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Reservations Recommended

Restaurant Review ~ El Centre D.F. / 1218 Wisconsin Ave., NW

A Take on Tacos.

Anyone who dines out in DC has surely heard of El Centro, D.F., originally having opened on 14th Street in the Logan Circle area (and having been reviewed in this space last year). Much to the Mexican foodie’s happiness, with the opening of its second location in Georgetown, El Centro spreads out the joy of glorious tacos—and much more. And if you think that this is not a hot and happening place, think again.

Open not quite two years, this burst with chatter and laughter plus large enough crowds warrants advance reservations, even on a Monday night. Not only does it serve daily lunch and dinner — an added bonus for the diehard Mexican food fan, patrons can also chow down during their bottomless brunch served weekends and on certain holidays; and they can tipple at happy hour time (how about a special margarita made from strawberry and mango purees) plus order from their special “siesta” menu.

Of course, the regular menu with its array of street tacos, enchiladas, and fajitas draws in aficionados from all over town. And its specially made just for you guacamole is outrageously delish. But for the next couple of weeks, maybe even a month or two, the G’town location is offering a special Guadalajara menu, inspired by owner/chef Richard Sandoval’s trip to Guadalajara, Mexico.

So, here is the perfect opportunity to experience “Destination: Guadalajara” — with braised beef taquitos, empanadas de platano (delicious!), and crispy shrimp torta, among other dishes. For dinner, patrons can add on pork chicharron tacos and shrimp mojo de ajo quesadillas with roasted corn and Mexican cheese. Every meal, however, should start with that container of straightforward guacamole, though you can kick it up a notch with the addition of bacon, roasted corn, and pumpkin seeds.

Dessert choices are minimal, but nothing can match the restaurant’s churros — light and airy and accompanied by three dipping sauces: passion fruit, chocolate, and cajeta (dulce de leche). Other choices include chocolate cigars and banana tres leches.

But for the tequila tippler, the rather classy bar pours out more than 300 different tequilas, say the waitstaff. Tequila-based cocktails include a variety of margaritas and mojitos, plus patrons can sip on Mexican beers, sangria, and assorted wines. For the bold in spirit, however, the bar offers assorted mezcals, even some with a scorpion in the bottle. That might be a drink not for the faint-hearted.

Besides the food and drink, this G’town location features a cheery up- and downstairs dining area, and the ground floor is bathed in a faint blue-purple lighting hue. All that adds to the whole ambiance of fiesta time: let’s eat, drink, and be merry!

El Centro, D.F. / Lunch & dinner daily, brunch Sat. & Sun. Entrée price range: $12.75-$22.55. 202-333-4100; http://tinyurl.com/q5wpjkv.

 

Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, editor, and restaurant reviewer. She has authored books on Asian and Mexican cuisines published by Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Macmillan. Other credits include restaurant reviews and food articles for national and regional publications, as well as former editor of the Vegetarian Times and former food editor/writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Click here to visit her website.