The couple that owns Taqueria Habanero is opening a new bar and restaurant focusing on agave spirits and regional Mexican cooking just a few blocks south of the essential stop in Columbia Heights that draws lines out the door for shrimp tacos, chicken enchiladas, and its trademark habanero salsa.
Dio Montero and Mirna Alvarado are partnering with Israel Montero, the chef-owners’ nephew who helped open Taqueria Habanero as a bartender in 2014, to open Tequila y Mezcal at 3475 14th Street NW sometime in the next few weeks.
“Tequila y Mezcal won’t be a taqueria,” Alvarado tells Eater in Spanish. “It’s going to be a small restaurant where we want to make different dishes from different parts of Mexico.”
The space, conceived by A&I Design and architect Clark Jun, will accommodate about 40 people, roughly the same as Taqueria Habanero.
While Taqueria Habanero showcases styles pulled from Montero’s hometown of Puebla, Mexico, Tequila y Mezcal will sell dishes that draw from Oaxaca, Mexico City, and Yucatán Peninsula. The menu is still in development, but Alvarado says there will be about eight appetizers, including tacos filled with octopus, salmon, hanger steak, and vegetarian options.
A smoking molcajete, a stone bowl that’s filled with a bounty of grilled meats, vegetables, and salsas before being heated over fire, will make an appearance, too. That dish has undergone a test run at the second Taqueria Habanero, which the owners opened this past December in College Park, Maryland.
Israel Montero, who says he’s also worked at Oyamel, Vinoteca, and now-closed Proof, has created 12 cocktails that will feature the venue’s namesake ingredients as well as aguardiente, bourbon, and rum from Veracruz. One cocktail blends tequila with strawberry-habanero syrup and frothy egg whites. Mezcal will make an appearance in Negronis, and hot peppers will also be infused into spirits in-house.
The original name for the venue was Dio’s Cantina, a nod to the chef who’s happiest when he has a glass of mezcal and a bowl of chapulines in front of him. But Alvarado thought cantina might define the new place as just a bar, and the owners have much more in store.