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José Andrés’ Slimmed Down Mexican Spinoff Is Here

Tacos, tortas, and mole fries at fast-casual Butterfly are headed to D.C. United’s new stadium

Assorted tacos at Butterfly.
Rey Lopez/Under a Bushel Photography

Butterfly, the scaled down and sped up version of José Andrés’ long-standing Mexican restaurant Oyamel, is the next dining spinoff at Penn Quarter’s experimental Think Food Lab.

While some of the menu items may sound the same, Thinkfoodgroup [TFG] executive chef Joe Raffa says Butterfly is specifically designed to cater to food fans on the go.

“We’re not trying to replicate Oyamel. The idea was to go fun Mexican,” Raffa says. Both the refined Pepe sandwich shop TFG tested last summer and evolving Butterfly taqueria will each get stalls inside Audi Field; Andrés has several slots to fill at Major League Soccer club D.C. United’s new home, which is scheduled to debut this July. “We want to elevate the concession experience,” says COO Eric Martino.

As part of the streamlining process team TFG created a menu featuring five tacos (three for $10), four torta sandwiches ($11 each), two salads ($6 each), a handful of sides ($4-$6), and a pair of sweets ($3 each). While many of the same ingredients used at Oyamel have also migrated to Butterfly — including featured meats, and bolillo bread from Panorama Bakery in Maryland — time-savers such as using a ready-made mole sauce and farming out dessert duty to local producers Dog Tag Bakery and Pleasant Pops have been adopted to maximize productivity.

“This is round 1. We’re going to keep adapting as we go,” Raffa says of the open-ended engagement. Meanwhile, a brick-and-mortar Pepe is projected to debut this fall in Florida, taking up residence alongside the Jaleo Andrés is installing at Walt Disney World Resort.

Butterfly is projected to operate from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Status: Scheduled to open at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 2. 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW; website.

Scroll down to view some of the featured offerings on Butterfly’s opening menu:

Tacos: Butterfly features tortillas filled with barbecue pork, charred chicken thighs, shredded beef, meaty trumpet mushrooms, or seared pork belly. Accompaniments include pickled onions, guacamole, and serrano salsa.

The milanesa torta at Butterfly.
Rey Lopez/Under a Bushel Photography

Tortas: Butterfly’s sandwiches are filled with fried chicken, marinated trumpet mushrooms, grilled shrimp (bolstered by zesty fresno chiles), or pork belly.

The shrimp torta at Butterfly.
Rey Lopez/Under a Bushel Photography

That familiar taste in the mushroom torta? It’s Maggi seasoning. “It’s in every Mexican pantry, so the flavor belongs,” Raffa says of the umami enhancer.

The mixed salad at Butterfly.
Rey Lopez/Under a Bushel Photography

Salads: There’s a Caesar-style salad here, as well as a well composed house salad. The latter features watercress, chopped jicama, ripe avocado, cucumber, pumpkin seeds, and chile-lime vinaigrette. Customers can also add shrimp or chicken.

The mole-covered French fries and fresh fruit cup at Butterfly.
Rey Lopez/Under a Bushel Photography

Sides: The most direct translation from the Oyamel menu is Butterfly’s papas al mole which features crisp French fries drizzled with smoky, peppery mole sauce and crumbled cheese. There’s also freshly fried tortilla chips flanked by either creamy guacamole or spicy chipotle salsa. One new addition: a fruit cup featuring spears of juicy watermelon, pineapple, and jicama sprinkled with aleppo pepper, lime, and salt.

Oyamel Cocina Mexicana

401 7th Street Northwest, , DC 20004 (202) 628-1005 Visit Website