NYC’s popular Mexican chain Tacombi touches down in the D.C. area next week, introducing an additional metropolis to its beloved beer-battered fish tacos, homemade tortillas, and colorful line of agua frescas.
Tacombi’s first foray outside of New York opens on Wednesday, December 8, in the booming Arlington neighborhood that keeps adding exciting dining options ahead of Amazon HQ2’s arrival (1550 Crystal Drive). Two more Tacombi locations are already en route to 14th Street NW and Bethesda, CEO and founder Dario Wolos tells Eater.
What started 16 years ago as a fledgling taco stand on the sandy beaches of Playa del Carmen is now a household name in New York, where there’s 11 Tacombi locations scattered across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. The same scratch corn and flour tortillas made for its NYC restaurants will also appear on National Landing’s menu out of the gate.
“We’ll ship daily to D.C. until we have enough local volume [to make them here],” he says.
Its doughy flour tortillas are made with avocado oil, while corn tortillas rely on nixtamalized corn vs. milled masa. They’re also packaged and sold online and in NYC grocers under the Vista Hermosa brand name. Tacombi also produces its own line of natural sodas and bottled aguas frescas, sold under the Lupita moniker.
The brand’s humble origins on the Yucatán coast date back to 2006, when Wolos first sold his tacos out of a converted VW bus, or “combi” (hence the name Tacombi). Its Baja recipe for beer-battered Alaskan cod has remained unchanged since day one and continues to be a top seller in NYC, he says.
The Monterrey-born founder moved to Playa del Carmen during its hospitality growth spurt, when employees from all over Mexico flocked to the resort town for work.
“I really had access to the people who were executing regional traditions all in one place,” he says.
Coincidentally, the last pandemic caused the brand to relocate to the states in 2010.
“The swine flu shut down the region and almost overnight I saw all tourism shrink. We wanted to share what we were doing outside of Mexico,” he says.
Some regional specialities were tinkered over time to taste as spot-on as possible. Tacombi’s al pastor (roasted pork) is “a nice thin cut, the way you see in Mexico City,” he says. Find the perfected protein in tacos, quesadillas, and burritos.
A curved facade allows room for an indoor indoor/outdoor bar counter, where patrons can wash down tacos with margaritas by the glass or pitcher, cans of ice cold Monopolio beer, mezcal mules, and shots of mezcal served the Mexican way: with an orange and chile salt.
“Team members feel and live the connection to Mexico based on how we do things,” he says.
Like its NYC counterparts, the design at National Landing resembles a worn-in taqueria out of the 1970s, with local design firm //3877 behind the effort. The new 2,900-square-foot restaurant features concrete tiles made in Mexico to go along with bright mosaic artwork and hand-painted signage spelling out the menu in Spanish.