Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >
May 9, 2011 08:07 PM

El Centro DF

Boyfriend and I went here tonight for his birthday with high hopes. DC is seriously lacking good Mexican food... and Richard Sandoval has a number of great restaurants.

When we walked in, we were told the wait was about 30 minutes and the hostess would text me when the table was ready. No problem. We went upstairs to the roof top bar and got margaritas. The roof top is nice, fairly large, and the bartender was great. The margaritas were good, and reasonably priced at $7.

After about 45 minutes, we went downstairs to check on our table. One was ready for us (but I never received a text message).

We ordered drinks and food at the same time and waited... and waited... and waited... after 45 minutes we finally received our guacamole (delic). After 1 hour we received our food (chicken tacos and chile rellenos... also delic). After an hour and 25 minutes we finally received our drinks. The waiter blamed the wait on the fact that we were seated in a first come first serve area... not sure why that makes any difference once you are seated.

The crime here is that the food was great. Had the service been remotely decent, I would have still given this a passing grade. But the wait was so ridiculous that I will have a hard time going back here any time soon.

Has anyone else tried El Centro DF? I'm interested to hear what other experiences have been.

4838 Bethesda Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. They've been open for THREE DAYS. The fact that the kitchen seems to be firing on all cylinders should be a major win, and just give them some time to figure out the service issues.

    2 Replies
    1. re: DanielK

      Obviously I get your point -- but I'm guessing they are charging the same as if they were providing adequate service. Three days, three weeks, three years doesn't seem to make much of a difference to me; business is business.

      1. re: Teddybear

        You should take your comments straight to Daniel Snyder.

    2. Friends went for drinks and were very surprised to be dissuaded from going to the rooftop bar because "it looks like rain". They went up anyway and were the only ones there. They mentioned to the bartender that people were being discouraged from going to the roof. The bartender had words with the person downstairs, then people started pouring up to the roof. By then my friends had seats, so they were happy with the timing of it all.

      I agree wtih DanielK though. Give them time to work out the kinks.

      1 Reply
      1. re: woodleyparkhound

        Going tonight for the first time so will see how they're doing 5 days out but the reviews on yelp (if those can be trusted) are meager at best...and my first impression just stopping in today to change the number of people in our reservation wasn't heartwarming.

        Two dozen people standing around doing nothing much, just as many wandering about looking like they SHOULD be doing something, clueless hostess and a computer system that was down "but should be up in, like, um, I don't know when." Hostess didn't have a pen to write down our change and had to hunt down a server who had to ask ANOTHER server for a pen.
        So...we'll see. Seem to still be challenged...

      2. If the the food was good I would give them another try. They are brand new which means that service glitches are bound to happen.

        Did you share your concerns with a manager? This could help alleviate some of the problems the next time you go back if you give them constructive criticism.

        I'm going tomorrow night and am looking forward to checking out their Mexican cuisine.

        Does anyone know if they serve a classic margarita? I've recently become obsessed with this drink and am looking for a good place to get it in DC.

        1. Ended up at El Centro this past week and am simply cutting & pasting my girlfriend's review from yelp, here, as it is identical to what I may have written about the same experience...she beat me to the post. I wouldn't hurry back - better tacos/mexican at Pica Taco right around the corner on Florida and 15th.

          El Centro review, compliments of my friend M:

          Service - meh
          Food - not too bad
          Roof deck - hey, it's a roof deck... in DC

          I went with a couple of girlfriends last night. First, we headed up to the roofdeck, which I thought was nice, and def bigger than I expected. Could not get the attention of the female bartender, but the male one got to us eventually. The drinks were strong if you're into that. They had an impressive selection of tequila, but they did not have the one that my friend wanted. The bartender knew his stuff, though, and offered her something comparable.

          We had dinner reservations at 8, and the hostess seemed very confused when we got downstairs. Apparently, Open Table was down or something, but we got seated in the downstairs dungeon (I mean lounge) fairly quickly.

          Our waiter was sweet but clueless. He managed to come in and ask questions at the most inopportune moments possible. Friend crying = "hey, how are you liking the guac?" Other friend pouring her heart out = "just wanted to check if you needed anything." A more experienced waiter would have read the energy of the table and backed off.

          The guacamole was good - comparable to Oyamel or Cafe Atlantico. It was prepared tableside and their chips were good (house made). I had the fish tacos, which I thought were good but not amazing. They didn't fry the fish (good), but the fish was a little dry (but not ridiculously so). The pork belly tacos were also pretty good, but the pork belly was overcooked.

          One of the managers came up to us and asked us our opinion of the restaurant after we finished eating. We told him honestly what we thought about everything, and he said he appreciated our feedback and acknowledged that they had a rocky start. He took our check and brought it back with 50% off. I can give an extra star for that, so it's really a 3 stars experience that went to 4. Because you can, in fact, buy my affection.

          Cafe Atlantico
          405 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

          4838 Bethesda Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814