clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
A fried oyster taco with red cabbage and chipotle aioli from Anafre
A fried oyster taco with red cabbage and chipotle aioli from Anafre.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Where to Find Outstanding Mexican Food Around D.C.

A steadily rising Mexican restaurant scene offers a bounty of tacos, tortas, enchiladas, moles, and more

View as Map
A fried oyster taco with red cabbage and chipotle aioli from Anafre.
| Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

For all its hype as an international city, D.C. has never been labeled as a bastion of traditional Mexican food. The District is better known for its robust Salvadoran population, which has produced a legacy of Sal-Mex spots. Many immigrant communities have flocked to more affordable rents in areas such as Falls Church, Virginia, or Prince George’s County, Maryland, where places like Taqueria La Placita and Taqueria El Mexicano have become pillars of the community. In the past 15 years or so, though, the Mexican food scene in D.C. has undergone a major come-up.

Just look to the stretch of 14th Street NW between Columbia Heights and Petworth, where Taqueria Habanero, Mezcalero, and Anafre offer destination-worthy tacos, enchiladas, and campechana on the same block, with mole-ladling DC Corazon is just a few steps away. Higher-end venues like Maiz64, DLeña, Chicatana, Destino, and newcomer Cinco Soles showcase superior Mexican fare with all sorts of modern interpretations in the mix.

This map focuses on Mexican restaurants that showcase a well-rounded variety of staples, including tortas, tostadas, tlayudas, molletes, chilaquiles, chile relleno, tres leches cake, and more. With a few exceptions, it’s not a group that includes Sal-Mex, Tex-Mex, or counters and trucks that specialize solely in tacos. D.C. welcomes a pair of contemporary Mexican restaurants this fall, with anticipated arrivals from chef Christian Irabién’s Amapro Fondita in Dupont and Pascual on Capitol Hill from Lutèce chefs Matt Conroy and Isabel Coss.

Read More
Eater maps are curated by editors and aim to reflect a diversity of neighborhoods, cuisines, and prices. Learn more about our editorial process.

La Vina Mexican Grill 

Copy Link

This unassuming strip mall spot serves several platters that promise days worth of leftovers. The Sinaloa platter comes with a chicken tamale, a chicken enchilada, and a cheese-stuffed chile relleno, all complemented by pinto beans, Mexican rice, sour cream, and pico de gallo. Don’t skip dessert, especially the dense and decadent homemade tres leches cake topped with whipped cream.

Taqueria El Mexicano

Copy Link

Taqueria is in the title, but this strip mall spot, tucked just inside the Beltway in Adelphi, Maryland, offers a full-on fonda experience. A small dining room with tables covered in green-and-white checkered cloth is the stage for a midnight-black mole Poblano that’s captured the attention of critics for years. Simpler pleasures like rich, creamy refried beans stand out, too. Proprietors Bernardo and Clara Vargas also own Panaderia El Mexicano, the bakery in the same lot.

Taqueria El Mexicano for the $20 Diner for Feb. 12 issue of Weekend.
Tacos queritos and tamales at Taqueria El Mexicano
Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Cielo Rojo Restaurant

Copy Link

David Perez and Carolina McCandless, the owners of this tidy cocina in Takoma Park, first met while working together at an organic vegetarian Mexican restaurant in San Francisco, so it stands to reason they put a a premium on ingredients. Perez leads the kitchen, grinding masa from heirloom Mexican corn and braising slightly sweet carnitas with Negra Modelo and oranges. Crunchy pepitas add a pleasantly surprising crunch to quesadillas that can be ordered with vegan cashew cheese. Weekend brunch brings an opportunity to sample masa waffles served sweet, with fruit, mezcal mascarpone, and maple syrup, or savory, with smoked ham, Oaxacan cheese, queso fresco, and jalapeno vinaigrette. The restaurant is relocating within the neighborhood some time this summer, per an employee, and the team will soon replace the old Cielo Rojo space with a San Francisco-style San Pancho Burritos.

Quesadillas from Cielo Rojo
Quesadillas from Cielo Rojo
The Washington Post via Getty Images

Muchas Gracias

Copy Link

In the early days of the pandemic, chef Christian Irabién introduced Muchas Gracias as a pop-up that helps raise funds for immigrant communities and restaurant workers in need. Irabién is no longer involved as he focuses on other projects, but the humble takeout-turned-restaurant continues to send out supple flour tortillas for quesadillas and burritos that can satisfy the abundance of young families in the Chevy Chase neighborhood. A bustling weekend brunch brings chilaquiles and huevos rancheros to the table.

A smoked trout tostada full of flowers and radishes from Muchas Gracias
A smoked trout tostada full of flowers and radishes from Muchas Gracias
Gabe Hiatt/Eater D.C.

Taqueria La Placita

Copy Link

The pictographic menu at La Placita boasts 20 different tacos, offering specialties and off-cuts such as cecina (salty dried beef), oreja (pig ear), and trompa — labeled in English as pig lip but technically part of the snout — that’s braised until it yields a rich texture not all that different from the fat cap of a ribeye steak. Even late in the afternoon on a weekday, there’s a line for the ordering counter at the expansive taqueria covered in knickknacks that appears to be the epicenter of the “Little Mexico” along Edmonston Road in Hyattsville. Visit La Flor de Puebla bakery next-door for a slice of tres leches cake.

Weekend Cover - Tacos - Taqueria La Placita
A plate of tacos from Taqueria La Placita
Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

DC Corazon

Copy Link

DC Corazon looks like it came out of a Lite Brite box. Owner Josefina Darui painted the facade fuscia, splashed the dining room walls with canary yellow and deep ocean blue, and commissioned cocktails in other neon-glow colors. The mole, by contrast, is chocolate-tinged red but just as memorable. Order it on chicken leg or a plate of “mole mignon” with shrimp and a side of soft blue corn tortillas. Customers will also find one of the more intriguing vegetarian tacos around town: jamaica (hibiscus flowers) sauteed in achiote paste for al pastor preparation.

Pollo con Mole (chicken topped with red mole, served with rice and fresh tortillas) from Corazon.
Pollo con mole from D.C. Corazon
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

Taqueria Habanero (Multiple Locations)

Copy Link

Over its first seven years, Taqueria Habanero has built up a loyal base of regulars willing to queue up on 14th Street NW for a table. The family-owned operation by chef couple Dio Montero and Mirna Alvarado offers up a taste of street food from the Montero’s native Puebla. Served on perfectly crisp corn tortillas, the shrimp and fish tacos in particular are fresh, flavorful, and filling, striking just the right balance between savory and zesty. Enchiladas verdes and chilaquiles (green or red) are spot on, too. There’s a sister location that caters to University of Maryland students in College Park. Closer to the original, the owners’ Tequila y Mezcal bar on 14th Street NW offers plenty of cocktails made with agave spirits and a pan-regional food menu. Another Taqueria Habanero recently opened in Northeast’s new Bryant Street Market.

Chicken enchiladas from Taqueria Habanero
Chicken enchiladas from Taqueria Habanero
Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Anafre DC

Copy Link

When he debuted Anafre in November 2019, months before the pandemic hit D.C., Alfredo Solis separated it from his other D.C. restaurants with a focus on coastal dishes like Yucatan shrimp tostadas, fried oyster tacos, and vuelve a la vida, a spicy Sinaloan-style seafood cocktail brimming with crab, shrimp, octopus, and oysters. Those three remain, but the chef has adapted by adding a pizza oven to fire off chile relleno pies and a section of sandwiches such as a grilled steak jibarito with caramelized onions and cilantro jalapeno aioli.

Cinco Soles

Copy Link

This spring, Salvadoran chef-owner Mauricio Arias turned his former Columbia Heights Italian eatery Ossobuco into a color-soaked destination for vibrant ceviches, al pastor tacos, mahi mahi tostadas, churros, bright salads, and spicy margaritas. Maiz 64 alum Cristian Saucedo helps Arias execute the Mexican cuisine pivot, which includes making tortillas with imported corn flour from Mexico. A bar splashed with “Soup of the Day: Tequila” neon signage sends out creative cocktails like a “Naked in Tulum” with Aperol, mezcal, and passion fruit. Arias is also behind Rinconcito Café and Tortino in Shaw.

Los Molcajetes - Mi Casita 3

Copy Link

This family-run newcomer in Adams Morgan is the real deal. A bright pink-painted facade leads the way to a lengthy Mexican menu full of stellar street tacos on corn tortillas (14 in all), plus fajitas, enchiladas, tortas, burritos, tostadas, enchiladas, chilaquiles, quesadillas, birria ramen, queso, all-day breakfast dishes, weekend-only tamales, and more. Its fruity aguas frescas are not to miss. Enjoy takeout orders inside a studry wooden streatery adorned in colorful banners.

Birria tacos at Los Molcajetes - Mi Casita 3.
Los Molcajetes - Mi Casita 3

Taqueria Xochi

Copy Link

The carryout window with the hot pink facade on U Street NW can barely contain everything chef Teresa Padilla, who grew up in the interior state of Tlaxcala, is excited to cook. Now that she has her own place, the longtime pastry chef in José Andrés’s ThinkFoodGroup imports hubcap-sized tortillas from Oaxaca to make tlayudas covered in pieces of beef tenderloin, chorizo, nopales, gooey strands of cheese, refried beans, and avocado. There are all sorts of tacos, but also bowls of equites (street corn salad) deglazed in a fiery pan, individual containers of chocoflan, and chamoy-tinged go-cups of frozen mangonada smoothies. An additional local recently arrived in downtown’s new Square food hall.

A close-up of an open-faced cemitas sandwich with a fresh bun, mayo, a breaded chicken cutlet, tomatoes, avocados, and a heaping pile of stringy Oaxaca cheese
A close-up of an open-faced cemitas torta with a fresh sesame seed bun, mayo, a breaded chicken cutlet, tomatoes, avocados, and a heaping pile of stringy Oaxaca cheese
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

El Sol Restaurante & Tequileria (Multiple locations)

Copy Link

Sibling chefs Alfredo and Jessica Solis opened El Sol in 2014, and D.C.’s Mexican food scene hasn’t been the same since. Try one of Alfredo’s favorite dishes, chilaquiles, or fried tortillas simmered in salsa with a side of runny eggs. When paired with carne asada, the dish manages to be an affordable breakfast that makes sense any time of day. Other standouts include the pambazos — tortas filled with mashed potatoes and chorizo and dripping with red guajillo chile sauce — and molletes — toast covered in black beans, cheese, chorizo and pico de gallo. El Sol has a Vienna, Virginia location, and sibling Mezcalero in D.C. offers a similar menu. A second Mezcalero now sits at La Cosecha with more of a seafood-centric menu.

El Sol chilaquiles
Chilaquiles with a carne asada add-on from El Sol
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Oyamel Cocina Mexicana

Copy Link

José Andrés’s airy Mexican restaurant, located in Penn Quarter since 2007, is a high-end option downtown for made-to-order guacamole, antojitos (small plates) with a solid range of vegetables, and tacos like a Yucatán-style cochinita pibil (pit-cooked pig). Head chef Omar Rodriguez’s menu name-drops purveyors like Rancho Gordo beans and Anson Mills rice. Oyamel led the way for D.C. restaurants to grind their own Mexican heirloom corn.

Tacos from Oyamel
Tacos from Oyamel
Greg Powers/For Oyamel

MI VIDA

Copy Link

Ambitious, D.C.-based Knead Hospitality + Design brought New York chef Roberto Santibañez to town to serve as culinary director for this huge, artfully appointed waterfront restaurant with a prime position in the buzzy (and consistently pricey) Wharf development. By adding blue cheese, grapes, and smoked almonds to a guacamole perked up with pasilla chiles, customers can try one of the more interesting variations of the avocado dish for $17. Creamy, cheesy enchiladas Suizas are a hearty option, and are there are plenty of ways to enjoy seafood by the Potomac, notably an entree of butterflied, roasted branzino painted in red and green adobo. A newer location sits on 14th Street NW, and a third opened in Chinatown around Cinco de Mayo.

An order of pescado a la talla at Mi Vida includes red and green adobo
An order of pescado a la talla at Mi Vida includes red and green adobo
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

Wild Tacoz

Copy Link

Vegetarians will appreciate the tacos filled with green beans, zucchini, squash, and tofu at this Falls Church restaurant. The braised, well-seasoned carnitas are available in a taco, burrito, or on a “tacoz sub” (a toasted roll). Culinary director Teddy Koumarianos is part Greek, so there’s a “Greek taco” served on a 7-inch pita with tzatziki sauce and the protein of your choice.

Taco City DC

Copy Link

The homemade corn tortillas make all the difference at Taco City D.C., where the chilorio de res tacos (braised beef, avocado sauce, pickled habanero and cilantro) and the al pastor tacos (spit-grilled pork, pineapple, onion, cilantro and salsa roja) really shine. Pozole rojo — a rich Mexican pork and hominy stew topped with accompaniments including radish, lime and tortilla chips — is both comforting and restorative.

La Vina Mexican Grill 

This unassuming strip mall spot serves several platters that promise days worth of leftovers. The Sinaloa platter comes with a chicken tamale, a chicken enchilada, and a cheese-stuffed chile relleno, all complemented by pinto beans, Mexican rice, sour cream, and pico de gallo. Don’t skip dessert, especially the dense and decadent homemade tres leches cake topped with whipped cream.

Taqueria El Mexicano

Taqueria is in the title, but this strip mall spot, tucked just inside the Beltway in Adelphi, Maryland, offers a full-on fonda experience. A small dining room with tables covered in green-and-white checkered cloth is the stage for a midnight-black mole Poblano that’s captured the attention of critics for years. Simpler pleasures like rich, creamy refried beans stand out, too. Proprietors Bernardo and Clara Vargas also own Panaderia El Mexicano, the bakery in the same lot.

Taqueria El Mexicano for the $20 Diner for Feb. 12 issue of Weekend.
Tacos queritos and tamales at Taqueria El Mexicano
Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Cielo Rojo Restaurant

David Perez and Carolina McCandless, the owners of this tidy cocina in Takoma Park, first met while working together at an organic vegetarian Mexican restaurant in San Francisco, so it stands to reason they put a a premium on ingredients. Perez leads the kitchen, grinding masa from heirloom Mexican corn and braising slightly sweet carnitas with Negra Modelo and oranges. Crunchy pepitas add a pleasantly surprising crunch to quesadillas that can be ordered with vegan cashew cheese. Weekend brunch brings an opportunity to sample masa waffles served sweet, with fruit, mezcal mascarpone, and maple syrup, or savory, with smoked ham, Oaxacan cheese, queso fresco, and jalapeno vinaigrette. The restaurant is relocating within the neighborhood some time this summer, per an employee, and the team will soon replace the old Cielo Rojo space with a San Francisco-style San Pancho Burritos.

Quesadillas from Cielo Rojo
Quesadillas from Cielo Rojo
The Washington Post via Getty Images

Muchas Gracias

In the early days of the pandemic, chef Christian Irabién introduced Muchas Gracias as a pop-up that helps raise funds for immigrant communities and restaurant workers in need. Irabién is no longer involved as he focuses on other projects, but the humble takeout-turned-restaurant continues to send out supple flour tortillas for quesadillas and burritos that can satisfy the abundance of young families in the Chevy Chase neighborhood. A bustling weekend brunch brings chilaquiles and huevos rancheros to the table.

A smoked trout tostada full of flowers and radishes from Muchas Gracias
A smoked trout tostada full of flowers and radishes from Muchas Gracias
Gabe Hiatt/Eater D.C.

Taqueria La Placita

The pictographic menu at La Placita boasts 20 different tacos, offering specialties and off-cuts such as cecina (salty dried beef), oreja (pig ear), and trompa — labeled in English as pig lip but technically part of the snout — that’s braised until it yields a rich texture not all that different from the fat cap of a ribeye steak. Even late in the afternoon on a weekday, there’s a line for the ordering counter at the expansive taqueria covered in knickknacks that appears to be the epicenter of the “Little Mexico” along Edmonston Road in Hyattsville. Visit La Flor de Puebla bakery next-door for a slice of tres leches cake.

Weekend Cover - Tacos - Taqueria La Placita
A plate of tacos from Taqueria La Placita
Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

DC Corazon

DC Corazon looks like it came out of a Lite Brite box. Owner Josefina Darui painted the facade fuscia, splashed the dining room walls with canary yellow and deep ocean blue, and commissioned cocktails in other neon-glow colors. The mole, by contrast, is chocolate-tinged red but just as memorable. Order it on chicken leg or a plate of “mole mignon” with shrimp and a side of soft blue corn tortillas. Customers will also find one of the more intriguing vegetarian tacos around town: jamaica (hibiscus flowers) sauteed in achiote paste for al pastor preparation.

Pollo con Mole (chicken topped with red mole, served with rice and fresh tortillas) from Corazon.
Pollo con mole from D.C. Corazon
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

Taqueria Habanero (Multiple Locations)

Over its first seven years, Taqueria Habanero has built up a loyal base of regulars willing to queue up on 14th Street NW for a table. The family-owned operation by chef couple Dio Montero and Mirna Alvarado offers up a taste of street food from the Montero’s native Puebla. Served on perfectly crisp corn tortillas, the shrimp and fish tacos in particular are fresh, flavorful, and filling, striking just the right balance between savory and zesty. Enchiladas verdes and chilaquiles (green or red) are spot on, too. There’s a sister location that caters to University of Maryland students in College Park. Closer to the original, the owners’ Tequila y Mezcal bar on 14th Street NW offers plenty of cocktails made with agave spirits and a pan-regional food menu. Another Taqueria Habanero recently opened in Northeast’s new Bryant Street Market.

Chicken enchiladas from Taqueria Habanero
Chicken enchiladas from Taqueria Habanero
Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Anafre DC

When he debuted Anafre in November 2019, months before the pandemic hit D.C., Alfredo Solis separated it from his other D.C. restaurants with a focus on coastal dishes like Yucatan shrimp tostadas, fried oyster tacos, and vuelve a la vida, a spicy Sinaloan-style seafood cocktail brimming with crab, shrimp, octopus, and oysters. Those three remain, but the chef has adapted by adding a pizza oven to fire off chile relleno pies and a section of sandwiches such as a grilled steak jibarito with caramelized onions and cilantro jalapeno aioli.

Cinco Soles

This spring, Salvadoran chef-owner Mauricio Arias turned his former Columbia Heights Italian eatery Ossobuco into a color-soaked destination for vibrant ceviches, al pastor tacos, mahi mahi tostadas, churros, bright salads, and spicy margaritas. Maiz 64 alum Cristian Saucedo helps Arias execute the Mexican cuisine pivot, which includes making tortillas with imported corn flour from Mexico. A bar splashed with “Soup of the Day: Tequila” neon signage sends out creative cocktails like a “Naked in Tulum” with Aperol, mezcal, and passion fruit. Arias is also behind Rinconcito Café and Tortino in Shaw.

Los Molcajetes - Mi Casita 3

This family-run newcomer in Adams Morgan is the real deal. A bright pink-painted facade leads the way to a lengthy Mexican menu full of stellar street tacos on corn tortillas (14 in all), plus fajitas, enchiladas, tortas, burritos, tostadas, enchiladas, chilaquiles, quesadillas, birria ramen, queso, all-day breakfast dishes, weekend-only tamales, and more. Its fruity aguas frescas are not to miss. Enjoy takeout orders inside a studry wooden streatery adorned in colorful banners.

Birria tacos at Los Molcajetes - Mi Casita 3.
Los Molcajetes - Mi Casita 3

Taqueria Xochi

The carryout window with the hot pink facade on U Street NW can barely contain everything chef Teresa Padilla, who grew up in the interior state of Tlaxcala, is excited to cook. Now that she has her own place, the longtime pastry chef in José Andrés’s ThinkFoodGroup imports hubcap-sized tortillas from Oaxaca to make tlayudas covered in pieces of beef tenderloin, chorizo, nopales, gooey strands of cheese, refried beans, and avocado. There are all sorts of tacos, but also bowls of equites (street corn salad) deglazed in a fiery pan, individual containers of chocoflan, and chamoy-tinged go-cups of frozen mangonada smoothies. An additional local recently arrived in downtown’s new Square food hall.

A close-up of an open-faced cemitas sandwich with a fresh bun, mayo, a breaded chicken cutlet, tomatoes, avocados, and a heaping pile of stringy Oaxaca cheese
A close-up of an open-faced cemitas torta with a fresh sesame seed bun, mayo, a breaded chicken cutlet, tomatoes, avocados, and a heaping pile of stringy Oaxaca cheese
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

El Sol Restaurante & Tequileria (Multiple locations)

Sibling chefs Alfredo and Jessica Solis opened El Sol in 2014, and D.C.’s Mexican food scene hasn’t been the same since. Try one of Alfredo’s favorite dishes, chilaquiles, or fried tortillas simmered in salsa with a side of runny eggs. When paired with carne asada, the dish manages to be an affordable breakfast that makes sense any time of day. Other standouts include the pambazos — tortas filled with mashed potatoes and chorizo and dripping with red guajillo chile sauce — and molletes — toast covered in black beans, cheese, chorizo and pico de gallo. El Sol has a Vienna, Virginia location, and sibling Mezcalero in D.C. offers a similar menu. A second Mezcalero now sits at La Cosecha with more of a seafood-centric menu.

El Sol chilaquiles
Chilaquiles with a carne asada add-on from El Sol
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Oyamel Cocina Mexicana

José Andrés’s airy Mexican restaurant, located in Penn Quarter since 2007, is a high-end option downtown for made-to-order guacamole, antojitos (small plates) with a solid range of vegetables, and tacos like a Yucatán-style cochinita pibil (pit-cooked pig). Head chef Omar Rodriguez’s menu name-drops purveyors like Rancho Gordo beans and Anson Mills rice. Oyamel led the way for D.C. restaurants to grind their own Mexican heirloom corn.

Tacos from Oyamel
Tacos from Oyamel
Greg Powers/For Oyamel

MI VIDA

Ambitious, D.C.-based Knead Hospitality + Design brought New York chef Roberto Santibañez to town to serve as culinary director for this huge, artfully appointed waterfront restaurant with a prime position in the buzzy (and consistently pricey) Wharf development. By adding blue cheese, grapes, and smoked almonds to a guacamole perked up with pasilla chiles, customers can try one of the more interesting variations of the avocado dish for $17. Creamy, cheesy enchiladas Suizas are a hearty option, and are there are plenty of ways to enjoy seafood by the Potomac, notably an entree of butterflied, roasted branzino painted in red and green adobo. A newer location sits on 14th Street NW, and a third opened in Chinatown around Cinco de Mayo.

An order of pescado a la talla at Mi Vida includes red and green adobo
An order of pescado a la talla at Mi Vida includes red and green adobo
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

Wild Tacoz

Vegetarians will appreciate the tacos filled with green beans, zucchini, squash, and tofu at this Falls Church restaurant. The braised, well-seasoned carnitas are available in a taco, burrito, or on a “tacoz sub” (a toasted roll). Culinary director Teddy Koumarianos is part Greek, so there’s a “Greek taco” served on a 7-inch pita with tzatziki sauce and the protein of your choice.

Related Maps

Taco City DC

The homemade corn tortillas make all the difference at Taco City D.C., where the chilorio de res tacos (braised beef, avocado sauce, pickled habanero and cilantro) and the al pastor tacos (spit-grilled pork, pineapple, onion, cilantro and salsa roja) really shine. Pozole rojo — a rich Mexican pork and hominy stew topped with accompaniments including radish, lime and tortilla chips — is both comforting and restorative.

Related Maps