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About to move to D.C. from Austin. Will need TexMex, Fajitas, and BBQ

what do you have for me? I have heard that despite the terrible reputation of D.C. restaurants, that in the past few years the practice has blow up. In this regard, where can I find the best of the following:

Fajitas

Brisket (sans sauce)

Enchiladas

Breakfast Tacos

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  1. I think you will be happier with the food in DC if you don't focus on looking for those things that you loved in Austin.

    Of course I don't know you personally and don't know what makes you happy, I am just saying that there is not much Austin-like Tex-Mex, or Texas BBQ, in DC that will satisfy somebody who is homesick for Austin's best of those categories.

    DC has other great things, though. It is very different from Austin in so many ways, including the food. There are many people who come here and say that they don't like it because it doesn't have the things they loved about where they came from (NY, Texas, California, etc.) That's fine, but it is not the path to enjoying life in DC.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sheldman

      Really. Get into Ethiopian, kebabs, and bulgogi. I moved up from Dallas several years ago and I still miss my Dallas faves but there's a lot here to discover.

      Also, if you get a smoker and learn to cook your own brisket you'll find that home-cooked is even better than Black's and them. So, win-win.

    2. Don't give away your frequent flyer miles. There's a lot of wishing here, but you won't find your food from home here, at least not the way you're used to it. Develop a taste for $10 hamburgers, $3 cupcakes, cheap Ethiopian and Vietnamese food and get oriented to what we eat here. It's the same for people who come to the DC area from LA, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, or just about anywhere. Good food is regional and doesn't transplant well, so it's best to adapt than to seek the familiar and be frustrated.

      Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of consistency in what people consider "good" with those types of food, so it's really hard to find a place you'll like until you try them yourself. The "Mexican" food here tends to come from Central America rather than the great Southewest. The better BBQ places are usually better because of their ribs than their brisket.

      1. I echo what's been said so far, but mostly with sheldman - just let Austin go and enjoy what is here. Try some Sichuan at Hong Kong Palace or Joes Noodle House. Try some Ethiopian. Get some Vietnamese and Thai or for "BBQ" get Korean.

        However, to throw you a bone, for brisket and burnt ends, try Williards near 28 and 50 in Virginia (Chantilly area). Sichuan Village is around the corner from it for more Sichuan.

        Dixie Bones is decent and is in Woodbridge.

        The notion of BBQ here is heavily influenced by North Carolina's vinegar sauce. Oddly the mustard sauce barely makes an impression here.

        If you head up to Baltimore there's a totally different take on BBQ which is Pit Beef. TONS of stands all over the place (a few threads currently are turning up quite a few side-of-the-road stands - one which I plan to sample today to report back on).

        And, just for flame roasting, you should check out Peruvian Rotisserie places. Again there are just tons of them. The grandaddy is El Pollo Rico in Arlington or Wheaton. I'd start there, but then branch out (I consider them as having some of the best chicken, but they're definitely poor on the sides - yuca being the best side).

        -----
        Hong Kong Palace
        6387 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22044

        Pollo Rico
        7643 New Hampshire Ave, Takoma Park, MD 20912

        1 Reply
        1. re: Dennis S

          I'd also recommend that you track Tim Carmen of the Washington City Paper. He's lived in Texas and is always searching for good brisket.

        2. Without sauce? I wouldn't eat any of the brisket around here without medical supervision.

          1. sorry trumbo--i'm a texas native too and you're SOL on all of the above. i will say taqueria el charrito caminante has some decent tacos (not breakfast); when i am REALLY craving tex mex and margaritas i go to lauriol plaza...despite all the hate it gets on this board, it's the only place i've had an even remotely satisfying tex mex experience. don't even try for the barbecue.

            1. Yuo'll need to get yourself to Pioneer Pit Beef in Baltimore. Not brisket. An excellent product if you order it medium rare. Almost everybody gets it as a sandwich, but last time I just ordered it by the pound.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Steve

                Per Hill Country COO John Shaw, they expect to open here in (approximately) December.

              2. In terms of BBQ......you have my deepest sympathy.....I regularly travel to Lockhart for the real stuff....

                But we will shortly be getting a reasonable facsimile to Smittys/Kruez in the Penn Quarter area......called Hill Country......

                This is an NYC restaruant that patterns itself on the Lockhart style.......not bad....

                They will be opening in DC during the fall......I suspect.....

                Other than that.......there is Chaps pit beef in Baltimore......and Bear Creek BBQ in Southern Maryland......

                2 Replies
                1. re: maypo

                  If you had to choose between Chaps and Pioneer,which would you go with?

                  1. re: boyzmom11

                    Check out Big Bad Wolf if making a Baltimore trip.

                    Also, It's very random, but Pig'n a Poke is very good. It's in Olney, however, only a food truck at Grey Goose Farm. They do cater though too.

                2. Ooooh...you're in for an unwelcome surprise - it just ain't gonna happen. I moved here from Houston a couple of years ago. I wasn't in Houston all that long, either, but I loved the food there. None of the things you list can be replicated here. None. Nor will Thai food be as good.

                  So get over it. Say hello to El Salvadoran cuisine. I personally love El Rinconcito. Learn to love the papusa.

                  There are some interesting tacos at Oyamel...you can go to Rosa Mexicana? I don't know if you're familiar with it, but those places are more like Hugo's - fine dining Mexican and South American. I miss Chuy's, Cyclone Anayas...I could go on.

                  BBQ here is, if anything, even worse than the tex-mex situation. You're going to have to go to at least North Carolina.

                  Better start to learn to cook this stuff yourself - I now make my own enchiladas, carnitas, etc.

                  Here's the thing - the fine dining here is great. Excellent. Benjy's is the only American Contemporary fine dining restaurant I can think of in Houston, and it would be totally second-rate here. Nobody would bother. But for great food for under $15/plate, in an unpretentious setting - that's going to take some work on your part.

                  1. Haven't seen breakfast tacos around here, but you can get breakfast burritos at Anita's (a "New Mexico" style local chain; the late Anita was from NM) and also at Picante Burrito Express, a small offshoot of Picante! The Real Taco. Picante is in Chantilly and there's an Anita's close by too.

                    Regarding BBQ, I like Baltimore pit beef, but it can be pretty dry. Nothing like good Texas brisket. Make sure you get horseradish sauce and onions on your sandwich.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Bob W

                      Yeah go to the wrong place and pit beef can be dry. I've been to Pioneer three times and the medium rare has been great each time.

                      1. re: Steve

                        No traditional TexMex unfortunately if that what you're looking for. The offerings around here are what my husband and I call "Mexidorean". If you're near Capitol Hill though there is a great little place on Pennsylvania between 6th and 7th called La Plaza.

                        1. re: jenniferpdc

                          La Plaza is no different than tons of the other places around.

                          1. re: Steve

                            La Plaza doesn't suck, but if in that neighborhood Las Placitas and Tortilla are a bit better if more "Mexidoreno".

                            down thread Capitol Q is mentioned - I didn't hate it, but then again I never went back.

                            I haven't heard anything lately about Red Hot and Blue. I know it doesn't get high marks, but a neighbor once was having a fundraiser and had them send out a catering smoker and, well, it smelled right.

                            I've heard of the old school bus up in NE that sells BBQ but never tried it, I'm a sucker for parking lot operations, anybody try it? how would you classify it's regional base? (really can't talk BBQ without bringing that part up)

                            -----
                            Las Placitas
                            517 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003

                      2. re: Bob W

                        You can get breakfast tacos at the Taco Cart in Rosslyn District Taco or DC Taco I forget the name, and the Taco trucks are getting more publicized, I know there is one regularly in Shirlington, but yes it tends to be more Salvadorian.

                        I think they also have them at Taqueria Poblano on weekends (if not you could probably request them and they would do it they are sweet people).

                        There are good fish tacos at Surfside and Glover Park.

                        I think the best fajitas are at Cactus Cantina which I haven't been to in forever, but is a sister restaurant to Lauriol Plaza. Not anything fancy, but pretty good.

                        The best brisket I have had in a long long time was that of Antonio Burrell's that he made for a picnic. I don't know if he regularly serves it as Masa 14 or not, but he should it's good. But normally not much of that in the area.

                        I think the Thai at Bangkok 54 or Thai Square or Ruan Thai or Nava Thai really could compete anywhere. The vietnamese and korean food here really rocks though.

                        -----
                        Ruan Thai Restaurant
                        11407 Amherst Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20902

                        Thai Square
                        3217 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204

                        Lauriol Plaza
                        1835 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                        Nava Thai Restaurant
                        11315 Fern St, Silver Spring, MD 20902

                        Taqueria Poblano
                        2400 Mount Vernon Ave, Alexandria, VA 22301

                        Cactus Cantina
                        3300 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016

                        Bangkok 54 Restaurant and Bar
                        2919 S Columbus St, Arlington, VA 22206

                        Masa 14
                        1825 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009

                      3. Folks, we've removed some posts suggesting that the original poster make BBQ and Tex Mex instead instead of buying it. Not all of our members are interested in cooking at home, and the poster specifically asked for a local source, rather than a recipe. We've also removed a few that suggested that there aren't any good options here. Chowhound's mission is to share the best chow tips, so telling someone to give up the search isn't helpful.

                        If you've got a great recipe that you want to share, please feel free to post it over on our Home Cooking board ( http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/31 ) or as a User Recipe ( http://www.chow.com/recipes/types/user ). The Home Cooking hounds are always happy to see great new information on making different dishes.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: The Chowhound Team

                          Eh, it's not that one should give up, it's just that, say, El Rinconcito's tamales are really great, but they're not the same as what you'd get in San Antonio.

                          But I'll take the hint and try to really rack my brain here. Okay. I haven't tried it yet, but there is actually a place *called* Austin Grill. Reviews are...mixed. I have been to Alero on U St, and I found the offerings to be acceptable. Also been to Uncle Julio's....okay, I guess it was a little bit better than Chi-Chi's.

                          Let's see...Tacqueria el Poblano in Arlington...don't remember much. Had margaritas the size of my head. Not memorable, not bad. Service was awfully slow.

                          I've been to one other place and thought the neighborhood was charming but the food was meh. I'm pretty sure it was Guajilo on Wilson Blvd. But don't quote me on that.

                          I like El Rinconcito better than all of these places. Hell, Casa Blanco on Vermont isn't much worse.

                          So, in short, I have had acceptable quesadillas and chimichangas at these places, but I have not had sublime spinach enchiladas a la Cafe Adobe or fish tacos as great as that...ummm...place with the huge outside bar that's insanely popular in Austin? Help me out here, OP.

                          ETA: There's also a Texas BBQ on H St by Matchbox that I walk by all the time, but I've never tried it. Anyone ever been?

                          1. re: Raids

                            Austin Grill is terrible. Fajitas are good at Uncle Julio's are the shrimp dish, but nothing else is worth it. Guajillo is actually really good if you know what to order, but it isn't San Antonio style.

                            At Taqueria Poblano the crispy LA tacos are good. But I think they are inconsistent and I think that the Del Ray location is more consistent, fyi.

                            TECC is great, but not exactly Tex Mex.

                            Up in Bladensburg you have more options. So depending on where you live some places will be more convenient than others.

                            Try fish tacos at Surfside... honestly.

                            The Texas BBQ place Capital Q I believe it is called isn't very good. But I didn't get brisket. But I don't think it has much hope of being good. I have higher hopes for Hill Country.

                            Have heard good things about Willards, but don't go to that area a lot, I have heard they have good burnt ends though.

                            -----
                            Capital Q
                            707 H St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                            Uncle Julio's
                            231 Rio Blvd, Gaithersburg, MD 20878

                            San Antonio Bar
                            1745 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Arlington, VA 22202

                            Taqueria Poblano
                            2400 Mount Vernon Ave, Alexandria, VA 22301

                            1. re: ktmoomau

                              I haven't been to Austin Grill in many years -- I have heard they have gone down pretty steadily from dependable to lousy.

                              Willard's is pretty good barbecue for this barbecue-weak area. The beef (brisket and burnt ends) is better than the pork. Some good sides, non-bbq dishes, and desserts too.

                              1. re: ktmoomau

                                There is something like zero chance the OP will be pleased with Capital Q.

                              2. re: Raids

                                I went the BBQ place on H st for lunch and was a bit disappointed. The brisket was rather dry in my opinion even asking for a fattier portion. It came out a chewy. The prices were a bit high in my opinion compared to the BBQ places in Austin like Rudy's. Then again, i haven't found anything particular a good value in DC for food as its quite expensive to eat out there. I also ordered the ribs and they were mediocre, not great but not bad.

                              3. re: The Chowhound Team

                                I hope this post is received in the respectful spirit in which it is intended. I realize that telling someone to give up the search isn't helpful, but what if the answers we supply will only lead to disappointment? How then are we to respond?

                                For example, I enjoy fajitas at Uncle Julio's, but I eat them with the awareness that I'm not eating the finest example of Tex-Mex cuisine. I know this since I've eaten good Tex Mex on visits to Tucson, Santa Fe, Dallas, and San Diego. Still, when I want the Tex Mex package -- the chips and salsa, the mararitas, the fajitas -- locally, I head to Uncle Julios anyway.

                                So how are we locals supposed to answer when a poster who is intimately familiar with the real thing moves to our area? Ignore the post? Tell him/her the best DC (from our inexpert point of view) has to offer but stay silent on how disappointed he/she is ultimately going to be? Tell him/her the best DC has to offer but qualify our answer? Tell him to wait long enough that DC's unauthentic Tex Mex food starts to look good?

                                What if the "best chow tips" we can share aren't really that good to someone who has eaten the real deal? Again, I'm not trying to be difficult. I think this is a legitimate question that is worth thrashing out as a community.

                                1. re: Indy 67

                                  As a native Angeleno who misses his regular Mexican food fix, I say that a) a poorer example is sometimes better than nothing, b) the newcomer should be reminded that there's no place like home, and c) the newcomer should be encouraged to accept that there is no place like home but the new place has delights that their home may not.

                                  1. re: ChewFun

                                    Make the most honest recommendation you can and let person seeking advice decide for themselves. That's the best service this board can provide. There is always something worth knowing about out there.

                              4. Not at all sure how it compares to TX, but Silverado (part of the Great American Restaurant Group) in Annandale has been voted "best fajitas" in the past by the locals for the Washingtonian magazine. Sweetwater Tavern, part of the same group with 3 different locations, also offers the fajitas.

                                -----
                                Sweetwater Tavern
                                3066 Gate House Plz, Falls Church, VA 22042

                                Silverado
                                7052 Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA 22003

                                1. I recall going to a wonderful joint in Austin while visiting my SIL many years back. The brisket was out of this world. I think everything else I tried was excellent as well. One of the coolest things was my in-laws brought their dog along, and he was welcomed in just like the 2 legged folks.
                                  I seem to recall it being named The Green Mesquite.
                                  What a place!

                                  As far as helping you out, I think Uncle Julio's Rio Grande in Bethesda has a great combination of excellent Chips & Salsa, respectable beef fajitas, and fair Brisket. It's a fun atmosphere, and service is usually exceptional.
                                  I believe they serve up Migas on the weekends.
                                  I don't go as often as I used to, as I moved to the boonies a while back.
                                  If your ever out in Howard County, try El Azteca in Clarksville. They are the best in my region, in my opinion.

                                  So, why are you moving from such a cool place?

                                  David in Highland

                                  -----
                                  El Azteca
                                  12210 Clarksville Pike, Clarksville, MD 21029

                                  Uncle Julio's Rio Grande Cafe
                                  4870 Bethesda Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814

                                  1. Everyone who has responded is right... There's no Trudy's or Chewy's here. Not even close. Uncle Julio's (which gets lots of hate) is the same UJs from Dallas. Not Austin style, but certainly edible. They do have Sunday brunch with migas and b'fast tacos, though.
                                    As for brisket... we have two smokers, an offset and a water smoker. It's the only way to get amazing brisket up here. Urban BBQ in Rockville will do in a pinch, but the meat isn't smokey enough for my taste. Most of the BBQ places up here are NC style - lots of pork ribs and lots of sauce.
                                    Good luck on your search...

                                    -----
                                    Urban BBQ
                                    10163 New Hampshire Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20903

                                    Uncle Julio's
                                    231 Rio Blvd, Gaithersburg, MD 20878

                                    1. As a transplant from Houston to the Washington/ Baltimore area I can feel your pain. I would suggest Mi Rancho restaurant (the one in Downtown Silver Spring is better) it calmed my craving for Tex-Mex when I moved here. (If you can speak a little spanish try it with the wait staff, you will get much better service)

                                      For BBQ try the Baltimore traditional Pit Beef, the best being Pioneer Pit Beef in Woodlawn (this is my opinion, other will differ) While it is not Texas BBQ it is a very good stand in.

                                      1. I've seldom had brisket in my visits to Austin, but there is a place in Clinton, MD just off of route 5 called Texas BBQ that at least claims to be aiming for what you're looking for. How well you feel they succeed is a matter of personal taste. In my sampling of various things on their menu over a few visits, including the brisket, I've found them to be pretty good, but none of the items I've tried so far have registered as life-changing Chow experiences. It is good enough that I'd say it's worth checking out and seeing if it meets your needs on the brisket front.

                                        I will echo the theme of other replies, though, and say that this isn't Texas, and it sure as heck isn't Austin, so try to manage your expectations and go with the flow.

                                        1. Came across this board while googling a search on where to buy good tamales for Christmas (ideas, anyone?). I'm also a Texas native and have to throw my two cents in...

                                          For Tex-Mex, I typically judge the food on chips & salsa (hellooo... best part of tex-mex!) and usually Tacos al Carbon (beef or chicken fajita meat in flour tortilla) is what I order. None of the below restaurants have super spicy/hot salsas, but some are pretty good. After living here a few years, I'm actually quite content with one of the restaurants I've found... El Paso in Arlington. I'm still on the hunt for good (in my opinion) BBQ though. Here's my personal take on Tex-Mex and BBQ in the area:

                                          El Paso (Arlington) - Favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, always happy with my meal there. Just be aware that you will smell like a fajita when you leave... but it's well worth it to me.
                                          Los Tios (Alexandria) - It's ok... I've had better, but I've definitely had worse. If you like chucky salsa, you'll probably like theirs. I think they also do breakfast tacos here.
                                          Lauriol Plaza and Cactus Cantina (DC) - Though the menus are pretty much the same, I actually like Cactus Canita more... probably because it's typically less crowded.
                                          Guajilo (Arlington) - I used to live in Colonial Village next door, so I would go there in a pinch. Now that I've moved, I'd never drive there to eat (will drive to El Paso though!)
                                          Mexicali Blues (Clarendon/Arlington) - HATE this restaurant as much as I hate the tapas at La Tasca across the street. The only reason that there are crowds at these places is because of the location. Do try Whitlow's if you're in the area though!
                                          Austin Grill (Old Town Alexandria and other locations) - yuck, don't even think about it.
                                          Rio Grande (Arlington and other locations) - same owners as Uncle Julio's.... but I thought the food was worse.
                                          Anita's New Mexico Style Mexican Food - Gross. Disliked the salsa, disliked my entree, disliked my husband's entree.
                                          El Pollo Rico (Arlington & Wheaton) - As someone else on this forum said, it really is quite good Peruvian rotisserie food. Absolutely worth trying, though just know that it's not Tex-Mex. You can find some excellent Peruvian food in our area though.
                                          El Rinconcito - Based on this forum, sounds pretty good! I will have to try this one!

                                          Capital Q BBQ (DC) - I think they say there's one in Austin too. It's the most decent brisket I've had in the area... but that's not really saying much and you may be disappointed. I miss my smokey flavors and have yet to find that there (as others have said, Carolina's rule here).
                                          Rockland's BBQ (Arlington and elsewhere) - Blah.
                                          Urban BBQ (Rockville) - Double blah; thought the brisket meat was too fatty and BBQ sauce was disgusting.

                                          I'm not sure where you heard that DC has a terrible restaurant reputation... other than missing Tex-Mex and BBQ, I have found soooo many better restaurants and new foods than I ever had when living in Texas (Dallas and then College Station, gig'em!). Since moving here, I've fallen in love with Thai and Indian food, which you just can't find in Texas. As others have said, do embrace the excellent food in the area. El Pollo Rico, 2 Amys (yummy brick oven pizza), kabobs are super popular here (Moby Dick's, etc.), excellent Thai choices, tasty Indian, etc.

                                          10 Replies
                                          1. re: tomystacy

                                            Oh come on. That must just be Dallas. In Houston, Nit Noi and Patu's both blew any Thai place in this area out of the water. Texas is a big place.

                                            1. re: Raids

                                              If Nit Noi and Patu's blow Thai Square and Bangkok 54 out of the water they must be very good indeed. There are places in Bangkok that are notably better than Thai Square and Bangkok 54, but not a lot here in the States.

                                              -----
                                              Thai Square
                                              3217 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204

                                              Bangkok 54 Restaurant and Bar
                                              2919 S Columbus St, Arlington, VA 22206

                                              1. re: Ziv

                                                I have been to Bangkok 54. It was pretty good. I'd have to try to again to really say for sure, but it doesn't stand out in my memory compared to those places - which, in doing a quick perusal of the Houston boards, I have learned are considered to be totally vanilla and not even among the best the area has to offer. I took my friend who just got back from study abroad in Bangkok to Patu's, and he thought it was great. Anyway, there's a huge Thai community in Houston - they probably have one of the best pools of Thai restaurants in the country.

                                            2. re: tomystacy

                                              Tomystacy, I have to agree with everything you wrote, except that I think Capital Q is much worse than you do.

                                              Hey, have you tried Willard's BBQ yet? They're near Dulles. I like them better than anything else around here.

                                              As for tamales, I mail order mine from Texas every December.

                                              -----
                                              Capital Q
                                              707 H St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                              1. re: Transplanted Texan

                                                Transplanted Texan, I hear ya about Capital Q... decent is a stretch, but it's been the only BBQ place that didn't make me too sad (lol). Thanks for the suggestion of Willard's BBQ, I will definitely try it! I saw someone else mentioned the place too.

                                                And more importantly to me... do you mind sharing where you order your tamales from in December? Unfortunately I'll be missing my family's Christmas tamales for a second year in a row, so I will really need my fix this year! And the place you order them from... do you recall if they're in corn husks and make pork ones? Thanks again!

                                                1. re: tomystacy

                                                  And for Williards, to repeat - only get the beef - the burnt ends and brisket. If you're on a small plate you can ask for a side instead of cornbread, if you want.

                                                  If you're looking to expand and get Carolina (Eastern) Q, then Silver Pig in Lynchburg is probably the closest real real deal. Petersburg, VA has some real good stuff off (I think) Washington St) but it's a minefield. Okay is the place with the outdoor sheds off 29 just southwest of Gainesville. The beans at that place are great, The Q is only so good.

                                                  1. re: Dennis S

                                                    The Weenie Beenie in Shirlington actually serves a respectable Eastern NC cue sandwich, properly accompanied by packets of Texas Pete hot sauce (which is actually made in Winston-Salem, NC, which is actually in "Western" or "Lexington" NC cue country).

                                                    -----
                                                    Weenie Beenie
                                                    2680 S Shirlington Rd, Arlington, VA 22206

                                                    1. re: Bob W

                                                      Good to know. I've mainly only ever gotten things like chili, dogs and wings there, but I need to make another stop by before long for old time's sake.

                                                      Yeah - in 2000 I basically lived (for project work) in a hotel down the street from the Texas Pete factory. Wonder if they even have the sauce in Texas. I hadn't ever seen it before in Missouri (not sure if it's in MO now or not).

                                                      1. re: Dennis S

                                                        Dennis, I'm fairly darn sure I've seen Texas Pete's in MO. I'll be in grocery stores around STL next week, I'll try to remember to look.

                                                  2. re: tomystacy

                                                    I have an annual tamale party, now in its 8th year, and order probably 15 - 20 dozen, both meat and vegetarian.

                                                    Both companies definitely use corn husks and they do have pork. Texas Tamales are good for vegetarian and The Texas Tamale Warehouse has good meat tamales. They're my current faves. (I've also ordered Hot Damn! Tamales, Pedro's, and Alamo, but they weren't as good. I think Alamo may be gone now.)

                                                    Hope this helps!

                                              2. At the risk of irritating the Chowhound Team -- the DC area does not allow commericial cooking over an open pit. Places like you enjoy in Texas --Snow's, City Market, Louis Mueller's, and the Lockhart places -- are illegal here. My own experience has been that this limits the availability of barbecue to stuff that I do not want to eat.
                                                For the most part, the Tex-Mex food in the area is made by Central and South Americans rather than Mexicans. It is different, but a lot of it is really good.
                                                Where will you be living? There are pretty good Tex Mex places all over the area -- but none I would drive across town for, especially at breakfast.

                                                15 Replies
                                                1. re: dcbbq

                                                  Calling the Tex-Mex food in the area "really good" is a stretch. Heck, it's a stretch calling it Tex-Mex!

                                                  Some of it is acceptable and the longer you're away from the real thing, the more acceptable it may become to you.

                                                  None of the local Tex-Mex restaurants would last long in Texas.

                                                  1. re: Transplanted Texan

                                                    Well, Dennis S., I didn't start this thread, I'm merely replying to someone else who has the misfortune of moving here from the land of Tex-Mex and excellent barbecue. My gifts don't include being able to run a restaurant or bankroll one. If you do have those gifts, then go for it.

                                                    If we followed your idea of "put up or shut up" there wouldn't be a lot of chat on this board about anything.

                                                    Perhaps the weather is making you crabby?

                                                    1. re: Transplanted Texan

                                                      Seems my post was removed, but I did say it was a pun. You just happened to have grabbed the handle that honestly came to mind. Though I really do mean my sentiment. I can't believe someone hasn't tried to open something that seems so desired.

                                                      Off to create many threads about things that don't exist here.

                                                      1. re: Dennis S

                                                        I'm moving to Texas and will need some great Chesapeake Bay crab and rockfish. What will they have for me?

                                                        1. re: Teddybear

                                                          Start it up! Since much of the crab comes from the Gulf - you'll be closer and transport costs lower!

                                                          But - the best thing you'll find is that steak prices are vastly lower. I've mentioned it before, but I've been blown away by steak prices here. Even Ray's.

                                                          1. re: Teddybear

                                                            I get the point you're trying to make about parochial posts, but Chesapeake Bay crab wasn't the best example. Blue crab is found in a couple of places including the Gulf of Mexico. Some people claim to be able to tell the difference between a blue crab from the Chesapeake and one from the Gulf, but the species is identical in both locations. (I can't speak to the current availability of safe-to-eat blue crab from the Gulf...)

                                                            1. re: Indy 67

                                                              Well then how about I'm looking for the great pizza I ate growing up in Brooklyn in the 1960s

                                                              1. re: Indy 67

                                                                Indy - that's the point I was trying to make. By opening up a Chesapeake Bay Crab place in TX, the transport costs will be lower. Either there, or North Carolina.

                                                                Really what I'm most surprised about is the lack of good Carolina BBQ being in this area. Williard's actually does a decent enough job at burnt ends and brisket, but the NC BBQ falls short, and we're not that far from NC.

                                                                In a lot of ways, though, this all gives me hope that regional - and even hyper-regional differences retain their specialness across the country. I fear that it will be a sad day when it's easy to get all of the fine regional items anywhere at anytime easily in this country (or beyond).

                                                                1. re: Dennis S

                                                                  Now, you've totally confused me. Are you truly suggesting that someone transport blue crabs caught in the Chesapeake Bay to TX? (Admittedly, with today's safety issues over Gulf fish and seafood, there might a large market for this, but I'm talking conceptually and pre-spill.) If you're suggesting that someone should sell blue crabs from the Gulf in TX, what makes you think folks weren't doing this already?

                                                                  You and I agree about the appeal of regional differences. The battle for regional identity has already been lost in the shopping malls across America. Whether you're shopping in Portland, ME or San Diego, CA or Palm Beach Garden, FL or Seattle, WA the sameness of the stores is appalling. I think it is a good thing that when I travel I can eat markedly better lobster sandwiches in New England, significantly better barbecue in Texas, and unmatched shrimp and grits in Charleson. Long live regional differences!

                                                                  1. re: Indy 67

                                                                    Okay - "read my lips". I know that many crabs for here (and elsewhere in the country) come from NOT HERE. Thus I said about opening up something in Texas:

                                                                    "Since much of the crab comes from the Gulf - you'll be closer and transport costs lower!"

                                                                    Otherwise - I'm glad the rest of my thoughts are clear and we're on the same page.

                                                                  2. re: Dennis S

                                                                    This might be part of Virgil's celebration of specialness, or it might not be (but it's showing at Flicks on the Hill for free this week).

                                                                    I have limited experience with NC BBQ, but to my palate Andy Nelson's is fantastic.

                                                                    1. re: Dennis S

                                                                      Hey Dennis, since you can't get good Eastern NC cue more than a few miles west of I-95 in NC, and vice versa for Lexington cue, I'm not at all surprised you can't find much Eastern (or any Lexington) style up here. And I'm not upset either -- I like the hyper-local nature of barbecue and other local delights (there's a veritable menu of stuff I look forward to getting when I visit my home state of RI that I would never expect to see down here (or at least versions I'd want to eat).

                                                                  3. re: Teddybear

                                                                    There is wonderful seafood in Texas, if you're moving near the gulf. Well, at least there was. God only knows what's going to happen now.

                                                                    Depending upon where in Texas you're moving, you'll be happily surprised at how much your cost of living drops.

                                                                    1. re: Transplanted Texan

                                                                      Amen to many points in your post TT. I think I'm still a bit in sticker shock of DC after moving from Missouri.

                                                                      Here's to hoping the latest Fed report actually has some merit of truth on the gulf.

                                                            2. re: dcbbq

                                                              I'm pretty sure Branded '72 (formerly O'briens) is open pit.

                                                            3. i haven't read this thread, so don't know if the rio grande cafe has been mentioned (aka "uncle julio's" chain). http://www.unclejulios.com/ i go to the one in ballston.

                                                              the best fajitas i've had are there, but not the regular "fajitas." the best fajitas come on the jalisco or guadalajara platters (i think they use better beef cuts on those dishes cf. with simply "fajitas." -- after several years of testing my theory).

                                                              here are the descriptions of my two favorite meals there with fajitas:

                                                              Jalisco
                                                              Mesquite grilled jumbo butterflied shrimp and your choice of chicken, beef or combination fajitas.

                                                              Guadalajara
                                                              Our signature grilled jumbo shrimp brochette; stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese and jalapeños wrapped with bacon and your choice of chicken, beef or combination fajitas.

                                                              ~
                                                              they have great salsa and chips, a lively atmosphere, and outdoor seating for nicer weather.

                                                              ~~~~~~~~
                                                              ps hounds, today is the last day for the harris teeter sale of the pound-size tubs of brookwood farms eastern carolina style pulled pork. $2.50/#.

                                                              8 Replies
                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                So you can't get the best fajitas without shrimp? Too bad. I'm allergic sometimes so I don't chance it when I'm more than thirty seconds from a bathroom. ;)

                                                                Darn, I didn't notice the Harris-Teeter BBQ sale. I usually go on old folks day (Thursday) to get my 5% off.

                                                                1. re: MikeR

                                                                  mike, i do think the best fajitas come with the shrimp, oddly enough.

                                                                  you still have time to make it to harris teeter. i'm going tonight before midnight to stock up on some Q and get a couple of other things (like maybe some ribs to slow cook).

                                                                  so thursday is old folks day, huh?

                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                    Not as good a deal as $2.50/lb, but H-T has the Carolina (and Western, but that's not as tasty) BBQ on sale for $3.99/package (about 13 oz). It's not in their sale flier this week, but you got me looking at the prepared foods counter to check for it, and there it was. (regular price $5.49) I didn't even wait until Thursday to save another 20 cents.

                                                                    1. re: MikeR

                                                                      hey mike, still a good deal.

                                                                      many items "on sale" are not in the paper flyer -- but are in the flyer online. if you print a shopping list off the web flyer, you can always show them the sale price even if it is not in their paper flyer. sometimes their computers may not "find" a sale price even if you *knew* you'd seen it online.

                                                                      also, many items in the store that are on sale are not in either flyer -- paper or online. that's why i scan the aisles every week; e.g., i stocked up recently on cholula hot sauces (rarely on sale) for a great price. (in fact, it still may be on sale -- just a longer term "sale.").

                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                        I find that a lot of times, an item that's in the H-T sale flier (which usually states that the prices are in effect for one week) actually have the sale price for two weeks. You have to really work to get the good deals, or else just consider yourself lucky when you stumble across one. I tend to shop for targets of opportunity rather than make up a shopping list.

                                                                2. re: alkapal

                                                                  We just et at the Uncle Julios in Prince William County (by Wegman's) and were decidedly underwhelmed. To us, it tasted a lot like Chevy's, but twice as expensive. Like Chevy's, the chili relleno was way over-cheesed, and the coating was heavy and overwhelming, not light and fluffy. Nondescript guacamole (compared to, say, Rosa Mexicano or even the aforementioned Chevy's). The breakfast taco my wife had tasted bland. And the chips, though nice and thin, were very greasy. And, it was extremely LOUD despite being not particularly crowded. This is consistent with the experience we had at the one in Gaithersburg many years ago. We decided to give it another chance, but we won't be back...and I wouldn't send anyone there expecting a meal the caliber of Chuy's or Fonda San Miguel...or even Baby Acupulco...

                                                                  1. re: theoneontheleft

                                                                    In my opinion nothing at Uncle Julio's is good, except the fajitas (or the butterflied shrimp dish). If you ordered anything other than that even in DC standards you will be disappointed. And I think the Ballston location is better.

                                                                    I wanted to make a recommendation for the Pechuga de Pollo at Cactus cantina though. Very moist chicken with good flavor and it comes with the tortillas and everything. I think the breast together keeps more moist than strips.

                                                                    Oh and if you ever daytrip down to the Charlottesville area they actually have some good Tex-Mex/Mexican.

                                                                    After going to the Guapo's in Shirlington, I would in no way rate it above Cactus Cantina, or even Uncle Julio's.

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Uncle Julio's
                                                                    231 Rio Blvd, Gaithersburg, MD 20878

                                                                    1. re: ktmoomau

                                                                      Between the Guapo's and Uncle Julio's locations in Bethesda, I'd give the edge to Guapo's, but I'm not sure I'd argue about it.

                                                                3. Try Guapos in Shirlington or up Wisconson Ave...

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Guapo's Restaurant
                                                                  4515 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016

                                                                  1. Rocklands' brisket sandwich is very good, but it's not Texas-style brisket. Also their grilled lamb sandwich is excellent. Urban Barbecue in Rockville and Backyard Barbecue in Arlington are both decent too.

                                                                    The best Mexican is out in the suburbs, but it's not Tex-Mex, it's Mexican. Tacqueria la Placita in Hyattsville is the real thing, with fillings that include pig lips and cow head, as well real "al pastor" tacos, cooked on a spit and basted with pineapple.

                                                                    1. Thanks for help everyone, and I would like to add that OF COURSE I did not intend on moving here and not trying what DC has to offer in regional cuisine. It was more of a curiosity to see if there was anything to offer along those lines, but rather hastily done.

                                                                      That being said, I got myself a place in near northeast behind H Street, doing my terrible, rotten part to gentrify DC. Any suggestions along these lines for restaurants in general? As in all areas of cuisine.

                                                                      15 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Trumbo.

                                                                        Granville Moore's
                                                                        Taylor Gourmet
                                                                        Sticky Rice

                                                                        There are also a bunch of hipster hangouts that have passable food in that area.

                                                                        -----
                                                                        Taylor Gourmet
                                                                        1116 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

                                                                        Sticky Rice
                                                                        1224 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

                                                                        1. re: Trumbo.

                                                                          My favorite in that area is Ethiopic, a new Ethiopian restaurant at 4th & H. Taylor Gourmet at 11th & H has good sandwiches. I'm sad to say I've never eaten there, but the fried fish sandwich at Horace & Dickey's at 12th & H has long been locally famous.

                                                                          But I have to say that for the most part the restaurants in your new neighborhood are going to be overcrowded and loud, but very hip.

                                                                          -----
                                                                          Taylor Gourmet
                                                                          1116 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

                                                                            1. re: Mississippi Snopes

                                                                              I second Granville Moore's and Taylor Gourmet. I have only eaten once at Sticky Rice and found it OK, but nothing special. I also like the Philly water ice place (not Rita's, the other one). That place is said to have good cheese steaks too, but I haven't had one.

                                                                              "...the fried fish sandwich at Horace & Dickey's at 12th & H has long been locally famous" -- very true statement. I am sort of mystified why people like it so much. The fish itself is really thin, practically no "meat" there at all, so it's all breading. It's served with two slices of white or wheat, and very little sauce. I will give it its due though - it's really cheap. A $5.00 "sandwich" can make two meals.

                                                                              There is also a bar I like on H St. I forget the name - it's on the opposite side of the street from Sticky Rice and a couple of blocks east of it.

                                                                              -----
                                                                              Taylor Gourmet
                                                                              1116 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

                                                                            2. re: Trumbo.

                                                                              I tried Souk recently and found it surprisingly good. Moroccan/Lebanese small plates.
                                                                              Third Taylor Gourmet (split a sandwich with a friend and it's great deal), Granville Moore's (mussels and Belgian beers), Philly Water Ice.
                                                                              Also Dangerously Delicious Pies, if you can handle a LONG wait, serves some tasty delights, sweet and savory pie slices. The apple crumb is swoon-worthy. Nice place to chill if you're not in a hurry.
                                                                              Haven't tried yet but it's on my list: combination Jewish Deli/Irish bar Star and Shamrock. Also recently tried the Biergarten Haus - fun concept and a lovely outdoor beer garden for good beer selection. The food was fine but not much selection and nothing to get too excited about.

                                                                              H Street is having some great Restaurant Week deals next week by the way, cheaper than downtown!
                                                                              http://hstreetgreatstreet.blogspot.co...

                                                                              -----
                                                                              Dangerously Delicious Pies
                                                                              1036 Light St, Baltimore, MD

                                                                              Taylor Gourmet
                                                                              1116 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

                                                                              1. re: Trumbo.

                                                                                Don't worry. H St NE is still in the early hipster/occasionally scary stages of its ultimate gentrification, and is still far, far away from the late hipster/early yupppie stage that I would require to call a neighborhood truly gentrified.

                                                                                Ethoipic has gotten good reviews, I really like the Taylor Gourmet in my neighborhood, and I've really been looking forward to trying out the Biergarten. And more stuff opens up down there all the time.

                                                                                1. re: Trumbo.

                                                                                  Agree with Ethiopic, Taylor Gourmet. Toyland is a nice bar, and Sidamo has GREAT coffee, chai and smoothies, and their cafe items will do in a pinch.

                                                                                  Also you won't be too far from Capitol Hill. I really like Sonoma, Matchbox, Cava, Tuncliff's for greasy diner like breakfast, Tortilla Cafe actually might suit you well in that area for Mexican/Tex Mex. It is a really small joint by the Eastern Market, but has some good stuff.

                                                                                  -----
                                                                                  Sonoma Restaurant
                                                                                  223 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20003

                                                                                  Taylor Gourmet
                                                                                  1116 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

                                                                                  1. re: ktmoomau

                                                                                    Oh, I almost forgot about Toyland! I ate something there in addition to the beer I had that was good but apparently not memorable.

                                                                                    Toyland, for me, is greatly appreciated as a way station on my rather frightening walk from H St NW to H St NE. Which I only do before dark. And not alone. I wish to god they would run a trolley since it's such a pain in the ass to get a cab in that neighborhood.

                                                                                    1. re: Raids

                                                                                      Is that why they are ripping the street up? Or is that just a ploy by the city to make things even more difficult to get around?

                                                                                      1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                                                        Progress has been....slow. But yeah, it's supposed to run from Anacostia Park to Union Station, eventually. My preference would be just a little bit further to the NW, but hey, you can't have everything.

                                                                                        Streetcars4DC.org seems to post any development on the project, small or large. Currently, they're trying to get a federal law changed that prevents overhead wires on H St so they can run cable street cars and not switch to battery-operated.

                                                                                      2. re: Raids

                                                                                        Doesn't the free shuttle run from H Street to H Street? It leaves from Gallery Place.

                                                                                        1. re: hamster

                                                                                          Oh right, that! Forgot all about it. Can you always get on it? Is the schedule reliable? I'll try to test it out soon.

                                                                                          1. re: Raids

                                                                                            It is almost the antithesis of a reliable schedule.

                                                                                    2. re: Trumbo.

                                                                                      H Street, at least the neighborhoods adjacent have been expensive for the last 8 years. I used to live on 3rd Street, NE. I remember the bad old days and the decrease in gunfire from 20 years ago is significant. Enjoy H Street and don't wory about gentrification because neigbhorhoods go through cycles.