Gallery: 9 Taco Spots We Love in the Washington, D.C. Area

Taco Bar
Taco Bar
Taco Bar itself shares a sidewalk with the gas station’s convenience store where you have to pass the cases of cold beer and shelves stocked with wine to get to the register. Even at 11:30 in the morning, this place was packed. The cashier took orders in English and Spanish. I got all of the taco options (al pastor, suadero, chorizo, pollo, and bistec, all $2.69 each, and $2.99 for lengua). The homemade corn tortillas come double-stacked and filled with a hefty helping of meat. I added cilantro and a squeeze of lime to each, but let me tell you something—the pollo is incredible. I ate it on its own. Extremely juicy and tender, it’s cooked in a tomatoey marinade, then shredded. The al pastor is porky with a nice char, and the suadero, Mexican-style grilled rib meat, was shredded and then griddled. The suadero is like the hash browns of meat: crusty parts that met the griddle mixed with tender, juicy pieces that got warmed through.

Taco Bar 10003 Fields Road, Gaithersburg MD 20878 (map); 301-987-0376; tacobarwashingtonian.com

Taqueria Tres Reyes
Taqueria Tres Reyes
All the tacos come in doubled up flour tortillas that are light and tender. They deliver a condiment carrier with three sauces and some pickled veggies along with the meal. The barbacoa, which is made here with goat, was incredibly tender (you knew it must have been cooking for hours) with just a bit of gaminess. The pollo was less juicy than Taco Bar, but it had more spice and is still worth ordering. The al pastor was juicy and salty with a slight crust. The buche (pork belly) was glistening when it arrived, and was nothing less than unctuous, rich, and incredibly porky. All the tacos are $2.50 each.

Taqueria Tres Reyes 5403 Kenilworth Avenue, Riverdale MD 20737 (map); 301-779-6060

Taqueria La Placita
Taqueria La Placita
Taqueria La Placita is literally two minutes down the road from Tres Reyes, so if you’re out that way, save some room for tacos at both. La Placita serves 20 kinds of tacos, and while I wanted to order all of them, I also wanted to be able to fit behind the wheel of my car. The double corn tortillas have a nice char, and they taste like corn, as they should. This is the best chorizo I had on the whole trip—think warm, mouth-creeping spice, a hit of vinegar, and an intense pork flavor. Perfect. The barbacoa is made with lamb here, and while it’s a little dry and overcooked, it has a deep grilled taste. A generous squeeze of lime helps. The cachete (pork cheeks) are too greasy for my taste, but they are nothing if not full of pork flavor. The al pastor is served with thin spears of pineapple—take one off and you’ve got a good salty and sweet combination. The carne asada is beefy and well-seasoned, though some pieces are too chewy from fat.

Taqueria La Placita 5020 Edmonston Road, Hyattsville MD 20781 (map); 301-277-4477

Tortacos
Tortacos
Tortacos is a small shop inside a Montgomery Village strip mall. At $2.25 each, these were some of the cheapest tacos on my crawl. The corn tortillas are double-stacked and super light without being greasy, a problem some other places had. The al pastor is flavorful and juicy, and it gets a nice hit of sweetness from the pineapple. Top it with a bit of cilantro and fresh tomato and onion salsa,. The carnitas are moist, with a small amount of fat that’s tender but not gristly.

Tortacos 9629 Lost Knife Road, Gaithersburg MD 20877 (map); 240-632-9423

Taqueria Juquilita
Taqueria Juquilita
This was hands down the most authentic experience I will ever have in D.C. I was at the correct address, but I was outside of an apartment building. I called the phone number I had, and the man says, “Do you see my wife in the window above you? She’ll throw the key down.” The taqueria is run by an older Oaxacan couple out of their apartment—you sit at a beat up folding table and watch the man make your tacos in the tiny kitchen. The lengua was the best I’ve had—tender, juicy, and tasting like slow-cooked brisket. The soft corn tortillas are clearly homemade, like the sauces in the terracotta pots in the center of the table. If you’re looking for the most special and intimate taco-eating experience, this is the place to go.

Photograph: Meg Greene

Pica Taco
Pica Taco
Pica Taco is on the outskirts of the Adams Morgan neighborhood, at the start of a residential side street. Each taco ($2.25) is in double-stacked floury tortillas with crispy outsides. The barbacoa (on the right) is shredded beef here and it’s beefy, juicy, and fall-apart tender. Perhaps the best barbacoa of the entire taco trip. It doesn’t even need toppings though all tacos are served with radishes, cilantro, raw onion, and a lime wedge. Don’t bother with the fish tacos (left), though if you’re craving it, be sure to add a lot of limejuice—it needs some zing. But the barbacoa, I'm telling you.

Pica Taco 1629 Columbia Road NW, Washington DC 20009 (map); 202-518-0076; picatacodc.com

[Photograph: Meg Greene]

El Charrito Caminante
El Charrito Caminante
Though the double-stacked corn tortillas pack a corn punch and have a nice char, they can be a little greasy. But when they’re filled with goat or carne de res (beef), I don’t really care as much. The carne is tender, juicy, and salty and doesn’t need any toppings to be tasty. But the goat is the clear winner here—it’s the goat that made me want to order goat tacos at every taqueria since. It’s juicy, gamy, and salty, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.

El Charrito Caminante 2710 Washington Boulevard, Arlington VA 22201 (map); 703-351-1177

[Photograph: Meg Greene]

District Taco
District Taco
District Taco’s brick-and-mortar shop is a new addition to the District Taco family. They started out with a food truck in northern Virginia frequenting Crystal City and other parts of Arlington. I am not going to say that this place looks authentic; it looks like a California Tortilla. And maybe it’s a little Americanized for taco purists. You get a choice of toppings that includes shredded cheese, sour cream, and black or pinto beans. But it’s good, so I don’t care. The al pastor is juicy and porky and comes topped with chopped pineapple. When you bite into the double-stacked corn tortilla, the sweet juice from the fruit mingles with the salty juice from the pork. It’s so juicy that it even ran down my hand. The barbacoa is worth ordering if you get it topped with raw chopped jalapenos.

District Taco 5723 Lee Highway, Arlington VA 22207 (map); 703-237-1204; districttaco.com

[Photograph: Meg Greene]

Super Tacos and Bakery
Super Tacos and Bakery
Adams Morgan on the weekends is known for drunken college kids and late night Jumbo Slice or Amsterdam Falafel lines. Super Tacos and Bakery is a part of the drunk food culture here, and they’re also open early enough to help your hangover. While the carne asada is nothing to recommend, the carnitas and al pastor were surprisingly delicious, even while sober. The carnitas is probably the better of the two: porky, fatty, juicy, with just a bit of acid even without limejuice. The al pastor is definitely worth ordering, though, and it’s got a slight spice and has nicely crisped edges.

Super Tacos and Bakery 1762 Columbia Road NW, Washington DC 20009 (map); 202-232-7121; supertacosdc.com

[Photograph: Meg Greene]