Jul 5, 2019
[posted by: Hannah]
When we first started dating, I quickly learned that one of Evan’s favorite things is Mexican food. While I’d never been opposed to chips & guac or a taco, his passion for Mexican quickly made me love it even more! Fast forward 6 years, and we basically now consider tacos & margaritas to be the base of our food pyramid.
Until recently, our very favorite place to enjoy tacos, margaritas, and other Mexican favorites was Mike Isabel’s Pepita Cantina in Ballston. It tragically and abruptly closed in December (on Evan’s birthday! Such a shame!), and we truly haven’t been the same ever since. Luckily for us (and you!) we have made it a priority over the years to find the VERY best Mexican spots in Arlington. Pepita might be gone, but our appetites are not. Today, I’m sharing our very favorite tried-and-true Mexican spots! Each one is a favorite for a different reason, so you can enjoy delicious Mexican delights in any occasion or mood! Think we missed one? Comment below and we’ll be sure to test it out!
No. 1. Best Fast Casual: Burrito Bros.
Originally named Pedro & Vinny’s (we liked the old name better tbh), this place is literally a trailer in a CVS parking lot. It’s sketchy AF and I’m pretty sure no one has ever gone here on a whim. You HAVE to have someone convince you it’s a good idea, force you into the door, and pay for your order before you believe it’s a good idea. Trust us when we say it’s the freaking best decision you’ll ever make in a CVS parking lot. Heck, it’s the best decision you’ll ever make in all of South Arlington!
What makes it special: if the ambiance isn’t special enough for you (lol kidding), Burrito Bros. has the best burrito that either of us has ever eaten in our lives (do not go in expecting to order anything but a burrito, btw). They melt the cheese on the tortilla before preparing the rest of your burrito (heavennnn) and their ingredients are on point. They have four different sauces, which you can even taste test in little cups up on the counter. Evan’s favorite is the spicy chipotle, and mine is the mango. Highly, highly recommend.
Photo courtesey of USA Restaurants because we forgot to take a pic when we went last night LOL
No. 2. Best Margarita: Taqueira El Poblano
Let’s start with the fact that their tagline – “The Tac ‘O’ Town” – is already a winner. Established 20 years ago by California-native Glen Adams, this place is my idea of quintessential Mexican – authentic without being a hole-in-the-wall dive. They now have 3 locations in Northern Virginia and we frequent the two in Arlington more than any other Mexican restaurant in the area. They’ve got a lively, colorful vibe and a great happy hour! But let’s get to the important part: the margarita.
Evan and I are not easily impressed by Margaritas. We’ve been to plenty of uppity, trendy taco bars that have left us very disappointed in the tequila department: too watery, too strong, the wrong amount of salt, I could go on. But Taqueira el Poblano always delivers. Sometimes, we’ll go without a margarita when we go to Mexican places, but I always have to get one here! They just get it, ya know? It’s clearly made from scratch and oh-so refreshing. We’ve tasted a lot of margs in Arlington, and this one is the winner!
No. 3. Best Experience – El Paso Cafe
Beyond just the food, experience is important to us. I like to enjoy the sights, sounds & general ambiance of a restaurant. Evan used to make fun of me for always talking about “ambiance” but now he uses that word too and cares just as much as me! We’re the type of people who like to linger after eating a meal. We both are talkers and love to observe the people and things around us. So, all that to say: we just had to tell you about El Paso Cafe!
El Paso Cafe looks like a little bit of a dive from the outside, but it honestly is not at all. It’s got a strong Tex-Mex vibe on the inside – exactly what you hope every true Mexican restaurant is like (but rarely is, let’s be honest!). They have colorful decor & string lights, a great bar area in the back, and crayons for the kids (the real deal, y’all . . . but I’ve told Evan he’s not allowed to color when we’re out on dates). But all of that PALES in comparison to what I’m about to tell you next . . .
They have a LIVE MARIACHI BAND! Yes, the kind that travels to EACH table and plays a song for you. Every Sunday this is happening at El Paso Cafe. So while you’re over there pining away for Chick-Fil-A and wondering what the heck you should do for dinner, you could be enjoying delicious Mexican food whilst being serenaded by men in fitted pants and sombreros. Even on non-Mariachi days, this place has such a classic Mexican restaurant vibe, and even though it may seem like it’s south of Rt. 50, it’s actually not. Win-win.
No. 4. Best Meats – Tortas Y Tacos La Chiquita
Let me ask you a question: have you ever had a torta? Well, I hadn’t until I went here, and wow, I had no idea what I was missing out on! Tortas Y Tacos isn’t trying to be anything it isn’t. It’s excellent food, period. Forget everything I said about ambiance, and focus your attention on your taste buds.
So before you Google it (ehh you probably already have), a torta is basically just a sandwich, but it is also SO much more than a sandwich. Made with thin, crusty bread, it’s kind of like if a taco became a sandwich. I’m sure there are plenty of Mexican places that make them, but this place obviously has mastered the art!
Evan and I were both speechless as we ate our tortas and tacos here for the first time. They don’t put a ton of fancy or unique ingredients on top of each dish, because the meat speaks for itself. Perfectly seasoned and cooked (and SO flavorful), every single bite is delicious. You can order any dish here and it’s going to be delicious, but we obvi recommend the tortas and tacos because, well, Tortas Y Tacos. We have yet to find a place that has as delicious and high-quality meats as this place!
No. 5. Best Chain – District Taco
Ok, ok . . . I know you’ve probably been wondering where this one was on the list. And tbh we weren’t even sure if we should put it on the list, because there are just so many delicious Mexican restaurants in Arlington! But, this is a place we go all. the. time. and so we felt like we had to talk about it!
District Taco is very . . . D.C. You know what we mean. Local ingredients, clean, fresh style, it feels a little overpriced compared to other national chains, prob has a separate Whole30 menu . . . you know the drill (note: I don’t think they actually have a Whole30 menu, sorry guys). But it is so much better than Moe’s, California Tortilla or Chipotle! The things we love most about District Taco are: it’s got great queso, an awesome ingredient selection, and more of an authentic-Mexican menu than most fast-casual places. It’s hella busy on the weekends at lunch and dinner, but kind of worth it?
Soooo that’s our list! These are all our very favorite Mexican food places in Arlington! Are we missing anything? Did we judge incorrectly? Do you agree or disagree? We would love to hear your thoughts below, because if anything is for sure, it’s that we are always looking for a new margarita to try!