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Photos by Franz Mahr

Twice a year, Richard Sandoval takes his El Centro chefs on a trip to a different part of Mexico because he’s some sort of magical dream boss from another dimension. This year, the team went to Mexico City, and even though he didn’t invite any of us (how dare he), we get to reap some of the benefits. The Destination: Mexico City menu is available until August 31st and includes guacamole, gorditas, tacos, ribs, and so much more.

We started off with the chunky guacamole, which is (surprise!) exactly what you would think it is. Big hunks of avocado, halved cherry tomatoes, and sliced roasted peppers make this dip a little difficult to navigate with a tortilla chip, but the textures and flavors really stand out. Plus, the little spice kick from the peppers makes it unlike most of the guacamole I have on a regular basis. This is a great snack for when you’re out getting drunk on tequila (or mezcal for that matter).

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The Mercado Quesadilla was unlike any quesadilla I had ever seen (which is saying something because I order Mexican food instead of making my own dinner more often than not). Made with huitlacohe-corn masa, mushrooms, Oaxaca cheese, and a pinto been chipotle puree, they were moist and succulent and had a fantastic umami flavor. All that sweet summer corn on the plate was just icing on the cake. If you want to go for something a little heftier, the Gordita de Chicharron will get the job done. Featuring chicaron-corn masa that’s stuffed with lettuce, panela cheese, pico de gallo, salsa, and crème fresca, there is a lot going on. I could barely finish half of one.

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Now the real killer is the Ancho rubbed lamb ribs. Paired with a chimichurri verde and black bean plum salsa, they’re moist and succulent and practically melt in your mouth, while the verde and salsa add a little bit of depth. They’re a little on the fatty side, it’s in the best way possible. Pair it with any number of El Centro’s tequila or mezcal drinks, and you are going to have a good time. In fact, skip the entrees, get a quesadilla and two (or three…) orders of the ribs and you’re set for the rest of the night.

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El Centro’s new menu may not be a trip to Mexico City, but it’s the closest thing you’re going to get without leaving the District, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

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