After Cinco de Mayo last week, I’ll assume that you’ve either found a local restaurant that serves up a decent margarita or safely avoided the hyped-up holiday with chips and guac in the comfort of your own home.
Luckily, I avoided the crowds and had the luxury of celebrating Cinco de Mayo a week early, in a sexy space that smelled like leather and Mezcal. We were invited in for the Taco Takeover night at Espita Mezcaleria, the new Southern Mexican-inspired restaurant and Mezcal bar in Shaw.
My taco-connoisseur of a friend, Kendra, and I sauntered into the new space, which was laden with Day of the Dead art and graffiti. Taco Takeover is a monthly occurrence when a local chef is invited to craft a specialty taco for the menu on the last Monday of the month. Tonight, it was time for popular chef Jeremiah Langhorne of The Dabney to take his turn.
The abundance of Mezcal convinced us to kick off our meal with the Tamarino Ricky and Mayahuel. The Tamarino Ricky was served in a coupe rimmed with smoked salt. The cocktail was refreshing and left a hint of smokiness on your palate after every sip. The Mayahuel was an equally refreshing and smoky house-made margarita.
Upon being seated in a Mexican restaurant, I immediately crave chips. Consider me a guac-aholic. Tonight was no exception, but within minutes I knew our cravings would be satisfied. Our lovely and knowledgeable waitress informed us that the chips are made in house daily, which could explain why they were incredibly warm and crunchy. I’ve consumed a lot of chips in my day and these were top notch.
Simultaneously, Yucca fries with a side of spicy aioli arrived at our table. They too were warm and fresh and lighter than a french fry. I asked Kendra if Yucca fries were healthier than french fries, to which she responded, “Well they are a root vegetable…” Neither one of us knew what that meant, so we laughed at ourselves and polished off the rest of the bowl.
In an effort to consume some real veggies, we ordered the beet salad. It was not only a vibrantly beautiful dish, but the pomegranate habanero dressing made the salad unlike any other we’ve tasted.
Of course, the highlight of the meal was the specialty catfish taco by Chef Jeremiah. The flaky fried fish was topped with a balsamic glaze and sliced radishes. It was the perfect size taco and every bite was better than the last.
Everything at Espita is meant to be shared, but the portions were not comically small, like most tapas restaurants. We ordered the Chichilo Mole from the larger plates on the menu. The beef short rib platter came a la carte with a side of heirloom corn tortillas. The short rib was tender and tasty and we appreciated the freshness of the corn tortilla.
Admittedly, I don’t associate Mexican food with dessert, but our waitress insisted we try the Mexican rice pudding and tres leches cake. Tres leches is a sponge cake soaked in three types of milk, so you can imagine how every bite was moist and sweet. It paired nicely with the apple compote and scoop of dulce de leche. I can’t remember the last time I had rice pudding, but we loved the unique, but not overwhelmingly sweet, end to a outstanding meal.
Our schedules are already booked for the next Taco Takeover, but in the meantime Kendra and I can’t wait to come back for chips and margs on the patio.
1250 9th St NW
Washington, DC 20001