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Contemporary Mexican Place Urbano 116 Is Expanding, But Pivoting to Tex-Mex

The year-old restaurant in Old Town is swapping mole for sizzling fajitas

The dining room at Urbano 116
Urbano 116 will close for a week this month to implement menu and style changes.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

After celebrating a year of business and weathering a rough early review, Old Town Mexican restaurant Urbano 116 is preparing to open a second location in Northern Virginia.

Parent company Common Plate Hospitality just signed a deal to move into the Mosaic District development in Fairfax (2985 District Avenue) this summer. The high-profile space recently housed raw bar and restaurant Brine, which called it quits last month after a five-year run. The new location marks the first outside of Old Town for the hospitality group, which also runs Mason Social and Augie’s Mussel House and Beer Garden.

At the same time Urbano is expanding, its flagship (116 King Street) is undergoing a major menu overhaul that will veer away from Oaxacan chef Alam Méndez Florián’s traditional Mexican dishes in favor of ubiquitous Tex-Mex plates. Instead of time-intensive moles and tostadas, Urbano will focus on burritos, taco salads, enchiladas, chimichangas, and sizzling fajita platters.

There will still be lots of tacos to choose from, but barbacoa and beef tongue are out. Tortillas made on-site from Mexican heirloom corn will remain a staple of the restaurant.

A representative for the restaurant says Méndez Florián, who owns acclaimed Pasillo de Humo in Mexico City and splits his time in two countries, is moving into a consulting capacity and planning to spend more time back home. The company line is that the restaurant’s size (160 seats) made it tough to serve the type of food Méndez Florián originally conceived. A smaller location down the road could reprise Méndez Florián’s contemporary Mexican style.

The rebooted menu, however, will make the move to Fairfax.

Urbano 116 will temporarily close on Monday, February 24, and plans to reopen on Saturday, February 29, with the new menu and a light refresh of its lucha libre design.

When it opened in a prime corridor for foot traffic in January 2019, Urbano 116 put Méndez Florián’s face up front, publicizing a story about how co-owner Chad Sparrow recruited the chef to take a job in D.C. after encountering next-level tortillas at Pasillo de Humo. Soon after, Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema wrote that the restaurant didn’t meet the hype, dinging it with a one-star review that called out watery salsa, “airport lounge” level margaritas, and an experience that was ultimately “inconsistent and frustrating.”

Here’s a look at the rebooted menu:

Urbano 116

116 King Street, , VA 22314 (571) 970-5148 Visit Website