Whether you're a south-of-the-border purist or prefer a little Tex with your Mex, it's hard to resist the spicy, saucy allure of a Mexican dinner — especially when there's an ice-cold margarita involved. If you've got a major craving for enchiladas, tamales, and plenty of queso, we've got the solution: a cheat sheet of the DMV's best spots for Mexican fare. Now, slip into your stretchy pants and get ready for a mouthwatering master class.
A hidden gem in Silver Spring, Azucar gets high marks for their chimichangas and pan-fried trout, as well as a killer happy hour and live music at night.
Azucar, 14418 Layhill Road, Silver Spring; 301-438-3293.
Chef Mike Isabella's Georgetown outpost specializes in modern Mexican — think enchiladas, empanadas, and quesadillas, as well as dips, a raw bar, and a cocktail list that focuses on tequila and mezcal. Bonus: The range of margarita flavors is worth the trip alone.
Bandolero, 3241 M Street NW; 202-625-4488.
Located off Wisconsin Avenue near Cathedral Heights, this is a staple spot for Upper Northwest'ers. Head there early to grab a table outside and order a heaping plate of fajitas.
Cactus Cantina, 3300 Wisconsin Avenue NW; 202-686-7222.
We're more than a little excited about how quickly this startup biz is expanding across the DMV. The tacos al pastor are sublime, and don't overlook the daily specials. If you can't make it to a brick-and-mortar outpost, the resto has food trucks roaming the city, too.
District Taco, various locations; see a complete list here.
Photo: Courtesy of El Centro D.F./R. Lopez/Under a Bushel Photography
El Centro D.F.
Richard Sandoval's Logan Circle hotspot is an homage to Mexican street food, so expect upscale versions of simple, no-fuss dishes. A second location in Georgetown is slated to open early this summer.
El Centro D.F., 1819 14th Street NW; 202-328-3131.
Prep yourself for some of the best carne asada you'll find in the DMV — this family-run operation specializes in grilled meats (and amazing margaritas). Most of the area locations have ample outdoor seating, which is an added bonus on summer nights.
Guapo's, various locations; see a complete list here.
A favorite among the locals on Capitol Hill, La Loma has a signature low-key vibe, cultivated by a mix of young families and Hill workers. Bonus: The affordable à la carte menu means you don't have to OD on refried beans.
La Loma, 316 Massachusetts Avenue NE; 202-548-2550.
Los Tios Grill
This NoVa operation has expanded from its original Del Ray spot to open a second location in Leesburg. Billed as a combo of Tex-Mex and Salvadoran cuisine, the menu offers everything from fajitas and carne asada to roasted chicken.
Los Tios Grill, 2615 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, 703-299-9290; 201 Harrison Street SE, Leesburg, 571-291-3652.
Photo: Courtesy of Bandolero/Greg Powers
Oyamel Cocina Mexicana
With Oyamel, celeb chef José Andrés has placed the focus on antojitos (small plates), ceviches, and tacos, as well as some fairly ambitious cocktails. Skip the noisy outdoor patio and opt for a table inside or grab a seat at the bar.
Oyamel, 401 7th Street NW; 202-628-1005.
Taqueria el Poblano
With three locations in Virginia, this mini-chain specializes in regional Mexican and "LA-style" dishes. Opt for the single tacos ($3.95 to $5.50 each) or dig into a platter of enchiladas or a hefty burrito.
Taqueria el Poblano, various locations; see a complete list here.
Choose between the Capitol Hill locale or the newly opened Logan Circle spot for affordable, traditional Tex-Mex specialties, such as veggie enchiladas, chili con queso, and nachos.
Tortilla Coast, 400 1st Street SE, 202-546-6768; 1460 P Street NW, 202-629-3280.
This casual Glover Park spot is dedicated to beach food from around the world, which translates to perfectly grilled steak, chicken, fish, and shrimp wrapped up in a perfect tortilla. Catch the food truck if you can't make it to the brick-and-mortar resto.
Surfside, 2444 Wisconsin Avenue NW; 202-380-9353.
Photo: Courtesy of Oyamel/Greg Powers
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