Heard word that El Chucho had just opened up in Columbia Heights, and went to check them out, optimistic that DC might actually get a good taqueria. But alas, the wait continues.
The small restaurant was packed this Sunday afternoon; we had a (hot - inside temp still was in the 80s) 15min wait. We (gf and I) were seated at a small table next to a group of 3 (bar on one side of small space with a row of 2 small square hi-tops along the other wall), and promptly ordered. We ordered all of the tacos (which come 2 small tacos per order) except for the tripas plus the torta ahogada. They have a selection of house made sodas, of which I ordered the pomegranate-apple. There was no "soda" evident in the drink and it tasted like water with a shot of sweetened apple juice in it (it was very watered down).
The torta ahogada came out first, but the pork was like a ground pork (as opposed to carnitas style), and the cheese seemed to be like some supermarket sliced variety. The sauce wasn't spicy at all, and I could not really taste any chiles (de arbol). It had more of an Italian taste to it (tomatoes and oregano). My initial remark was that it tasted like a Mexican-Italian sloppy joe. The bread was pretty good though.
The tacos came out next and were small as expected, and came with their own garnish/salsa already. We asked for more salsa, and they apparently only have one at the moment (their "kitchen is small" was offered as an excuse). It was an arbol-based salsa, and was ok and mildly spicy (it also helped the flavor of the torta), but again tasted more tomato-ey than arbol-ey (maybe they're afraid to spice away the clientele?). I dove into the carne asada first (I took off the radishes and the small grilled onion - good! but can we get the whole (green) onion please?), and felt like I was eating a good ground beef taco, but not a carne asada taco. Again, meat was so fine as if it were ground. The tortillas were store bought and a bit tough (I'm not knocking them for not hand making their own tortillas, but they need to re-think the brand they buy; La Bandita from Giant are better). The al pastor was like spiced ground pork; like the sloppy joe mixture from the torta. I think I saw miniscule pieces of pineapple in it, but couldn't taste any sweetness. The pollo actually had a nice smokiness to it, but the meat itself was slightly cool as if it had been pulled off a chicken a while ago and just now served up. The best tacos were the calabacitas (squash), with the light breading around the squash (zucchini, I think) providing a nice contrast and the veggies themselves giving a nice light flavor.
Another swing and miss for DC in terms of taquerias. Our meal came to $40 (with me still being hungry), and even with the additional cost of a Zipcar, we'll gladly be making our twice- or thrice-a-month treks to La Mexicana.