There’s a New Crop of Mexican Restaurants in Town. Here’s How They Stack Up.

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Plus, what to order on your next visit.

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Chili Time: Build your own sopes at the new Amparo Fondita. Photograph by Rey Lopez.

A wave of Mexican restaurants has recently hit the area. Some are high-profile, some are low-key, but all offer handmade tortillas and tasty margaritas. Here’s how they stack up.

El Presidente

location_on 1255 Union St., NE

Fried mahi-mahi tacos with chipotle rémoulade. Photograph by Birch Thomas.

Location: Union Market area.

Who’s behind it: Stephen Starr, the powerhouse restaurateur behind Le Diplomate and St. Anselm.

Cuisine style: Ode to Mexico City, with a big raw bar.

Vibe: Rainforest Cafe, but hip—with some extra red-curtain drama in the back dining room.

The marg: A spicy caramelized-­pineapple frozen margarita.

Eat this: New Haven–pizza-inspired white-clam tlayuda; carne asada tacos on a mini tabletop grill; fried mahi-mahi tacos; grand seafood tower with dry ice.

Chips-and-guac price: $14.

The name: A nod to the White House (and to Le Diplomate).

Ometeo

location_on 1640 Capital One Dr., Tysons

Lobster tostadas with pecan salsa macha. Photograph by An-Phuong Ly.

Location: Capital One Center.

Who’s behind it: Long Shot Hospitality—the restaurant group behind Dauphine’s in downtown DC and a trio of Salt Line restaurants—and Texas-based Top Chef winner Gabe Erales.

Cuisine style: Elevated Tex-Mex, heavy on the seafood.

Vibe: Texas antiques fair goes chic, with three bars and an upscale upstairs lounge.

The marg: Cadillac margarita with a double shot of Casamigos tequila and salted gold Corona foam.

Eat this: Lobster tostadas; New England–stuffie-inspired clam-and-chorizo-verde tamales.

Chips-and-guac price: $14.

The name: From the Nahuatl words for “two gods,” referring to Texas and Mexico.

Vera

location_on 2002 Fenwick St., NE

Churros with pistachio sugar, caramel, and chocolate. Photograph courtesy of Vera.

Location: Ivy City.

Who’s behind it: Nayef Issa—a partner in Dupont’s Residents Café who also hosts music pop-ups around DC—and restaurant investor Nour Chaaban.

Cuisine style: Lebanese-Mexican crossover.

Vibe: Two-level desert oasis with a DJ booth in the cactus-lined dining room upstairs.

The marg: “Vamos Habibi,” incorporating cactus and basil with a spritz of the anise-flavored spirit arak.

Eat this: Fattoush tostada; labneh oyster ceviche; shrimp fritters; lamb loin with birria adobo sauce and garbanzo purée.

Chips-and-guac price: $22 (with crab).

The name: Short for the Mexican port city of Veracruz, which welcomed Middle Eastern immigrants more than a century ago.

Amparo Fondita

location_on 2002 P St., NW

Crispy fish tacos with epazote crema. Photograph by Rey Lopez.

Location: Dupont Circle.

Who’s behind it: Chef and Mexico native Christian Irabién, an alum of Oyamel who previously ran Muchas Gracias.

Cuisine style: Cheffy but unfussy, with a seafood-centric all-day menu and market.

Vibe: Minimalist and intimate.

The marg: Made with Espolòn Tequila and a salt rim of ground grasshoppers.

Try this: Fresh fruit with spicy Concord-­grape/tamarind chamoy; build-your-own sopesitos with fish chorizo and Rancho Gordon midnight beans; family-style lamb barbacoa platter.

Chips-and-guac price: N/A.

The name: Amparo means “shelter”—but it’s also the name of Irabién’s mother and his grandmother.

Pascual (opening soon)

location_on 732 Maryland Ave., NE

Al pastor mussels with charred pineapple. Photograph by Isabel Coss.

Location: Capitol Hill.

Who’s behind it: Lutèce chefs Matt Conroy and Isabel Coss along with the Popal Group, which also owns the Afghan restaurant Lapis.

Cuisine style: Modern and vegetable-­centric, with a wood-fired grill and panadería.

Vibe: Bright, cozy, handmade.

The marg: Satsuma-mandarin or yuzu-lemon.

Eat this: Mexican pastries; octopus tetelas; squash tlayudas; horchata soft-serve.

Chips-and-guac price: $17.

The name: It refers to the patron saint of cooks.

This article appears in the January 2024 issue of Washingtonian.

Jessica Sidman

Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.

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