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The Early Word on Clarendon's Fuego Cocina y Tequileria

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Photo: R. Lopez

It's been two weeks since Fuego Cocina y Tequileria opened its doors in Clarendon's newly cursed former Harry's Tap Room space. This latest project from the Passion Food Hospitality group — also behind District Commons, DC Coast and more — swore to bring a more authentic version of Mexican cuisine to a neighborhood (and city) in which it lacked. So how did they do? Here now, a look at what the early diners are saying about Fuego's spicy Mexican cuisine and formidable tequila collection.

The Good News: The City Paper's Jessica Sidman makes a bold declaration: "I think Fuego Cocina may be one of the better new hip-Mex spots to have recently opened." [Twitter]

The Pre-Opening News: An Eater commenter got in before the restaurant even opened and reports in with some good news: "We went to a pre-opening reception this past Saturday night. The place looks great with a ton of energy. Food was fantastic. Really like the open kitchen upstairs." [Eater Comments]

The Hot News: The Washington Post's Tim Carman takes a behind the scenes tour and offers a bunch of reasons why Fuego is going to be hot, notably: "Precious few taquerias in the D.C. area make their own tortillas, which is a small-but-serious offense against these hand-held bites. Even my beloved Taqueria La Placita in Hyattsville doesn't make its own. Fuego has employees dedicated to doing nothing but making tortillas. That sound you just heard? My heart skipping a beat." [WaPo]

The Over-the-Top Yelp Slam: Yelper Kristen R. admits that she didn't try any of the food at Fuego, but gives it a 2-star slam based on the decor and the bar: "Fuego is supposed to be a Mexican kitchen and tequileria but it has the decor of a upscale TGI Fridays. I mean.. put some wood in there, change it up from the loser restaurants that went out of business. Mexican restaurants do not exactly have top dollar design and furniture... that's what makes it authentic. You can tell a white person company is in charge. Just another cookie cutter restaurant like passion fish. The bar sucks. I'm sorry... i don't want some fu fu cocktail. I want tequila shots served traditionally like i'm at a real mexican restaurant. Their tequila selection is good but that's about it. The bar area is pathetic." [Yelp]

The Spicy News: While some fellow Yelpers complained about "unmanageably spicy" heat levels, Suzy D. tried the ghost pepper sauce and reports back: "Come on people, don't you know what FUEGO means?? A lil' heat in the salsas shouldn't come as a surprise. I didn't find either of the salsas that were presented with chips upon sitting down spicy at all. ... I inquired about the ghost pepper sauce and our waiter's eyes perked up. ... It consisted of thinly sliced onion that'd been semi-pickled with the ghost peppers, with some very thinly sliced peppers themselves. Even the onion pieces were hot, but since it wasn't that much of the actual pepper, even I could handle just left a nice heat on my palate while adding to the flavor of the food, not stripping away the taste and leaving nothing but spiciness. Highly recommend." [Yelp]

The Great News: A Don Rockwell commenter also got into a pre-opening event, writing: "The Chorizo on the Chorizo tacos was great and flavorful. I wasn't able to try the Ceviche, but heard it was great. Dessert wise there was this Flan passed around that was really good, but I'm not sure if it will always be on the menu. Overall all the Tacos I tried were good but the Chorizo stood out. There was also Lengua, Braised Pork and Fish." [Don Rockwell]

The Taco News: The Hungry Lobbyist raves about a recent visit, even if it meant a trip to Virginia, writing: "They offer a wide variety of tacos on housemade corn tortillas paired with three sauces (smooth and creamy avocado based sauce, a spicy roasted habenero sauce, and a traditional smoked red sauce), and garnished with chopped white onions with cilantro – very traditional. Options include lengua (beef tongue), al pastor (pork), chicken, short-rib, fish, shrimp, chorizo and a vegetarian. We opted for Birria, Jalisco style slow roasted goat (pictured below). The goat was seasoned lightly and was extremely tender. If you like the earthy taste of lamb, you'll love goat. The bonus was the strip of crispy goat skin that was on top of each taco. Coming with two per order, they were inhaled. Some of the best, most authentic tacos I have had outside of Mexico." [THL]

The Great Tequila News: To no great surprise, a blog named Boobs Bacon Bourbon has some opinions on the vaunted tequila selection: "It's a Mexican restaurant, obviously the focus is on tequila, but I've never seen such an extensive list in my life! They have over 100 tequilas! You can request flights of tequila for $13. Tequila tequila tequila EVERYWHERE. Margaritas range from $9-10 dollars. My date and I sampled four different types of margaritas and every single one of them was absolutely amazing. The server, Chris, was extremely helpful and chose drinks for us based on whether we wanted spicy, sweet or tart. They used to have a skinny margarita on the menu (pictured above) which they've since taken off because they obviously hate me. However, they made me one by request, and it was everything I'd hoped it would be. Five stars for the boozy portion of the evening." [BBB]

Fuego Cocina y Tequileria

2800 Clarendon Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22201 571 970 2180

Fuego Cocina y Tequileria

2800 Clarendon Boulevard, Arlington, VA