This is not a comprehensive guide to all of the Mexican food in and around the District. It’s a reminder that your wallet has more power than anything you’ll ever post on social media.
The grilled corn-on-the-cob is as fun as it sounds. The tapas-sized tacos are cheap and delicious. But let’s be honest: the main reason to visit El Chucho, Columbia Heights’s cocina extraordinaire, is its vast selection of tequila, mezcal, and margarita recipes. If you want an agave-centered adult beverage, El Chucho is your stops uno, dos, and tres. There are scores of varieties of each mezcal and tequila, and if the phrase “blood orange habanero margarita” doesn’t get you salivating, you probably have some bad memories associated with Cancun. The wall of liquor bottles is one of the prettiest in D.C., and don’t forget the Señor Clusterfuck: this house specialty comes with dry vermouth and peanut tincture. -Tristan Lejeune
A relative newcomer to the Mexican fine dining scene in DC, this place has a lot of gems on the menu that you are going to want to try. Sopes, filled with eggplant and topped with cheese, fried mushroom tacos, crazy good mole served over three different kinds of squash, queso fundido which is basically Mexican fondue, and elote, corn smothered in queso fresco, crema, and cilantro. Order it all with a flight of mezcal and you’ll feel like you are on a south-of-the-border vacation. -Priya Konings
The beauty of Mezcalero is that you’re not sacrificing anything. Chef Alfredo Solis (of El Sol) has crafted a menu that encompasses a wide variety of Mexican dishes. There is deliciously acidic and wildly refreshing ceviche, meaty gorditas, and crispy flautas. There are burritos and quesadillas and huaraches and enchiladas and moles and plenty of tacos. Usually I prefer smaller menus, they make it easy to see what the chef is passionate about, but I don’t mind the large menu at Mezcalero. Chef Solis is just trying to expand what we think of when we think of Mexican food. He’s trying to teach us something. -Kaylee Dugan
If you know me, you will know I have loved Oyamel for a long time. It is one of those restaurants I started going to when I moved to DC many years ago, and it still provides all the things I need for a fantastic Mexican meal: the best margaritas in town, tableside guacamole, and housemade tortillas. But, there is so much more to their menu. I always, always get the huitlacoche quesadillas, which are cheesy quesadillas filled with huitlacoche, which is kind of like a Mexican truffle. It has that earthy density that truffles do. The chilaquiles are also sublime: basically fancy nachos. The plantain and butternut squash fritters are essential to your meal, and don’t forget to try the hongos tacos, which are mushroom tacos where the mushrooms are cooked in cream. My mouth is literally watering just writing this! Oyamel is great for lunch, brunch or dinner, and is ideal for groups who want to share a bevy of their small plates. No matter what happens: get a pitcher of the salt air margs. It will remind you why Mexico is so damn awesome. -Priya Konings
Like many of the Mexican places in D.C., Las Plascitas really shines when it comes to it’s Salvadoran specials, but if we’re sticking strictly to Mexican food, you can’t really go wrong here either. It’s been a hot second since I’ve stopped by the Eastern Market restaurant, but I remember their portions always being slightly larger than I expected (which is a good news in my book) and the atmosphere being loud and boisterous (which is also what I want when I’m three margaritas deep). Definitely load up on all the chips and salsa (and order some guacamole because it’s 2017 and there are no rules) then dive into their enchiladas. You will have to take a cab home because walking will feel impossible after all the food and booze you’ve down. -Kaylee Dugan
I discovered Silvestre when their Brookland location was still open, and fell hard for their chicken fajitas. Hard enough that it’s the only thing I’ve ever had on their menu. I was beyond pissed when I heard they were closed (I probably went there at least once every other week), but freaked the hell out last Friday when I realized they had another location a five minute drive away from my home in Fort Totten. Right off of Riggs Rd., their new spot seems a little more rundown (but there are roses on the tables so I guess it works out?), but it’s still pushing the same stupidly succulent chicken and (probably?) homemade tortillas. Grab your order to go (if you live close enough), kick back on your couch, turn on the saddest Netflix documentary you can find and you’re basically living my life. -Kaylee Dugan
If you absolutely have to eat Mexican in DC and for some stupid reason don’t just go to Oyamel, try and track down El Sabor del Taco. They usually have a stand at Capital Harvest on the Plaza at the Reagan Building Fridays during the spring, summer, and fall, and show up to the Columbia Heights Farmers Market. You want their tamales, or if you’re lucky, the pambazo- chorizo, potatoes, and cheese in a soft roll dipped in guajillo pepper sauce and dunked in a deep fryer. -Jeb Gavin
Home to some of the best house-made tortillas in DC, El Sol is a gem. The brother-sister duo of Alfredo and Jessica Solis take extra steps to make sure El Sol retains its family-run taqueria charm. The ceviches are bright and acidic; the pozole, ruddy red and super hearty, is perfect for when the weather drops below 40*; and the mole is deep and dark, striking a perfect balance between sweet, salty, and bitter. But those tacos are the real draw: the super thin tortillas are made fresh multiple times each day, then doubled up and wrapped around a variety of authentic fillings, the best of which is a crispy carnitas. A couple splashes of any of El Sol’s homemade hot sauces, and you’re in taco heaven. -Logan Hollers
If you’re traveling to Virginia for some ungodly reason (like you live there!) taking a detour to Taco Bamba is absolutely a good idea. Their new Vienna location has inventive takes on classics like guacamole bacon, tacos stuffed with french fries and vienna sausages, and much more. Their cocktail menu also goes far beyond margaritas and mojitos. If you’re looking for a meal with originality, I can’t think of a better place to try. -Kaylee Dugan
The only place I ever recommend for Mexican food in the DC area is Taco Bar in Gaithersburg. They have two locations, but you really want to go to the one on Fields Road. It’s really a beer and wine store attached to a gas station, but there’s a little counter where you can order some of the best Mexican food in the area. Nothing fancy, nothing groundbreaking, it’s just the best. I’m not going to fall down the rabbit hole of being a white guy clamoring for authenticity, or try to divine which taco is the best and why. I know I like pozole, and I know I can barely find it in DC proper. Taco Bar’s is exemplary- by which I mean it’s the pozole I use as a comparison for all others. Pro tip: get half of a torta especial and the pozole. You’re going to want to get a whole torta, thinking it’s just a small, six inch sub with some avocado slices and beans and meat. Don’t do it. The whole sandwich is nearly eight cubic inches (8″ long by 8″ across by approximately 8″ tall) of avocado, beans, lettuce and tomatoes, mayo, griddled cheese, deli ham, hot dog slices, and a chicken or beef milanesa. Throw some jalapenos, some of their pickled red onions, chopped cilantro, and fresh made salsas on there. Even I can barely finish a whole sandwich. -Jeb Gavin
Opened just over a year ago on the corner of 7th and H St. NE, Fresca has rapidly blossomed into one of the best spots on H St. to grab lunch. Enormous portions and truly authentic Mexican cuisine rule the day here; though you can certainly grab a few steak tacos if that’s your thing, the real play is to glance at the specials board hanging on the wall in the dining room. Whether it’s a stewed pork knuckle with rice and beans, a Peruvian-style half chicken that gives El Pollo Rico a run for its money, or some of the best steamed tamales in town, Fresca brings it. (Though you may have to whip out Google Translate to help decipher that specials board.) I suppose the best way I can encapsulate Fresca is this: I’ve almost never heard English spoken when I’ve visited, and it’s almost always packed with Hispanic workers grabbing a bite while taking a break from constructing the numerous apartment monstrosities taking over H St. If it’s good enough for the experts, it’s good enough for me. -Logan Hollers
You know that feeling of absolute joy when you discover something so amazing, wonderful, and truly unexpected? And how you’re overcome immediately with the desire to sing about it from the rooftops, quickly followed by better sense – that you should keep this wondrous discovery to yourself? That’s how I felt after my first meal at Taqueria Habanero in Columbia Heights. Obviously I wasn’t the first fan, the restaurant was completely packed at 6 p.m. on a Wednesday, but goddamn that is some great Mexican food.
Run by husband and wife duo Dionicio Montero and Mirna Alvarado, the two honed their skills working with José Andrés for two decades. It’s family owned, delicious, and pretty authentic Pueblan food. Just please don’t geotag your food Instagrams when you’re there, OK? Let’s try to keep the place under wraps -Jose Lopez-Sanchez