R&R Tacqueria, 7894 Washington Blvd. (Rt.1); 410-799-0001, Elkridge, Maryland, 13 minutes north of the 495/95 intersection, look for the Shell sign. There is now also a branch in the mall, on Rt.95 to Baltimore, where the IKEA is.
This tacqueria is in a gas station, with two small counters and three chairs to sit on. It is the best huarache I have eaten, ever, including in Mexico. It is the best chile relleno I've had in the United States, ever. They serve among the best Mexican soups I have had, ever, and I have been to Mexico almost twenty times. I recommend the tacos al pastor as well. At first Yana and Natasha were skeptics ("Sometimes you exaggerate about food") but now they are converts and the takeaways have vanished. They even sell Mexican Coca-Cola and by the way the place is quite clean and nice, albeit cramped.
The highly intelligent proprietor is a former cargo pilot from Mexico City and speaks excellent English. The restaurant is called R&R after the names of his two sons.
For over twenty years I have sought such a place in the Washington, D.C. area and now I have one. For over twenty years people have been asking me how can they scratch this itch and now I have an answer. (The version of this post to appear on tylercowensethnicdiningguide.com will have photos of the food.)
Via Jodi Ettenberg, The Wall Street Journal reports on gas station tacos.
Zengo DC, 781 7th St., NW, www.modernmexican.com.
Richard Sandoval and Placido Domingo own this place. Modern Mexican mixed in with Pan-Asian, once one of the best places in town but now in steady decline. The look is very stylish, and reminds the visitor of Manhattan or Mexico City. A hip crowd. The hamachi is good, also get the empanadas; don’t say “I don’t like empanadas, they are dull, crusty things.” Swallow each arepa in a single bite.
Costa Alegre Restaurant, 5815 A Greenbelt Rd, College Park, 301-474-2278
I ate here with Jane Galt, who also liked it. Excellent tacos, and get the barbacoa and the beef cheeks, it is a good sign that they serve it. The guacamole was only average but I liked the place, very friendly and good atmosphere.
El Mariachi, 765C Rockville Pike, by Wootton Parkway, Rockville, 301-738-7177
Many (not all) people love this place, and it is usually crowded. I have yet to go.
El Tapatio, 4309 Kenilworth Ave., Bladensburg, 301-403-8882, open 10 to 10 every day, don’t you love those hours?
This is a real Mexican place, treasure the thought. In LA or Houston this restaurant would be only average, but that is still great in absolute terms. Get the goat (“birria del chivo”). The best chile relleno around. Very good tacos. A lifesaver, despite its inconvenient location. It’s right where the old “Cielito Lindo” used to be.
La Flor de Puebla Bakery V, 6300 Kenilworth Ave., Riverdale, 301-699-8657
A real Mexican bakery, lovely stuff. I don’t usually cover bakeries, but they also sell chile tamales for a dollar a piece. Worth it every time, stop in if you are in the neighborhood.
La Sirenita, 4911 Edmonston Rd., just a bit off Kenilworth Ave., Hyattsville, 301-864-0188.
The best chile relleno around, and also the best beans. Excellent posole. I have yet to try the fried quail. The waitress recommends the “stripe soup.” They get an A+ for atmosphere, recommended.
Taco Rico, 4811 Edmonston Rd., Hyattsville, 301-779-8001
Tacos for $2.00 a piece, including tongue and cheef, cueritos and carnitas. Huaraches of many different kinds. I have yet to eat here, but I can’t wait. In a friendly Mexican neighborhood.
Tacqueria Tres Reyes, 5403 Kenilworth Ave., Riverdale, 301-779-6060
On weekends they open at eight in the morning, as a good Mexican place should. Fully authentic, the shrimp soup is wonderful. Huaraches are tasty too. Superb for atmosphere and people watching, even when the jukebox is a bit too loud. Recommended.
Tia Queta, 4839 Del Ray Avenue, Bethesda, 301-654-4443
I am told they have moles and real Mexican food, I am skeptical but will go to find out.
Blanca's, 418 S. Washington St., Falls Church, Rt.29, 703-538-2466
Actually an El Salvadorean restaurant, but they also have excellent Mexican food, the best in the area outside of Cielito Lindo in Bladensburg. Get the bean burrito. Don't go when you are in a hurry, however. Any of the non-Mexican Latin places that try to make quasi-Mexican food will beat the pathetic American attempts at Mexican food found in this area.
El Charrito Caminante, 2710-A North Washington Blvd., Arlington, 703-351-1177
Looks, smells, and feels like a real taqueria. The goat tacos are first-rate, probably the best Mexican dish you can get in Virginia. Next in line are the loroco pupusas, but many of the dishes here are no better than ordinary, noting that “ordinary” ain’t so bad. N.B.: there is nowhere to sit inside, this place is mostly take-out. I also get the passion fruit juice to drink.
La Sandia, Tysons Corner Center, Level 1, by Barnes and Noble, 703-893-2222, www.modernmexican.com
A Rick Sandoval place, it opened in May of 2008. I went during the first week and thought it was the best Mexican place around. It’s traditional Mexican rather than fusion but genuine and with high quality ingredients. The tortillas were excellent as is the guacamole and the queso fundido; make sure you use the sauce on the latter, and in a tortilla. I liked the chile relleno, the skirt steak tacos, and especially the carnitas. The chicken tamale was disappointing. The prices are entirely reasonable and in fact cheaper than the other restaurants in that lower level Tysons area. But alas Sandoval places don’t stay great for long, so now it is only “pretty good.” Every now and then it shows some flashes of the former consistency.