Top Chef alum turned D.C. restaurateur Spike Mendelsohn has transformed the dimly lit, darkly stained wood-sporting steak frites place he had on Capitol Hill into a pastel-colored playground for taco lovers.
Santa Rosa Taqueria, which is scheduled to open Friday morning, replaces Bearnaise, the not-quite-four-year-old, meat-and-potatoes spot Mendelsohn shut down earlier this year. By jettisoning Bearnaise, Mendelsohn has switched to an entirely fast-casual footing, adding the new taqueria to a portfolio that includes neighboring gourmet burger maker Good Stuff Eatery and pie-slinging We, The Pizza.
Micheline Mendelsohn, Spike’s sister and deputy CEO of family-run Sunnyside Restaurant Group, said Le Cirque alum and Good Stuff Eatery opening chef Brian Lacayo is in charge of the kitchen at Santa Rosa Taqueria.
The menu features tamales ($5; meat or vegetarian), nachos ($8 for the cheese-and guacamole-covered “supreme” version; $10 to get “sloppy” with seasoned ground beef and diced tomatoes), build-your-own protein bowls — $10 for black beans, yellow rice, pico de gallo, roasted corn, slaw, and choice of meat; $2 extra puts fried shrimp in play — and the titular tacos.
The tacos, wrapped in either corn or flour tortillas, can be filled with nearly a dozen proteins including grilled chicken, roasted mushrooms, zesty chorizo, and marinated pork. Micheline billed the al pastor (“It’s got fresh grilled pineapple,” she said) and barbacoa (“The seasoning on that is amazing”) as personal favorites.
Refreshments include two fruit drinks (blood orange, and prickly pear-pineapple aguas frescas), as well as a quartet of margaritas — two on tap (classic, grapefruit); the others will rotate seasonally — designed by drink maven Gina Chersevani.
The restaurant is expected to operate from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m, Monday through Saturday.
Status: Opening June 30 at 11 a.m. 315 Pennsylvania Avenue SE; website.