For a long time, Washington, D.C. did not have a lot of good Mexican food. But over the past few years, plenty of spots have opened up or stepped up their game, so now you can definitely find flavorful Mexican fare here. Some places are fancy, while others are casual—either way, they are tasty. Here are the best sit-down spots.
La Puerta Verde
Restaurant, Mexican, Spanish, Vegetarian, $$$
One of the newest restaurants on this list, La Puerta Verde, located in the booming Ivy City neighborhood, has already made quite a name for itself. Freshly made tortillas make for incredible tacos, but their appetizers and main course plates are all as enticing. The elote (street corn) is a favorite, as is the “Esquites con Camarones”—shrimp on grilled bread topped with corn and tequila butter. Meat lovers should get the “Carne Arrachera”—grilled beef skirt steak, chorizo, cactus paddle, tomatillo, spring onions, queso fresco, and jalapeño. Their bar is no joke either; try the “Mezgroni,” a creative take on the Negroni, made with mezcal instead.
Taqueria Habanero, Washington, DC | Courtesy of Taqueria Habanero
At Taqueria Habanero, you can get delicious, authentic Mexican food in a somewhat no-frills atmosphere. Feast on the fish tacos, the chicken enchiladas, and a Michelada—you’ll feel as though you’re in Mexico. It’s a popular place, so there might be a wait; however, it’s worth it.
Tacos El Chilango, known for their authentic tacos and aguas frescas, is an eatery in an unassuming storefront and a spinoff from a food truck. Favorites are the chorizo and the lengua, but they also have a variety of vegetarian tacos that are tasty. They also offer a killer assortment of sauces that are not for the spice-averse!
Espita Mezcaleria is a hip spot in the Shaw neighborhood that has one of the largest collections of mezcal in the area and focuses on food from the Oaxaca region of Mexico. That means delicious moles, lots of heirloom corn, tlayudas, oversized bean tortillas topped with the likes of crab and avocado, house-made green chorizo, and more great stuff, all set against a backdrop of murals painted by Yescka, a popular Oaxacan street artist.
The Taqueria Los Compadres is a family-owned spot that is a bit of a secret (so far)—but not for long. Their homemade and home-style Mexican food is comfort at its best. From squash blossom and huitlacoche tacos to sopes, tamales, and enchiladas, there is something for everyone. The fresh salsas and accompaniments are just as delicious.
Another new addition to the city’s Mexican food scene is Mezcalero, which is extremely popular for its street tacos, huaraches, tortas, and quesadillas. Their extensive menu not only has favorites that you will recognize, but it also has a lot of Mexican specialties not commonly found in other restaurants.
A favorite stop, complete with a fantastic happy hour, El Chucho’selote itself makes it worth a stop, but don’t miss trying out their drinks or a torta on their rooftop patio space. It makes for a great spot to wind down at the end of a summer day.
El Sol Restaurante & Tequileria, Washington, DC | Courtesy of El Sol
Taking a family-style approach, but crafted by a professional chef, the food at El Sol is some of the freshest and most authentic Mexican food around. Diners rave about this restaurant’s queso fundido, handmade tortillas and tacos, and a fantastic three-course brunch. Don’t let the location and small space fool you.
Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, Washington, DC | Courtesy of Oyamel
On the fancier side of Mexican restaurants in D.C., celebrity chef Jose Andres’ Oyamel features an array of traditional Mexican small plates that will transport your taste buds to Mexico. The salt air-topped margarita and tableside guacamole make for a great start, and the selection of tacos to follow continues the feast. It’s a great date night option.
Bar, Restaurant, Mexican, Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-free, $$$
Gringos & Mariachis, Bethesda | Courtesy of Gringos and Mariachis
Gringos and Mariachis is a dark and sultry spot that has sparkly chandeliers, tufted booths, and Day of the Dead murals on its walls. While the décor is eye-catching and impressive, the food is too! Choose from al pastor, carnitas, or barbacoa tacos or other Mexican classics such as chiles rellenos, enchiladas, mole poblano, and more. The coconut flan is a sweet ending to an excellent meal!