Restaurants in The InTowner
The InTowner
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Restaurant Review ~ Taqueria Nacional / 1409 T St., NW

Tacos! Ole!

For several years, crowds lined up outside a tiny “snack” place called Taqueria Nacional. Nearby sat the U.S. Capitol, sending forth an army of Congressional pages, members of Congress, office workers, and lobbyists for quick lunches and snacks. And that did not include the assorted locals who awaited their faves, either a specialty taco or burrito. Sadly, that taco heaven closed.

Great news!! Taqueria Nacional has reopened, making taco-istas rejoice. Now just one block away from the U Street corridor, Taqueria Nacional, under the watchful eye and skillful hand of co-owner and head chef Ann Cashion, offers a lengthier menu of assorted tacos, specialty salsas, sides, and a few other main-course offerings such as quesadillas, tostadas, and salads.

And unlike its predecessor, this TN within its rustic setting of pale yellow stucco walls offers ample seating. Patrons can select from individual or communal tables, or if eating solo, can grab a stool at the front-window bar. A perfect place for pedestrian-watching, of course.

Although the menu is lengthier, eating at a taco place should naturally mean ordering a taco or two or three. To please a wide audience, the menu does include three vegetarian offerings: pinto beans, refried beans, and egg with green chili. The last has a nice eggy flavor, but the corn tortillas wrapper melts with the moist filling, leaving the hungry with bits of in-hand taco.

Utterly wonderful, however, are the various meat-filled tacos, making a pig-out almost mandatory. Order three or more: After all, you can always carry out what you can’t eat, and taco takeout means a tempting pick-me-up later on.

Where to start? The chorizo with potato appeals to anyone who loves a chili kick, imparted by the crumbled and cooked chorizo sausage. Then there is the lamb taco, unusual to find since lamb is not a particularly Mexican-centric meat: Unexpectedly succulent, this goodie is filled with juicy bits of lamb shoulder and is accented by bits of pickled vegetables. On the next visit, three more lamb tacos please! Other choices include chicken, steak, carnitas, and a typical fish taco enriched with shredded cabbage.

For a slight variation in taste and texture, consider TN’s quesadilla, jammed full of melting cheese, onions, bit of jalapeños, and if you wish, meat. By all means, if you have skipped past the carnitas tacos, do yourself a big favor and order your quesadilla with a scoop of rich, porky carnitas, elevating the cheesie offering to new heights. If time, appetite, and waistline allows, you might order several different quesadillas, and plan on a takeaway treat.

Other menu specials include a soup of the day — recently a vegetarian offering that had the taste and texture of a thick bean composition — and a dessert or two. If available, do order the tres leches cake, sliced as a wedge and served in a plastic box. Rich and flavorful, this may be the best version in town. Note, too, that Cashion and partner Johnny Fulcino have added a range of Mexican beverages, from aguas frescas to frozen or on-the-rocks margaritas. And for the early risers on weekends, TN offers an interesting breakfast menu of breakfast tacos, breakfast quesadillas, huevos rancheros, buñuelos, and cornmeal pancakes. Add-ons include fried plantains and seasonal fruits with homemade crema.

All in all, Taqueria Nacional is, well, a national taco treasure. What is missing is a TN in every suburban town throughout the metro area.

Taqueria Nacional, Mon.-Wed. 11am-10pm, Thu. to 11pm,  Fri. to midnight; Sat. 10ammidnight with breakfast to noon, Sun. to 10pm with breakfast to noon. 1409 T St., NW; (202) 299-1122;