Guapo’s, the family-run chain of Tex-Mex restaurants that’s kept local diners in all the sizzling fajitas they can eat, is stepping things up at its next location by bringing in trained chefs for the first time in its nearly 30 year history.
Raul Rincon, one of the co-owners of the restaurant group that started in Tenleytown and has since spread to Maryland and Virginia, says the casual eateries have typically trained cooking staff from within. “We create our own chefs,”’ he says of the way things have been at the neighborhood standbys. But now that the family is heading to the Georgetown waterfront — ”A dream that was unreachable,” Rincon says of his late father’s goal — the owners have decided to invest in seasoned culinary professionals that can help modernize some of the menu offerings.
Sergio Galindo and Nathan Breedlove will be co-executive chefs of the new outpost moving into the space formerly occupied by seasonal drinking spot Orange Anchor (3050 K Street NW). The Georgetown restaurant is currently projected to open this August.
Galindo has done some cooking in New York restaurants, while Breedlove is an alum of José Andrés’ Thinkfoodgroup family of restaurants as well as 14th Street destination Le Diplomate. Both chefs have already begun fine-tuning things at existing Guapo’s properties, rolling out a ceviche bar at the Fairfax location that is expected to become a fixture in Georgetown. They are also building on the Latin American dishes the family has long served (lomo saltado, roast pork with plantains) for a “chef’s corner” of the menu that will showcase alternatives to the tacos, burritos, and other Tex-Mex favorites that dominate the menu. The duo is also developing new tortas, additional sauces, and modified versions of Guapo’s greatest hits.
“It will be the same food but with a new life,” Rincon says of the ongoing changes.
The latest addition to the team is Elissa Reyna, a pastry chef who hails from Mexico. She is moving past the cornflake-crusted fried ice cream and tres leches cake currently served at Guapo’s, developing more elegant sweets such as meringues laced with basil.
A new bar menu is also in the works. Rincon says he’s focusing on adding more mezcal-fueled drinks. There’s also a Mexican-style riff on a gin and tonic coming, as well as other cocktails “for people who might not want to drink tequila.”
One thing that won’t change: the house margarita his father developed decades ago at his first D.C. restaurant, Southeast standby La Lomita.