Our mission to locate the best taco in DC brought us to the tiny Pica Taco just off Columbia Road between Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights. B read about Pica Taco in the Express when it first opened last year and was intrigued by the promise of authentic tacos.
Pica Taco is a no-frills, order at the counter place. There are a couple of tables inside where you can eat while watching telenovelas. Telenovelas blaring from the TV are a good sign that the tacos will be authentic.
Another good sign? Lengua tacos! If the menu features tacos made with beef parts that make you a little squeamish, they'll probably be great. Pica Taco serves up the Mexican standards filled with lengua (that's tongue for los gringos que no hablan espanol) along side barbacoa (shredded bbq beef), pastor (pork), steak, fish, and chicken. With tacos priced at $2.25 each (or $2.5o for fish or steak), you can sample several different kinds to see what you like best. B braved the lengua taco and found it to be flavorful and cooked well so that it wasn't chewy. Nothing worse than overcooked beef tongue.
A slight miscommunication led to B getting a second taco instead of an enchilada, so we both got to test out the barbacoa tacos. Major points for authenticity with the double corn tortilla, chopped onions and cilantro, and thinly-sliced radish. The barbacoa could've used a bit more heat, but was helped along by the salsa they provided on the side. My chicken taco was slapped with the gringo stick and buried under cheddar cheese, tomatoes, and iceberg lettuce. It was more Taco Bell than taco truck.
As I happily sipped my horchata (cinnamon rice milk) on the way home, I thought about nearby Taqueria Distrito Federal, the closest comparison to Pica Taco that we've experienced in DC. In a head-to-head matchup, I think TDF would take the belt for authenticity and overall experience. It must be something about those year-round Christmas decorations at TDF that calls to me.
Second Thoughts from B
As we walked away from Pica Taco I said to J, "That was like a brick and mortar taco truck."
My comment was high praise in the authenticity department. Let's not confuse Pica Taco with the wave of new, high-end mobile culinary trend setters aiming for a shot on Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. This is the old school food truck. No frills and no need to have more than $5 in your pocket. A place to happily fill your stomach and do so quickly. A place that is equally comfortable for men in business suits and college students in laundry-day pajama pants. And sometimes, that's all you need.