I have always said our city needs more, and better, Mexican food. It seems the universe heard me, because this spring Muchas Gracias opened on Connecticut Avenue. Helmed by Chef Christian Irabién, the venue is currently offering take-out, or dining on their charming outdoor patio, which only seats 6 people! I highly recommend snagging a spot on the tiny patio to have the full Muchas Gracias experience, which is Mexican food like you have never had it.
The patio dining option features a $65 per person set menu that opens with a series of botanas, which are, essentially, shared snacks or appetizers. The botanas at Muchas Gracias include a silky smooth queso, chunky guacamole, homemade green and red salsas and crunchy blue corn tortilla chips, all accompanied by an adorable mini margarita. The queso is so tasty you will want to lick the bowl. Seriously. It’s hard not to fill up on these treats but save room! There is much more to come.
From there, you will be offered a series of salads to share, including a bright, summery fruit salad with Mexican fruits like pitaya, golden watermelon and pineapple tossed in a sour tamarind dressing, and an heirloom tomato and salt-cured squash salad, where half-moons of tomatoes and petals of squash are drizzled with a tart lime dressing and served on a bed of requeson cheese, a Mexican version of ricotta cheese.
Next up is the main course, a personalized make-your-own-taco bar. Guests select two of four options to serve as the taco filling. Good luck choosing! For vegetarians, the choices include charred sweet potato served with a heady, rich negro mole and an intoxicating chipotle butter; spicy pulled jackfruit infused with chipotle and garnished with crunchy corn nuts; nopalitos, which are baby cactus cut into strips and cooked with a smoky tomato salsa and adorned with fresh radishes for a bit of crunch; and finally, platanos, fried sweet and salty hunks of plantain crowned with pickled veggies. Being the completely indecisive person I am, I actually ordered all four options (two are included in the $65 price, but you can add on additional ones for $10 each). The sweet potatoes were super earthy, and the black mole was so rich and fragrant and dense with piquancy that it may have been my favorite of the four. But the pulled jackfruit was a close second; the texture was chewy and meaty, and the heat from the chilies made the dish especially flavorful.
The fillings come with fragrant homemade tortillas, garlic rice and chunky black beans. The rice is addictively good (calling all garlic lovers!), and they should make a perfume out of those tortillas; the aroma is so warm and comforting.
It’s hard to believe there could be more food, but of course, your meal must end on a sweet note, and sweet it was in every sense of the word: this restaurant is serving up the best tres leches cake in town. The vanilla sponge cake is light and fluffy and oh so moist, soaked in a velvety, tres leches sauce and embellished with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. It doesn’t matter how full you are, you will not be able to stop eating this dreamy dessert. It literally melts in your mouth.
Drink recommendations of course include margaritas, palomas, and for the adventurous, a flight of mezcal. Come as you are and leave with your palate forever changed.