Tag Archives: Tacos

Crios: Bringing Modern Mexican to Vibrant Dupont

The District has Mexican restaurants.  It was missing a neighborhood destination in Dupont where modern influence results in refined Mexican cuisine.  The kind of menu inspired by traditional, bold flavors and fresh ingredients, but also able to offer diners a twist on the usual suspects without pretentious prices.  Enter, Crios.

Crios comes to Dupont from the same minds next door at Scion Restaurant (home to our favorite destination for Sunday Brunch), and brings a unique dining menu and creative cocktail list to P Street.  The exterior’s large, floor-to-ceiling glass facade gives way to a vibrant color scheme, modern decor and open concept inside.  The atmosphere is casual, fun and exactly the setting we seek for a night out in the neighborhood with friends.

As to be expected, Crios offers a range of carefully selected beer on tap much like its sister restaurant, and serves up a fresh spin on the traditional Margarita with your choice of fresh fruit.  Crios’ fresh approach to the traditional Margarita will certainly have us coming back for several future rounds.

The dinner menu is ideal for sharing, with a range of starters (“Bocaditos”), tacos and house specials.  We opted to start with the House Guacamole, Duck Sopes and the Rockfish Ceviche that was so ideal it would make our Mexican friend’s family ceviche recipe jealous.  The Dr. Pepper Carnitas tacos (pork shoulder braised with Dr. Pepper and served with arugula, chipotle adobo and queso fresco) were a unique spin on the traditional recipe, but the carne asada tacos (grilled skirt steak, pickled onions, guacamole and queso fresco) were some of the best we have had since moving to The District.  These corn-tortilla wrapped bundles of flavor will have us coming back for these alone, and we highly recommend an order…or two.

Lastly, we’re not usually one for the after-dinner sweets, but having sampled the fried ice cream and another dish of chocolate pastries, any visit to Crios must end in trying these.

Our dining experience was much like the setting of Crios, with its fun and laid-back atmosphere, and our fellow diners appeared to be equally pleased by the setting and menu.  Our only setback was the missed opportunity to sample the house-made salsa when our server forgot to bring any to our table.  Sadly, we sat idly in anticipation, but were left to the expressions of enjoyment from the tables surrounding ours.  We definitely look forward to trying the salsa at our next visit to Crios.

In a town that is increasingly being inundated by Mexican dining establishments, Crios stands out in Dupont Circle.  The welcoming atmosphere, causal vibe and table sharing menu is sure to carry on the Scion tradition down in Dupont.

Crios on Urbanspoon

district taco logo

District Taco – The Way Tacos Should All Be.

What once began as a popular “meals-on-wheels” food truck, has now earned its reputation as a DC-Mexican hotspot.  District Taco, located at 13th and F Street NW, has just one problem — not enough locations, which is probably a good thing because if they set up shop in our neighborhood it would be rapidly overrun by a swarm of Georgetown’s finest.

Although District Taco still maintains its original mobile food cart, making stops in Northern VA and the District (see their Twitter page for daily locations), they have rapidly grown their reputation as a dine-in destination.  The Menu is packed with an abundance of fresh ingredients made from scratch daily.  The burrito is as solid as a brick.  It’s the kind of manwich we crave, packed with ingredients that fill you up, but won’t leave you feeling like that last time you swung through Taco Bell’s drive-thru.  The burrito with carnitas (slow cooked, pulled pork), pico de gallo, fresh jalapenos, garlic-lime rice, onion, cilantro, and black beans is our personal favorite combination.

The Tacos – some might refer to the portion size as falling on the “smaller” side of the scale, but compared to Bandolero, these tortilla treats are huge.  Other taco combinations include: carnitas, grilled chicken, chopped steak, barbacoa (slow cooked shredded beef), al pastor (carved rotisserie pork marinated with guajillo and chopped pineapple), or vegetarian (sorry vegans, we still do not understand nor will ever attempt to comprehend your dietary decisions).  Having sampled all but the “plain simple vegetarian” options, we can report that each selection consistently exceeds expectations.

Another simple, yet unique aspect of District Taco is their commitment to Boylan’s Bottling Co.  All bottled and fountain sodas are distributed from this bottling company, which has been crafting small-batch sodas since 1891.  A plate of fresh tacos, overflowing with fresh ingredients, and accompanied by one of Boylan’s old-world recipes is the perfect lunch any day of the week.  Prices are beyond wallet-friendly, and District Taco’s growing reputation makes us wonder just how long until Washingtonians start finding more locations around town.  Hopefully soon.

Homemade salsa (free at the “accompaniments bar”) — just another reason why District Taco is oh, so perfect.

District Taco on Urbanspoon

Bandolero DC

Bandolero:  It’s the “new [badass] kid on the block” in Georgetown,
and has already successfully crafted a name for itself thanks to celebrity-chef Mike Isabella (Top Chef, Season 6 contestant).  This Mexican retreat just recently swung open its doors back in May 2012, and offers DC-diners an alternative destination for Mexican cuisine with its two-story, 5,000 sq. ft. refined back-alley-esque dining scene.

For the interior, Isabella sought out a vision of “loud, dark, and cold” and deployed Streetsense Designs to assist in crafting a modern, “Day of the Dead” vibe.  After recently visiting this past week, CAYPO can confirm the decor is nothing short of stunning.  The atmosphere transports the dining environment away from Georgetown’s Polo-ridden streets to the kind of hidden location you’d more likely find roaming the back-alleys of Guadalajara.

The Menu:  *Note to readers: the image above is not to scale (although we wish it was).

Bandolero offers diners a tempting variety of tacos, taquitos, tostadas, cabons, and an equally diverse menu of traditional, yet refined Mexican cuisine.  During our visit we had (and highly recommend) the suckling pig tacos, skirt steak tacos, flauta (pork cheek, red chili sauce and anejo), and a tequila-heavy pitcher of classico margaritas.

THE GOOD:  Literally everything.  Our dining choices were excellent and every dish that walked by was equally intoxicating and enticed us for more.

THE BAD:  Nothing.  Bandolero is off to a great start with attentive, knowledgeable service, a great-tasting menu and expertise behind the bar crafting unique cocktails.  The servers are an army of staff, and we were surprised by how many people were readily on hand to top off a glass, remove an empty dish, or answer a question (but are so many servers really necessary?).

THE UGLY:  Sadly, Bandolero is not a place to return anytime soon.  It’s strange to say that after such a raving review because everything is near-perfect…except for the portion size.  The photo below is an optical illusion.  The “tacos” are easily two-bites (and that’s being polite, but could be bite-sized).  At $10-$15, we were very surprised by the miniature sand-dollar-sized morsels of beauty that laid in front of us.  If you’re going to visit this restaurant, be forewarned you either will likely leave hungry or eat like it’s your last meal without care for the end-result bill.

Bandolero, we shall meet again many times if: your taco prices match a portion size > a half-dollar.

Bandolero on Urbanspoon

El Centro in The District

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).
El Centro D.F. on Urbanspoon

Surfside Glover Park

Kate D. - Caypo Guest Idea DC’s Rooftop Bars.

Because there’s no better way to enjoy your next few months before the heat and fanny-pack toating, “can’t find my smart-trip” tourists arrive.  Where else could you go for that Friday Happy Hour, several stories up, with sun, cool breeze, ice-cold beer, and a collection of friends?  It’s no Caribbean Island, but still a close urban-oasis.

*UPDATE: July 29, 2011 -  After visiting several of the DC-Metro rooftop bars, CAYPO came to the conclusion that many of the overused descriptions that promise “spectacular views”, “great drink specials”, and “relaxed atmosphere” in reality are bars packed to maximum capacity with pricey drinks and not-to-mention, Johnny Jagger-Bombs, Tina Skankster and Raphael the Tourist.  We’re not saying these aren’t great people, but we were thinking more along the lines of an open space with a kick-back-grab-a-beer-wear-what-you-have-on-who-cares kind of place.  We’re talking something straight out of Kenny Chesney’s “Somewhere in the Sun” atmosphere.

If this is what you had in mind for an urban oasis, join CAYPO, and look no further than Surfside Restaurant.  http://surfsidedc.com/www/index.php/menu.  It didn’t take the press long to catch on to the consensus that this local-neighborhood rooftop might be top of the charts when it comes to an escape from anyone suffering from DC-sensory overload.  CAYPO proudly joins in that acclaim and recommends that instead of the fried-up typical bar foods soaking in a luxurious grease-bath one would normally find, Surfside has found a way to bring healthy, fresh food to the rooftop happy hour.  Fresh tacos with a little pico-de-galla my senorita?  Given the scorching heat-wave that has cooked up the DC region, maxed out the a/c units, and tempted cold-showers across the city, Surfside is one deal-spot CAYPO can think of to grab a few friends on a Thursday evening, pour back the frozen margaritas, and live a little (if only for a few hours) on pure Island Time.
Surfside on Urbanspoon