Ever since I moved to Washington, D.C., I have been on a hunt for the best Mexican food I could find. Like a world-weary traveler, I have wandered fairly aimlessly – from the suburbs to deep into the city – in order to find a bowl of queso which would make me melt, a margarita which isn’t too sweet (and doesn’t skimp on the salt), and definitely a chimichanga which doesn’t taste like someone cut open a steak fry and stuffed some too-dry chicken inside.
Actually, I would liken my journey to being more akin to a quest. Yes, it’s more like a quest. I have been on a quest to find the D.C. mecca of Mexican food.
Sometimes, I’ll hear a rumor from a friend about a great restaurant and I’ll go. “Try Austin Grill,” some benevolent soul will encourage. “I like Rosa Mexicano,” a deep-pocketed friend will advise. So I go. So I try. And, inevitably, I’ll end up disappointed not because the food wasn’t good – both of the aforementioned are “okay” – but because most of these recommenders have the discerning Mexican palate of a five-year-old who has been craving sweets for months and got handed a tootsie roll. I’m from Texas, i.e. the Land of the Margarita/Chips and Salsa/Queso. So I may not be a foodie, but my Tex-Mex palate is entirely five-star.
Still, in this quest to snag the title of “best Mexican restaurant in D.C.,” there was always one name which consistently popped up, which I never actually frequented. On more than one occasion, someone at a party – or some random soul I have been talking food with – will say “Lauriol Plaza is the best Mexican food you’ll have in D.C.”
“L’Oreal Plaza?” I questioned.
“Like the make-up?”
“No. Like the restaurant.”
“Um … okay. How do you get there?”
“It’s in Dupont.”
“Where in Dupont.”
“Over by Mass Ave.”
“I don’t know. You can GPS it.”
(Rolling my eyes) Great. Very helpful. I began to think that eating at Lauriol Plaza was like eating at a super-secret society. Everyone seemed to know the name, but no one seemed to know – or no one seemed to want to tell me – how to get there.
Or, it was as though Lauriol Plaza was the white unicorn of Mexican Restaurants: this mythical place which some have gone to -- and many others aspire to land.
Finally after having endured yet another tepid margarita and an all-together watery salsa, I had someone who had previously gone to Lauriol take me. Yes, I, Sery Kim, finally ate (and drank) at Lauriol Plaza.
Drum roll please. My verdict is that Lauriol Plaza is sheer bliss. Worth every single wrong turn.
Located in the heart of Dupont, a few blocks over from Embassy Row, Lauriol Plaza’s revered reputation for quality Mexican food is well-deserved. Despite parking being difficult (isn’t parking difficult regardless of where you go in the city?), the trek over there will reward you beyond your patience.
I got a pitcher of strawberry-swirled margarita to start. Thick, rich and not too icy, the liquor was definitely tequila though not overwhelming. I leisurely drank the entire pitchers worth.
As for the accompanying chips and salsa, the chips were rather hearty. The texture was akin to those bags of chips you get at a natural foods grocery store except they aren’t thin – and they aren’t dry. You could just instaneously tell the chips were baked in-house.
Of course, the salsa (and queso) was perfect. The vegetables were cut thick enough to let you know the cook didn’t use a puree but instead hand-sliced it, yet the vegetables weren’t so large you were annoyed by the lack of liquidity. I would say the same for the queso: just enough cheese to let you know you had queso, and just enough vegetables to let you know you weren’t just dipping into liquid cheese.
For my entrée, I ordered a chicken chimichanga. I always get one at whatever Mexican restaurant I go to, except when I go to Tortilla Coast I get the barbeque chicken quesadillas. The chicken was delicately cooked: soft, practically, with enough stand-alone flavor that you almost didn’t notice the fried tortilla covering it.
The sides were fresh guacamole, non-limp lettuce and pico-de-giao.
Superb, superb, superb. And the wait-staff is very helpful.
1835 18th St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009 202-387-0035
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