There are few cuisines that translate as well both as elevated fine dining and as approachable street food as Mexican — and Washington, D.C. has restaurants all along that spectrum. Our nation’s capital is one of the premier places to find Mexican cooking, whether you’re looking for a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant or a hole-in-the-wall cafe. From unique spins on tacos to traditional recipes for mole poblano, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite places to get a Mexican fix in the District.
One of the most tried-and-true Mexican joints in the city is owned and run by husband-and-wife team Dionicio Montero and Mirna Montero-Alvarado, who hail from Mexico and El Salvador, respectively. They’ve been making and selling family recipes for years, and now are doing so with the help of their entire family. The original Taqueria Habanero location in Columbia Heights has been delighting customers since 2014 with tacos filled with both adventurous ingredients like grasshopper and beef tongue, as well as more familiar offerings like carnitas and steak, all nestled in a handmade corn tortilla.
What started as a ghost kitchen became a pop-up, and finally evolved into one of D.C.’s most beloved pandemic-born Mexican joints, Taqueria Xochi offers Mexican street food on U Street. With a mission of transporting diners straight to Mexico — specifically Oaxaca — perhaps the most unmissable menu item is the tlayuda, whose large, handmade tortilla is crisped, covered with cheese and your choice of toppings.
For the D.C. residents who hail from Texas, Republic Cantina was a welcome sight as one of the few Tex-Mex joints in town. The whimsical indoor-outdoor space is the perfect place to grab a margarita (frozen is best) and some queso compuesto, brisket chili, and yes, sizzling fajitas served with some of the best flour tortillas you can find in town.
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Another Michelin-recommended restaurant, Maiz64 brings an air of sophistication to its sleek spot on 14th Street. The restaurant is helmed by Alam Méndez Florián, who has already made a name for himself at the popular Pasillo de Humo in Mexico City, and in D.C., he is looking to pay homage to the humble corn plant (as the restaurant’s name suggests) with plenty of handmade corn tortillas in multiple colors. The menu features local ingredients and unexpected spins on Mexican classics; the absolute star of the show is the broccoli taco, featuring roasted broccoli, an unctuous black mole and cashews for added texture.
Chef Richard Sandoval, who has some 60+ restaurants under his belt, has brought modern, wood-fired Mexican cuisine to D.C. at dLeña. Leña, which means “firewood” in Spanish, features prominently in both food and beverage items — you can order a tomahawk steak, which is finished tableside with a torch and aromatics to go alongside your Mexican margarita, finished with cherry wood smoke.
For some of the best Mexican brunch (and lunch and dinner) offerings the city has to offer, check out Paraiso, whose seafood-heavy menu offers creative flavor combinations that are as surprising as they are delicious. For example, check out the mussel dish, which almost sounds Thai, served with a spicy cilantro coconut broth that is served with blue cornbread, but proves the versatility of Mexican cuisine. For a more traditional Mexican offering, check out the chilaquiles, featuring a supremely crispy tortilla topped with a perfectly runny egg and your choice of protein.
Destino recently instituted a new Michelin-credentialed chef in Vincent Badiee, who worked at three-Michelin-star restaurant Eleven Madison Park before coming to D.C., and has leaned into a decidedly modern take on Mexican food. The menu changes seasonally but is always creative and, as the team says, “grounded in Mexican flavors and ideas, but not bound by them.” Get the tasting menu for the true chef-guided experience.
Chef and philanthropist Jose Andres’s Mexican restaurant in D.C. is one of his most beloved — Oyamel pays homage to Mexico City with its bold flavors and bright colors. While you’ll find tacos and salsas on the menu, you’ll also find composed entrees like the Trucha Tallada, a grilled trout marinated in a salsa made of three peppers and served alongside sautéed seasonal veggies.
One of the newest entrants to the DMV restaurant scene, Ometeo comes from Top Chef winner Gabe Erales and the team behind beloved D.C. restaurants like Dauphines and Salt Line. This expansive restaurant is a seafood-centric take on Tex-Mex cuisine, featuring sizzling fajita platters that feature not only the traditional beef, chicken and shrimp, but also lobster and scallops.
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