Steal a (Chance to Talk About a) Taco
Anybody who is watching the World Series -- or likes tacos -- has heard of the Taco Bell promotion "Steal a Base, Steal a Taco." The promotion went like this: If any player were to steal a base during the series, the national fast food chain would give away free crunchy seasoned beef tacos from 2 until 5 p.m. next Tuesday, Oct. 30. Well, during the fourth inning last night, Jacoby Ellsbury stole second, so free tacos are on the horizon. If you dream about scoring a $0.79 taco for free, this is your kind of promotion. Me, I'm excited that the spotlight is on the tortilla-wrapped package of Mexican deliciousness so that we can start chatting about where to get the area's best taco. Taco talk, if you will.
As a California girl, I have an affinity for the slightly greasy crunch of the crispy taco. I love the snap of the shell giving way to the juicy tomatoes, shredded lettuce and spicy meat filling. I could rarely go more than a few days without one in Los Angeles, but I am not so lucky here. I have only found one place that masters the art of the crispy taco: Taqueria Poblano. The L.A. crispy taco is available with cuminy chicken, spicy pork, vegetables or my favorite, chile-braised shredded beef. The restaurant also offers fantastic fish tacos, but I can never avoid the temptation of my beloved crispy taco.
For soft tacos, there are a few more options.
La Sirenita in Hyattsville offers fabulous, cheap tacos with fillings like tongue, beef, chicken and barbacoa (goat). A side of delicious guacamole will cost you something like $3.
Sure, Adams Morgan's most famous "Mexican" food may be the frozen-margarita-swilling perpetually-packed mayhem of Lauriol Plaza, but not too far up the road is a surefire bet for a fabulous taco. Tacos Pepitos Bakery II has a variety of fillings for $2.50. You can go for barbacoa, roast pork, carnitas, chorizo or venture into tongue or cow head. Just be sure to avoid the crispy tacos (labeled something along the lines of gringo tacos), which come in a shell way too reminiscent of stale cardboard. When Taco (or Tacos) is in the name, you can be confident that you're in the right place.
The same holds true in Columbia Heights at Taqueria Distrito Federal. The tacos, with a variety of meats, are $2 and come with a sprinkling of cilantro and radish with slices of onions and avocado. Fill the taco with goat, carne asada, chorizo, carnitas tongue, tripe and chicken.
On Capitol Hill, Taqueria Nacionale offers an escape from standard Hill lunch fare. Set just behind Johnny's Half Shell, the tiny takeout space packs in a crowd eager to get a beef, pork, chicken or fish taco wrapped in a corn tortilla. These tacos don't dazzle me quite as much as the aforementioned dive varieties. I haven't been overwhelmed by the tortillas and wish that the beef and chicken could burst with flavor as they do at La Sirenita and Distrito Federal. The exception was the fish taco, which was slathered with yogurty white sauce and topped with cabbage. My favorite thing is to kick up the spice with a few squirts of the three salsas.
These are my favorite tacos and they are quite affordable. Of course, if it's the free taco that you really want (or maybe a free taco to accompany your chalupa), there are plenty of the Bells around. By my estimation, there are around 19 locations within 10 miles of Dupont Circle.
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