After a couple of weeks of (amazing) Italian food, B and I were in the mood for something completely different. Mexican food instantly came to mind as a nice change of pace from noodles and bacon. We needed to run an errand in Alexandria so I googled "best Mexican food Alexandria," because I remembered reading about a good taco place. Google led us to Taqueria Poblano in the cute Del Ray neighborhood.In addition to this small taqueria, Taqueria Poblano has another location in Arlington. Check the hours before you go because the Arlington location is closed Mondays at lunch, while the Alexandria location is closed all day Tuesday.
We were seated quickly in the bright dining room. As we ate, we watched our friendly server interacting with the other tables and got the distinct impression that this place has a lot of regulars.
I went in with low expectations because I'm that annoying person that complains about the lack of great Mexican food in DC. Things started off well with the house-made chips and zippy salsa, and improved when I took the first bite of the shrimp taco (pictured below on the right). What a nice balance of tangy (red onion escabeche), creamy (avocado dressing), and spicy (thanks to the habanero salsa I added on top). The shrimp was perfectly cooked too. Taco purists will scoff at the use of the flour tortilla, but I'll admit that it was a great tortilla. $5.25 for one taco is steep, but if you're going to pay $5.25 for a taco, this is a great one to order.
The "LA Style Crispy Taco" with chile-braised shredded beef was like an instant 3,000 mile flight back home. It's not "authentic Mexican food," but it is 100% authentic LA Mexican food. From the grease-glistening crispy shell to the tender shredded beef, the flavors and texture were spot on. This is not haute taco, it is taco truck taco, and I loved every bite. The $3.75 price is steeper than I'm used to paying for a taco, but cheap when you consider the airfare to LA.
While B declared me the "big winner" for the tacos I ordered, he was quite pleased with his Baja fish taco (left) and his special o' the day steak taco (right).
Taqueria Poblano also has quesadillas, burritos, and enchiladas, but I don't think I'll ever get past the taco section of the menu. The next time I need a taste of home, I'm heading to Alexandria for a couple of tacos washed down with a house margarita.
Second Thoughts from B
Our frustration with the DC area's Mexican food is well documented. I think it is fair to say we were resigned to overly-Americanized TexMex and Chipotle, so Taqueria Poblano was a very, very pleasant surprise.
In my mind, Mexican food isn't supposed to be fancy. Tablecloths, fancy drinks, utensils, and even chairs are not necessary. Many of the best tacos I've had were enjoyed standing under a tree on some side street next to a smoking truck or food stand.
Unlike so many of its competitors, Taqueria Poblano has added the restaurant to the taco without diluting those raw flavors of the world's greatest street food. I could taste a hot and dusty day in the concrete jungle of LA. I could feel San Diego's ocean breeze and hear Tijuana's energy. All packed in a bright little restaurant in Del Ray. What a great find!