401 7th Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20004
Chef Jose Andres revolutionized capital cuisine with a series of small-plate restaurants (often known by their Spanish term, tapas) from various regions of the world. This is his Mexican outpost, where succulent ceviches of scallop with key lime and marlin-coriander share the stage with inventive tacos; try the pork belly or, if you’re feeling adventurous, the crunchy grasshoppers flash-fried in tequila. The gorgeous decor and pricey margaritas, topped with a fluffy “salt air” foam, may seem too classy for some, but the portions are a surprising value for the price. Hours: Sunday and Monday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight.
750 E Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20004
The eats are as much Tex as Mex at this love letter to the Lone Star State, but the quality of its ingredients and appeal of its presentations can’t be denied. The pork tacos, redolent of orange juice and garlic, and the hearty East Austin nachos are local favorites. At brunch, try the city’s best huevos rancheros or the migas, an outsize helping of eggs scrambled with crunchy tortilla strips and chiles. Another bonus: Kids eat for free on Tuesdays. Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
1727 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Va. 22201
Family-run is the watchword at this funky spot in the center of Northern Virginia’s Rosslyn neighborhood, one Metro stop away from D.C. The rich lamb tacos and pungent, sweet-spicy mole sauce speak to a long history of stove top secrets passed down from previous generations, while the top-notch service speaks to the joy its owners take in their craft. Save room for a dessert of honey-puffed sopapilla bread or, if sweets aren’t your thing, the monstrous “El Cachudo” burrito. If you can finish it, the whole plate is on the house. Hours: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.
1835 18th Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
“Lauriol,” as D.C. residents like to call it, is the Jennifer Aniston of local Mexican ― loved by many, maligned as too bland by a few, but talked about by everyone. Its sprawling rooftop dining area is packed with patrons from morning to closing time, and its most popular dishes (such as the spicy diablo shrimp or the Peruvian-influenced lomo saltado) are undeniably memorable. You’d be forgiven, though, for forgetting a few details if you have more than one of the bar’s famously strong margaritas … Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight.