Impala Cantina y Taqueria has been on the lips of H Street regulars since 2010, when the restaurant's co-owner Troy Hickman and Erik Bruner-Yang of Toki Underground doled out tacos from the window of Philadelphia Water Ice. Signage went up for a full-fledged restaurant at 1358 H St. NE and the years came and went.
Finally, photos from inside the two-story restaurant offer some hope that we'll be throwing back tequila shots by September. Co-owner Troy Hickman has a way with interiors; a carpenter, he helped make Toki Underground look so preternaturally cool. So Impala's all about the little touches, including floors that are raw hickory and, in some places, earthy brick. The glass is hand-blown. The second floor, which will be an intimate dining area with moody lighting to complement the first level's more casual bar, is nearly complete.
More than two years after Impala's 2010 pop-up, the city is swimming in tacos. At Tacos El Chilango, they come on Styrofoam plates, while other places serve mahi mahi tacos atop wooden boards, like rare cheese. There are even two competing taco joints just steps from Impala: Chupacabra and Sol Mexican Grill. Hickman isn't sweating it. The menu at Impala, he says, will differ from what's already available in the neighborhood, with entrees such as pozole (a hearty hominy soup), grilled steak and roasted pork, shrimp with pumpkin mole and guava empanadas con crema.
You can taste Impala's tacos at the Pug on Tuesday nights, when they're served at the bar for a couple of bucks apiece. Among the options the chefs have been testing is a vegan tofu chorizo sausage.