DC’sdiverse culture offers numerous well-known Latin food places, but few are aware of the most authentically delicious cuisines. Below are some of the best Latin restaurants that most Washingtonians have never heard of.
Bar, Restaurant, Mexican, $$$
Operated out of a small red-and-green ’50s-era building, Judy Restaurant doesn’t initially seem like the kind of place that can rival fine-dining establishments, but head on over and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. An alternative to 14th Street’s numerous Mexican chain restaurants, Judy’s recipes have been passed to her from her parents who originally opened the restaurant decades ago. And with a casual vibe, cheap drinks, and an eight dollar El Typico plate, it’s not hard to figure out how it has stayed open for so long.
With a warm and cozy atmosphere, El Chalan is a go-to place for both family nights out and romantic dates. This Peruvian-fusion restaurant has combined recipes from across cultures, and its menu is stuffed with dishes that you’re sure to have never had before. A raw egg in a margarita? Why not. Whether you’re ordering the simmering goat stew or Peruvian chicken, these are tastes that are hard to find around DC.
El Rinconcito II is a hole-in-the-wall Latin restaurant that offers some of the freshest food in DC. With a range of Mexican and Tex-Mex platters, including juicy grilled shrimp, at super prices, you’ll always get more than you payed for. Don’t miss the peach margaritas.
On the same street as Eastern Market’s Flea Market, you will be thrilled to find The Tortilla Cafe. Its Mexican and Salvadoran cuisine is simply cheaper, better, and more authentic than other Latin American restaurants. Its Tex-Mex burrito serenades grilled steak, tender chicken, and crisp shrimp amongst its house sour cream and creamy guacamole. Fantastic food at very reasonable prices.
While most Washingtonians have never heard of Las Placitas, many who live in the area have become steadfast and loyal customers. Operated by a charming staff, the owners have passed down secret family recipes for generations, creating some of the most flavor-packed food in the city. Order the crab shrimp or fajita steak out on the patio. Delicious food, not to be missed.
With cushioned seating and Latin American decor, Wapa Cafe Boutique provides a cozy environment whether you’re looking to impress a lunch date or need a quiet place to work. While the café serves assortments of coffee and tea, its simple yet delicious food selection of local and Latin flavors take it to another level. Treat your taste buds to the cheesy chicken quesadilla or your heart to the quinoa salad tossed amongst cranberries, almonds, and curry lemon dressing.
The Well Dressed Burrito’s may be the only restaurant in DC that hides in a literal alleyway, the restaurant would have too many customers if it were easy to find. Largely a catering business, the restaurant is only open for carryout during weekday lunch hours. If you happen to be in the right place at the right time, you may have found the one of the best Latin restaurants that DC has to offer.
A welcoming and brightly lit establishment with a true Central American atmosphere, the owners put as much care into the building as they do into their food, creating a fantastic all-around dining experience for you. Not only is Ercilia’s lauded for its authentic Salvadorian cuisine, but its loroco and cheese pupusas are only two dollars. And good thing too because you can never just have one (or two or three). Just make sure to save room for the fried plantains.
Steakhouses aren’t always associated with Latin American cuisine, and a night at Claudia’s will expand your palate and your knowledge of foreign cultures. A perfect spot for any date night or celebratory occasion, the restaurant is as modern as DC gets, with gorgeous, luxurious decor. The servers are attentive and observant, making your dining experience the best it can be. Try the octopus, lobster mac and cheese, fried yucca, or all of them because it may just be too hard to choose.
On the upper edges of Georgetown, Los Cuates can be a hike, but it is absolutely worth it. The bright, Latin decor and ambience creates never-ending good times, with plenty of laughter to go around. While the steak fajitas are mouthwatering, Los Cuates is famous among college students for its frozen margaritas. Get the lemon, strawberry, or both to start off your night out in Georgetown. If it’s your birthday, they may let you wear one of their colorful sombreros!