We were lucky enough to get an invite to Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana on their preview night. Gallo, the giant metal, colorful chicken out front of Mezcalero gives you an immediate idea that this place is different than everyone else. Located at 3714 14th Street NW, at the intersection of Quincy and 14th Streets, the new restaurant is an ideal location for a great-tasting, reasonably priced dinner. They open for the public on Friday night, January 13th.
Owned by Chef Alfredo Solis, Mezcalero offers authentic Mexican street food, including 17 different types of tacos that you can order one by one to your heart's content. The menu is inspired by the street food and roadside kitchens of Mexico City, where Solis grew up.
I'm no restaurant or food critic; for that there's some great articles about Mezcalero at the bottom by the Washingtonian, Eater DC and the Washington Post that I recommend. However, a reader asked me on Twitter to take some pictures while I was there, so while enjoying the wonderful food, atmosphere and service at Mezcalero, I used my iPhone to grab some admittedly terrible quality photos. I should be ashamed of how dark and grainy these photos are, but I'm not because I was too busy eating.
Inside the restaurant, you'll find a slightly dark but very friendly environment with tables and booths lining each side, as well as a full, busy bar in the back. The art on the walls, featuring murals of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Saint Juan Diego, and Oaxacan butterflies define the Mexican feel of Mezcalero. The booths were really comfortable, with a soft leather (leather-like) material and plenty of cushion to hold you up as you fill up on the great menu.
Again, I'll note that my photos do the food no justice, so judge me and not the restaurant...
The cocktail and drink menu is concise, and relies heavily on mezcal to punch up the drinks. The prices for beer, wine and cocktails are in line with other restaurants, going from $5 for a Dos Equis or an $8 mezcal or tequila margarita, up to $12 for specialty mezcal drinks. (See a PDF of the cocktail menu.)
The food menu, on the other hand, is anything but concise. Instead, you have plenty of options to fill your tummy. Here too the prices are very reasonable, especially if the quality of our delicious meal is any indicator. That said, the menu isn't overwhelming, and gives you the opportunity to try out different flavors and meals to ensure your taste buds never get bored, especially if you love spicy food. (The pickled habanero is delicious and served in a flight with two other sauces made in-house, but about three seconds after you start chewing you'll feel your mouth jump to 900 degrees. I found myself going back for more helpings anyway.) (See a PDF of the food menu.)
The Antojitos menu ("small cravings," or appetizers) offer 18 different items ranging from four ceviches to mussels, guacamole, to seafood or chicken/beef nachos to a queso fundido that looks awesome. We had the the Ceviche de Atun (a $12 tuna ceviche featuring ahi tuna, avocado, manzano chile and toasted peanuts). It was spicy and delicious, with the tuna having a nice soft/solid bite, and the chile had a bite, too.
The Flautas were great (and were $8), offering a choice of crispy chicken or beef, sour cream, queso fresco, lettuce, pico de gallo and topped with guacamole. I finished off this plate quite happily.
My daughter, being 5, is the pickiest critic. To her, ketchup is a main food group, and everything else but a vehicle to enjoy ketchup. That said, she had the Milanesa de Pollo ($11.00), which was three large, flat pieces of crispy breaded chicken breast that normally comes with rice, beans and a house salad. We also ordered her fries (again, ketchup vehicle) and the kitchen brought out a plate of just the chicken and fries, correctly sensing that she had no interest in the rice, beans or salad. (Side note, I would have been happy to eat them.) The chicken was not spicy, so perfect for little people with sensitive taste buds. She also enjoyed my wife's steak fajitas, and afterword exclaimed, "I think I ate too much, the steak was really good!" so I'd give that a ringing little-person endorsement.
The Enchilada Carne Horneada ($11), featuring braised short ribs, ranchero sauce, cheese and guacamole were good. The short ribs were tender, and easy to cut with a fork inside their tender wrapping of corn tortillas. The rice and beans were good, the beans having more flavor (I mixed the two and decided that was the way to go.)
We finished off with two Postres or desserts, both were good, one was outstanding. We had the Tres Leches cake ($5) and the Torreja ($5). The cake was moist, the frosting sweet without being sugary and would have paired great with a strong coffee (alas, I didn't order one).
The torreja on the other hand, was kicking. It's basically a Mexican version of a piece of french toast, smothered in caramel sauce and what seemed like corn flakes, and topped with a scoop of french vanilla ice cream. I seriously loved the torreja, while my wife thought it too sweet (though I have a sweet tooth and she really doesn't enjoy caramel). Recommend both.
No doubt, Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana is a great addition to 14th Street.
Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana
3714 14th Street NW
Check out the articles below by the Washingtonian, Eater DC and the Washington Post for good reviews.
- New Mexican Restaurant and Mezcal Bar in Columbia Heights Has 17 Kinds of Tacos (By Jessica Sidman)
- Mezcalero Brings a Mexican Fiesta To D.C. (By Tierney Plumb)
- The upcoming cheap-eats restaurants you should be most excited about (By Tim Carman)
See if you can find these happy people in the artwork at the restaurant. Basically, it's what people look like when they're eating at Mezcalero.