminded her how the ad in the paper said "free meals" so I asked for a burrito at the end of the interview. hahahahahaha

                    1. Are you kidding me? It always tasted like cheap junk to me.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: The Big Crunch

                        I remember Tippy's Tacos circa 1986-8. It was pretty indistinguishable from Taco Bell, but that was when Taco Bell actually didn't taste half bad. Then they changed to Terrapin Taco and it was pretty much the same stuff. 

                        There's a Tippy's Tacos near Huntington Metro. It's amazingly vile: grey unseasoned ground beef, guac from a tub, preshredded cheddar, Old El Paso shells. It's like they took condemned and expired Taco Bell stuff out of their dumpster and slapped a new wrapper on it. I like a cheap Americanized taco as much as the next jerk who grew up on this slop in the '70s, but wow. A new low.

                      2. Hi boardwlk17 !, I was born in D.C. and raised in suburban MD. I went to high school with David Allen (class of 1975, he was 1973).When I got my driver`s license, the first place I drove was Tippy`s Taco House, the name before David Allen and Jeff Curtis bought it. I was a regular (at least 3 times a week if not more) for over 20 years. When the restaurant was written up in the Washington Post`s food section "Good Eats", my buddy Dave even mentioned me as "a steamfitter who went to high school with Dave and is known by the staff for the inordinate amount of hot sauce he could eat", Im talking the XXX Crucial, made from pure habanero peppers, not the regular table top stuff. To close, just let me say I completely agree with you. I now live in Asheville, NC and I would drive the 500 miles at least 5-10 times a year if Dave would re-open the old taco house, hell I would even consider moving back to MD ! It remains the best Mexican food I`ve ever eaten, bar none. I miss it dearly.

                        1. .I'm writing because I just found this blog .. I to grew up on terrapin tacos and when they closed would drive to Wilmington NC to Carolina cantina with Jeff and Suzy. Now there both closed . I was blessed enough to know Dave and get the recipes to the sauce ,, cheese dip and the meat for the tacos... Also the type of grated cheese they used for the tacos...my wife and I enjoy them regularly ...as I'm unable to work my normal job anymore .. I would love to open a taco house but that all takes capitol which I just don't have. Dave made the taco meat at 80 lbs at a time so it takes some time and patients to brake it down... I'm with everyone else wishing Dave could or would reopen. Or back myself so I could bring them back to life. There are generations of kids missing out .. So thankful my daughter isn't ... You can contact me at race-fan8@ Comcast.net

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: racefan8

                            As I previously stated, there is no reason for anyone to lose out because the College Park Terrapin Taco House closed because the Toucan Taco House on Route 198 (East) in Laurel uses the same recipes.

                          2. I grew up in College Park and ate there from the time I was young, back when it was Tippy's. (Before it was Tippy's that building was a hot dog joint called the Dog Haus, also good). When I had children we ate at Tippy's nearly every Friday night. I have had a lot of good mexican food but nothing compares. We went into deep depression when it closed...and I considered driving to NC one night just to get some. I remember Jeff and Dave. Didn't Jeff's mom run the yarn shop at the shopping center?