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A New Mexican Bar Opens Off U Street With $6 Happy Hour Margaritas

Bar Lorea slides into the former Diet Starts Monday space

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Bar Lorea opens on Tuesday, September 3.
Bar Lorea/official photo
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

The 14th Street NW corridor gets a boost today with the arrival of Bar Lorea, a Mexican bar selling guacamole, tacos, canned beers, and more than 20 cocktails.

The 2,200-square-foot newcomer (2005 14th Street NW) replaces failed cocktail/retail combo Diet Starts Monday, which closed at the end of 2018. The opening marks the D.C. return of Jeff Diaz, a Brooklyn native who helped open Johnny Pistolas in Adams Morgan in 2014. The available space was flagged by a friend and he jumped on board, deciding the area was in need of a neighborhood bar that caters to nearby residents all week, not just on weekends.

“What is missing here? Really good Mexican food,” he says (apparently forgetting about Tacos El Chilango at 12th and V Street).

Bartender Heriberto Casasanero, formerly of Copycat Co. and Little Havana, is stirring drinks alongside beverage director Matt Culbertson, who spent the past few years traveling after closing his family-friendly Mount Pleasant pizzeria, Radius, in 2016.

From 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays (and all day on Monday), a short list of $10 cocktails including margaritas and daquiris will run for $6. Some canned beers, like Cigar City Jai Alai IPA and Mama Little Yellow Pils, will be $4. A taco Tuesday special will include two hours of bottomless tacos and two drinks for $28.

Tacos include tahini-topped mushroom tacos (top).
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC

The opening lineup of nine tacos ($3.50 to $5) employ tortillas made with Masienda’s heirloom white olotillo corn from Oaxaca. Carnitas are simmered in pork fat and beer, and beef birria is stewed in ancho chile, loaded with cheese, and served alongside consomme for dipping. A trio of veggie options features sweet potato, mushrooms, and roasted cauliflower.

“There’s no shortcuts with this food,” he says. “We have very heavy prep days.”

A trio of caldero (stewing pot) dishes includes the Road to Adobo — a bowl of pork and bone-in dark chicken that’s slow cooked for three hours alongside coconut milk and lemon grass and served alongside rice and beans.

“We didn’t want to do a huge menu to maintain freshness — we don’t freeze any products,” Diaz says.

A potent, “Definitely Not a Painkiller” cocktail comes with a two-order limit because it’s filled with five rums, coconut cream, cinnamon, and pineapple.

A wall filled with  pictures of Mexican produce and Oaxacan farmers.
One wall is blanketed with pictures of Mexican produce and Oaxacan farmers.
Tierney Plumb/Eater D.C.
A table and salamander logo at Bar Lorea
Bar Lorea’s salamander mascot appears throughout the space.
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC
Bar Lorea’s spin on an Old Fashioned subs in tequila and mezcal for bourbon.
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC

The rectangular-shaped space includes a dining area in the front and a bar in the back. Behind the bar, oversized colorful lettering spells out the cocktail menu. A short “designated drivers” section includes horchata and strawberry-cucumber limeade. Bar Lorea hopes to eventually grow into its basement space.

“If things go right we plan to make it into a nice lounge area for private events,” Diaz says. Also look for brunch joining the mix this fall.

Bar Lorea opens daily at 4 p.m. and closes at midnight Sunday to Wednesday, 2 a.m. on Thursday, and 3 a.m. on weekends. Dinner is served until 11 p.m., then the focus switches to drinks.

Starters include ceviche and a exposed bowl of esquites, with epazote and chile de arbol, topped with crema, queso fresco, and guajillo salsa.
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC
The “Naked and Famous” cocktail with mezcal, yellow chartreuse, Aperol, and lime juice.