It’s been almost a year since I updated my Mexican Food Roundup, so I figured it was time to add in some new fan favorites and bring it back! Read on for what’s been fueling my chips and salad and margarita addiction for the past year.
Originally posted November 2016.
For as long as I can remember, one of my favorite foods has been chips and salsa. It’s almost embarrassing how quickly I can house a whole basket of chips by myself. Blame it on the fact that my earliest memories of going to a restaurant involve Rio Grande in Arlington, or we can chalk it up to the fact that Mexican food is just really freaking good.
When I first moved to DC, I had a hard time finding a go-to spot for margaritas and cheesy goodness — in my college town of Harrisonburg (go Dukes!) cheap Mexican spots were all over place. Over the past few years, I’ve sampled my way through quite a few of DC’s offerings and thought I’d share my finds if you happen to feel the same way I do about enchiladas and queso. Read on for my tips of navigating margarita happy hours, where to find the best salsa around town, and my favorite hidden gems.
Mission – Located steps off the Dupont Metro stop, this is one of my favorite happy hour spots because it’s extremely easy to get to from where I work in Bethesda and convenient to meet up with friends who work or live in Dupont and Georgetown. The staff is super friendly (hi, Fritz!) and they have marg pitchers on happy hour for $22 – no need to say more. P.S. Order the queso blanco.
Lauriol Plaza – I could just stop this post here because Lauriol Plaza is hands down my favorite Mexican restaurant ever. I legitimately start drooling thinking about their fire-roasted salsa and house-made chips, which I’ve dubbed as the best in DC. They also serve up pitchers of margaritas that strike the perfect balance between sweet and sour.
Café Citron – On the other side of the circle, Cafe Citron gives off a bit of a lounge-y vibe and offers salsa dancing lessons at night. Their happy hour is also all week long so it’s a great option for Saturday or Sunday drinks.
SHAW / U STREET
El Rey – This spot holds a special place in my heart because it’s where I tricked Gerald into becoming my boyfriend. (We had a few too many margs and I got sassy when he introduced me as “his friend”. The rest is history.) I think that El Rey has the best cheese quesadilla in DC and I love the lively vibe at the restaurant.
El Riconcito – Ah, my favorite hidden gem in DC. Technically, El Riconcito is an El Salvadorian restaurant, but I included it in here because it’s one of the best cheap eats I’ve found in the city. A massive platter of enchiladas, beans, rice, and pico de gallo only sets you back $7.50. The space is super small but it’s worth it to wait for a seat, promise. The only thing I don’t like is they don’t offer free chips and salsa, but I can overlook that because of the low prices.
American Ice Co. – Okay, this is technically not a Mexican restaurant at all, but it has the best vegetarian nachos in the District so I’m putting it on here. Go for the nachos, but stay for the BBQ and craft beer.
Espita Mezcalria – I feel like a fraud because I’ve never actually had a full meal here -especially when I live literally two blocks from the spot – but the mezcal cocktails are fantastic and their chips and salsa are delicious! The fact that the interior is super Insta-worthy too doesn’t hurt!
Cactus Cantina – Sister restaurant to Lauriol Plaza, Cactus Cantina is massive and has tons of outdoor seating. I wish this spot was Metro accessible because I’d be there all the time! Get the spinach enchiladas – you’re welcome. (Before you eat, pop on up to Refine and get styled by my girl Tanya!)
Taqueria Nacional – I discovered this quaint taco spot this summer and I’m honestly pretty mad at myself for not knowing about it sooner. Located in an old postal building, the restaurant has a pretty cool interior (I might be biased, it’s a Streetsense design project from before my time) and a casual vibe. The taqueria serves up made-to-order meals from a counter, but they have ample seating, a great garage window, and a cute patio. The prices are extremely fair and they have a great daily happy hour!
El Centro – A concept from chef Richard Sandoval, El Centro whips up Mexican classics with an upscale twist. I’ve frequented the spot for happy hour and late night dancing, but I’ve also heard great things about their bottomless brunch! They also have a restaurant in Georgetown with a fab rooftop.
El Camino – Tucked away on Rhode Island Avenue next to Boundary Stone and Red Hen, this quirky spot serves up a mean margarita – I highly recommended grabbing before dinner drinks here if you’re waiting for a table at Red Hen!
El Chucho – if you’ve never had Mexican street corn you’re missing out and El Chucho is the spot to get it. The restaurant features a bar that’s half inside half outside, and has very reasonable prices on all of its drinks and food. Definitely worth the trek to Columbia Heights for this quirky eatery.
Oyamel – José Andrés’ restaurant is decked out in butterfly decor (aka extremely Instatrammable) and also offers an upscale twist on Mexican classics. It’s more of a small plates deal here, so I’d recommend it for happy hour or a date night
Rosa Mexicana – Usually, I avoid Chinatown like the plague, but Rosa Mexicana’s table side guac is a worth braving 7th street. This place is a little more upscale so it’s great for lunch or dinner with your parents before/after exploring DC’s museums.
Los Cuates – I actually do not know how I am still allowed to enter this restaurant because we have definitely abused their Coronitas multiple times after some blogging events, but I’m glad they haven’t turned us away yet! A Corotina is as dangerous as it sounds – a Corona dumped into a margarita – but they’re delicious. As long as they continue to serve me, I’ll keep going because the staff is amazing, the drinks are strong, and their food is perfect for soaking up all the tequila
Agua 301: Right on the waterfront in Yards Park, this spot is perfect for weekend brunching. At a blogger meet up last year, we spent about four hours hanging out at the brightly-colored spot sipping bottomless margaritas. The staff is very accommodating for large groups!
Uncle Julio’s – I grew up going to this Tex Mex joint (back then we called it Rio Grande) so it will always have a special place in my heart. Check out my full post on my Uncle Julio’s dining experience here!
Mexicali Blues – I recently went here for the first time, and while I can’t rave about their service, they have an excellent happy hour and their margs are pretty tasty. Bonus points that it has an outdoor patio where you can watch residents walk their pups (does that make me creepy?)
El Paso – My friend Sharlene and I started a pre-Bachelor viewing tradition with this place. You can’t go wrong with its inexpensive Mexican comfort food, unlimited chips and salsa, and boots of beer!
Gringos & Mariachis: Just a few blocks from the Streetsense headquarters, I’ve had my fair share of lunches here. I love their filling salads and they’ve got a great variety of chips and dip, as well as a very lively happy hour scene