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Everyday Mayo: The Best Tacos, Guac and Margaritas in DC
May 5, 2014 | 11:15AM

All words: Rebekah Sasek, Stephanie Breijo, Priya Konings, Brandon Wetherbee
All photos: Stephanie Breijo, Steve Jeter, Jeff Martin, Emily Cohen, Brandon Weight, Dakota Fine

Wish Cinco de Mayo could be every day? Fear not, D.C., because we’ve got a handy guide to making the holiday stretch 364 days further. Our list of the best tacos, margaritas, burritos, Mexican happy hours and late-night menus in the city is sure to wet your whistle with tequila and keep you rolling in taco heaven, from the inventive to the traditional and everywhere in between. ¡Ándele!

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(View the full interactive map of the best tacos, guac and margaritas in D.C.)

The Best Tacos

  • Oyamel
    401 7th Street NW
    Washington, DC 20004
    “The food at Oyamel is fantastic and if you’ve lived in D.C. for more than six months or visited downtown D.C. for more than six hours you should have already tried it. If for some sad reason you haven’t, remedy that. Order the tacos. All of the tacos are great. I tend to order the Yucatan-style pit barbecued Shenandoah Valley pork.” – Brandon Wetherbee

  • El Centro D.F.
    1819 14th Street NW
    Washington, DC 20009
    or
    1218 Wisconsin Avenue NW
    Washington, DC 20007
    I am never able to resist the swan song of a carnitas taco. The best, by far, that I’ve had in D.C. is from El Centro. Fair warning: a tine dipped in the habenero salsa literally made me howl in the restaurant.
    -Rebekah SasekThough not a vegetarian, I’ll confess that vegetarian tacos are one of my favorite foods; in fact, I treat them as their own food group falling somewhere in the pyramid between dim sum and ravioli. The nopal taco at El Centro D.F. trumps nearly any other veggie taco I’ve found in the District and is almost worth its own spot on the pyramid. The steamed-then-grilled cactus tacos are milder than any of their meaty counterparts, but the queso fresco and spicy red sauce really push these over the edge into Omnivore’s Delight territory.
    -Stephanie Breijo
  • Taco Bamba
    190 Pimmit Drive
    Falls Church, VA 22043
    OK, we know this is cheating because it’s in Falls Church but trust us, it’s worth the trek. Victor Albisu’s hole-in-the-wall taco shop is everything a taco spot should be and more. Its tacos are inexpensive but high quality, with both traditional and inventive menu items like the grilled al pastor, or the Black Pearl (fried tilapia with creamy squid ink sauce) or even the El Gringo featuring bacon, a flour tortilla and ranch dressing. Any way you slice (or bite) it, you can’t go wrong.
    -Stephanie Breijo
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  • Mama Chuy
    2620 Georgia Avenue NW
    Washington, DC 20001
    The poblano and chihuahua cheese taco at Mama Chuy in one of the most authentic and delicious tacos around. Melted cheese plus smoky peppers and homemade corn tortillas results in an undeniable foodgasm.  Add salsa, guacamole, and eat in it one bite. Order more and repeat.
    -Priya Konings
  • Taqueria Nacional
    1409 T Street NW
    Washington, DC 20009
    “Taqueria Nacional is run by John Fulchino and chef Anne Cashion’s, the same team behind Cashion’s Eat Place and Johnny’s on the Half Shell (in fact, the taqueria concept actually started due to the lease on Johnny’s of the Half Shell requiring them to provide take out food). The little taqueria garnered a lot of attention almost immediately and was named one of the best new Mexican restaurants in 2007 by Bon Appetit magazine,  then got a medal of distinction from the Mexican Embassy in 2009, and then of course Anne Cashion herself was awarded a James Beard award in 2004.” – Dana Bleiberg

  • Super Tacos & Bakery
    1762 Columbia Road NW
    Washington, DC 20009
    When I’m feeling extra gringo, the tinga-style Crispy Chicken Tacos from Super Tacos always hit the spot. Added bonus: they deliver within a one-mile radius.
    -Rebekah Sasek
  • Impala DC
    1358 H Street NE
    Washington, DC 20002
    “One f the District’s best tacos spots has yet to open its large outdoor patio (not to mention full restaurant), but you can still find its tacos on weekends and count down the undisclosed number of days until you’re sitting in the sun sipping margaritas and snacking on elote and Chile braised pork belly tacos.” – Our Outdoor Drinking Guide
  • Pica Taco
    1406 Florida Avenue NW
    Washington, DC 20009
    Pica Taco is cheap, quick and quells my cravings for carnitas, pastor or barbacoa.
    -Rebekah Sasek

  • Casa Oaxaca
    2106 18th Street NW
    Washington, DC 20009
    “Slightly detached from the craziness and serving a cuisine slightly harder to find in DC, the restaurant will be crowded each weekend late morning/early afternoon regardless of what they serve.” – Brandon Wetherbee
  • Takorean
    Food Truck 
    or
    Union Market
    1309 5th Street NE
    Washington, DC 20002
    “The Takorean tacos were amazing. A little spicy, a littly crunchy, super fresh, like a bon bon of deliciousness exploding in your mouth.” – Svetlana Legetic

 

The Best Guacamole

And even more bourgey / bougie suggestions for Guac in DC here

  • Rosa Mexicano
    575 7th Street NW

    Washington, DC 20004
    “While waiting for the next few cocktails, I sampled some of the guacamole served in an enormous lava rock molcajete. The guac was comprised of the usual good-guac flavors (avocado, lime, cilantro) but it also surprised with red grape halves  and blue cheese chunks. Take that for what you will.” – Marie Formica

  • Commissary DC
    1443 P Street NW
    Washington, DC 20005 
    Commissary has truly delicious guacamole. The tortilla chips are freshly made and once I start eating it, I can’t stop. It is pretty much perfect.
    -Rebekah Sasek
  • El Centro D.F.
    1819 14th Street NW
    Washington, DC 20009
    or
    1218 Wisconsin Avenue NW
    Washington, DC 20007
    “Probably the best “bang for your buck” this Richard Sandoval guac creation is no slouch, despite it’s cheaper pricetag to most.  Made with avocado,  tomato, onion, cilantro, and chile serrano (and served with housemade tortilla chips)  it’s a familiar recipe and taste but we’re not complaining!  Go bold and ask for “spicy” but be sure you’ve got one of their Strawberry Margaritas on hand to wash it down!” – Shauna Alexander

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  • Oyamel
    401 7th Street NW
    Washington, DC 20004
    This one has to go to Oyamel again. Made tableside while you watch, it has the exact right amount of creaminess from the avocado, tartness from lime, freshness from cilantro, saltiness from crumbled queso fresco, crunchiness from onion, depth of flavor from garlic and seasonings, and hear from jalapenos. And those fresh little corn tortillas they give you are just made for mopping up as much guacamole as will fit in your hand. What Jose Andres does, he does well.
    -Priya Konings

 

The Best Burritos

  • Chinito’s Burritos
    635 Florida Avenue NE
    Washington, DC 20002
    Your essential Chinito’s plan of action: Call ahead. Bike from Columbia Heights. Pass Chipotle. Arrive. Douse your burrito in the house-made hot sauce. Walk your bike back because you’re too full to ride. – Brandon Weight.
    BONUS: Order fries inside your burrito for extra fatkid points.
  • Taqueria Distrito Federal
    3463 14th Street NW
    Washington, DC 20010
    Taqueria Distrito Federal is the only place I’ve gone more than once for burritos. They are in fact so great that in 7 years, I can’t bring myself to try anything else on they menu. Note: They also have excellent homemade horchata. I could drink gallons of it.
    -Rebekah Sasek

 

The Best Margaritas

  • Lauriol Plaza
    1835 18th Street NW
    Washington, DC 20009
    “The Swirl at Lauriol Plaza is not something I would normally go for. But at the weather gets hotter and hotter, I think I can make myself okay with sucking down a pitcher of swirled frozen regular and strawberry margaritas.”Alex Nicholson
  •  Oyamel
    401 7th Street NW
    Washington, DC 20004
    The absolute best margarita in DC is the Oyamel Margarita topped with salt air foam at Oyamel obviously.
    -Rebekah SasekThe best margarita in DC has to be Oyamel’s signature margarita. Simple and classic with a modern twist: salt foam instead of a salt rim. Come on, salt foam?!  Its genius. Plus, the margarita is strained rather than served on the rocks so you actually get to enjoy the drink as opposed to a cup full of ice.
    -Priya Konings
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  • El Centro D.F.
    1819 14th Street NW
    Washington, DC 20009
    or
    1218 Wisconsin Avenue NW
    Washington, DC 20007
    “The Prickly Pear Margarita stays firmly rooted on El Centro’s menu year-round but it’s a light and fruity cocktail that’s smooth and perfect for your Cinco de Mayo drinking; because it uses 100-percent Blue Agave tequila, you’ll be ingesting zero refined sugar and zero caramel, which you’d find in its yellow tequila brethren. This means less hangovers, which means more worry-free drinking.” – Stephanie Breijo
    BONUS: Want to learn how to make a Prickly Pear Margarita at home? We’ve got you covered.
  • Rosa Mexicano
    575 7th Street NW

    Washington, DC 20004
    Rosa Mexicano wins this one, largely due to the variety of choices. Beer, wine, sangria and margaritas are all discounted, plus you can get 2 tacos, empanadas, or quesadillas for $7. Best of all is the housemade guacamole, which isn’t cheap at $14 but it includes unlimited refills.
    -Priya Konings

  • Casa Oaxaca
    2106 18th Street NW
    Washington, DC 20009
    “If you want to slowly sip a hot (spicy, not temperature, once again, not crazy) alcoholic beverage, go for the Zuleica, a margarita with muddled jalapenos.” – Brandon Wetherbee
  • Chupacabra
     822 H Street NE
    Washington, DC 20002
    “Tucked away just off H Street NE on the corner of 9th is that familiar blue and red goat’s head you might have seen rolling through the city’s streets. Due to new D.C. regulations becoming more and more unfriendly to food trucks, Chupacabra decided to ditch the truck and say hello to a permanent home.” – Stephanie Breijo
    Here you’ll find swirled frozen margaritas AND a patio for drinking ‘em.

 

The Best Mexican Happy Hour

  •  Oyamel
    401 7th Street NW
    Washington, DC 20004 
    “The 4:00-to-6:00pm Oyamel happy hour is one of the best in the city. The only downside is the crowds. It gets crowded. Early. Sometimes you just want a taco and an Oyamel Margarita (the one with the “salt air”) before you head home. That isn’t really possible if you show up at 5:45pm.” – Brandon Wetherbee
  • Casa Oaxaca
    2106 18th Street NW
    Washington, DC 20009
    Casa Oaxaca has six types of mole on the menu. While all of them are excellent, I can’t get enough of the black mole Enmoladas. Lucky for me, they are half priced during happy hour.
    -Rebekah Sasek
  • El Centro D.F.
    1819 14th Street NW
    Washington, DC 20009
    or
    1218 Wisconsin Avenue NW
    Washington, DC 20007
    “Luckily for us, Richard Sandoval’s spots on 14th Street and in Georgetown offer up an array of infused tequilas and margaritas.” – Stephanie Breijo
    You can also find tacos on the cheap every Tuesday of the week.

  • El Chucho
    3313 11th Street NW
    Washington, DC 20010
    Happy hour. Every day. 4 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. All tacos half price, PLUS anything on tap is $4. This place is responsible for all bad decisions made when I’ve left work at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday. Usually ending up passing out in Meridian Hill Park. Memories. – Brandon Weight
  • Rosa Mexicano
    575 7th Street NW

    Washington, DC 20004
    “First and all-around favorite served was the frozen bourbon horchata, poured into our glasses from a machine hidden in a cutaway cubby in the wooden bar. Blended almond milk, rice milk, vanilla bean and other sweet ingredients are combined with Buffalo Trace Kentucky bourbon and topped with shaved lime and cinnamon, all served up with an extra shot (!!!!) of bourbon on the side. ” – Marie Formica
  • Tortilla Coast
    400 First Street SE
    Washington, DC 20003
    or
    1460 P Street NW
    Washington, DC 20005
    “Why not start with taking charge of your drinking habits at Tortilla Coast’s Bloody Mary bar (Capitol Hill location). A pint of Tito’s vodka and endless mixers and fillings will turn you into the bartender you always needed.” – Daphne Bolotas

 

The Best Late Night

  • Don Juan’s
    1660 Lamont Street NW
    Washington, DC 20010
    There is no good late night Mexican food in D.C. However, Don Juan’s has excellent pupusas and take-out ’til 4:00am.
    -Rebekah Sasek
  • El Centro D.F.
    1819 14th Street NW
    Washington, DC 20009
    or
    1218 Wisconsin Avenue NW
    Washington, DC 20007
    El Centro’s rooftop is the best place to eat, drink, and merry any time of day, but especially late night in the summertime. All you need is a margarita and their mole fries.
    -Priya Konings

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Comments:

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Recent Comments:
  • Bettina says:

    Rise up DT / El Chilango!

  • Matt says:

    Why does the Well Dressed Burrito always get snubbed?

  • Sean says:

    *yawn* y’all need to get out more. No El Chilango, District Taco, and one mention of Taqueria DF (for something it doesn’t do well too- burritos). It also has more than one location BTW.

  • Edgar says:

    I’m actually Mexican and El Chilango are the most authentic tacos I’ve had in DC. Why aren’t they listed?

  • lyndsay says:

    I cannot comprehend how tacos el chilango would not be on here.

  • Megan Chavez says:

    I’m so sorry if this is not PC. Who are we kidding?! I don’t care. Either none of you are Mexican OR you’ve all been living in DC too long to remember what REAL Mexican food tastes like…the only place in the whole DMV that is worth any of my money and contains every wet burrito dream ever dreamt is La Mexicana Taqueria and Bakery. Family-owned by Mexicans. The carnitas and crane asada are incredible, and the salsas are homemade and so hot gringos start to cry under this strip mall hole-in-the-wall’s fluorescent lights. Nothing in DC compares, and I’ve tried them all praying to find something like my abuelita’s. This place is unbeatable. http://www.yelp.com/biz/la-mexicana-bakery-and-taqueria-alexandria

  • Erik says:

    No love for District Taco!?!?!