Poca Madre founder Victor Albisu wants to transport D.C. diners to a plant-filled, sun-splashed Oaxacan paradise at his debut modern Mexican restaurant.
Penn Quarter’s upscale, desert-inspired companion to Albisu’s wildly popular street food chain, Taco Bamba, is scheduled to open on Tuesday, June 19. Unlike the artificial tree at the heart of Wharf newcomer Mi Vida, or the mosaic tile work that adorns the walls at neighboring chain Rosa Mexicano, Albisu has flooded his newest restaurant with lush greenery and natural light. The fully renovated space replaces the back of Albisu’s now-defunct Del Campo (777 Eye Street NW), which welcomed his dressed-down taqueria Taco Bamba up front soon after closing this year. Albisu is currently searching for a new home for South American-themed Del Campo.
While the plates that will be coming out of the kitchen are inspired by fare currently served in Mexico City (stay tuned for additional details about the opening menu), Poca Madre’s layout and design is inspired by another region entirely.
“This breezy hidden restaurant really reminds me more of an Oaxacan spot, whether it’s a rooftop or hidden alley — this has this kind of vibe to it,” Albisu says.
Its secretive entrance is wedged into a walkway between two adjoining office sites on Eye and K streets NW. Inside, customers will find a 68-seat main dining room with living vines creeping down from the ceiling. There’s geometric prints on the walls; photos of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo; sliding barn doors that seal off a semi-private dining room; and potted succulents planted at every table.
Albisu says he could attach other nature-filed Poca Madres to existing or future Taco Bamba locations know that he’s got this one down. “I let life take its natural course,” he says. The twin Penn Quarter restaurants, which share the same kitchen, will not allow diners to order food or drinks from the other. And Poca Madre’s lounge-y atmosphere and music selection will also be totally different than the scene at Taco Bamba.
“It won’t be in-your-face hip hop and heavy metal,” Albisu says. “We’ll give them a break with the aesthetics.”
Status: Projected to open at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 19. 777 Eye Street NW; website.
Scroll on to look around the new Poca Madre: