To say that Chef and Owner, Richard Sandoval knows authentic
Mexican cuisine would clearly just be “stating the obvious” (after all, he grew up down South of the Border inside Mexico City). From these early traditions and experiences gained from his youthful-years, and from his professional education at the Culinary Institute of America, Sandoval has launched a barrage of renowned restaurants, to include Washinton D.C.’s : El Centro.
El Centro, located at 1819 14th Street, is a wonderful combination of traditional, Mexican comfort food with an Encyclopedia-sized book of Tequila options. The interior decor is modern, yet intentionally unrefined. It’s that tarnished and industrial setting that helps transport you outside of the District region and directly into your own drinking and dining oasis right in Guadalajara.
During our visit, we sampled from the Menu: the Chicken Tinga Tamales with avocado, crema fresca and sweet chipotle sauce, the succulent Pork Carnitas (our dinner favorite), and an order of the Al Pastor Tacos (3 tacos of adobo marinade pork shoulder, grilled pineapple, cilantro and salsa verde). All of the food, which by the way is served from the open-air “Taqueria” kitchen, was spot-on with bold flavors, deep aromas and bites that kept us wanting more. Sadly, the Chicken Tinga Tamales arrived cold and were not as anywhere consistent or impressive as our main courses.
If you are in the mood for a cocktail or a sample of a wide-array of Tequila selections, you definitely are going to the right place. There are so many selections to choose from and such an abundance of both large-scale and boutique Tequila producers, that El Centro will have you likely singing, “One Tequila, Two Tequila, Three Tequila…Floor” before you run out of beverage ideas.
Our advice after our first visit here, is to certainly make a reservation in advance before going to dinner. We arrived around 8:00 p.m. and were surprised to find a line of anxious patrons waiting outside the restaurant just to get in past the bouncer (yes, we said bouncer at a restaurant). Apparently at that time, the whole restaurant turns into one big-happy block party and the entire place is 21+ (so no, this is not the spot to bring the family for Taco-Night-Tuesdays if you’re planning on showing up late on the weekends). With the help of an advance reservation, feel free to walk ahead of the line right up the door with I.D. in hand and declare your reservations to skip the nonsense outside.
Overall, a great choice if you’re looking for Mexican cuisine that is out-of-the-ordinary (and in a great way).