In a city full of buzzy taquerias, Mission may be home to the most anticipated tacos in Washington. The reason is chef Rodrigo Albarran of R&R Taqueria in Elkridge. His original spot – eight seats next to a Shell gas station – earned two stars from Tom Sietsema, a spot on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and raves from seemingly every taco enthusiast within a two-hour drive.
This Dupont Circle restaurant and bar – formerly home to the bottle-service spot One Lounge – is operated by Reed Landry and Fritz Brogan, two of the guys behind Mason Inn and members-only Georgetown nightspot George. Neither place serves food, which is why Brogan and Landry have handed control of the kitchen to Albarran. His full menu goes beyond tacos to include cactus sopes, queso fundido with sausage, quarter chickens served in mole, a hominy-and-pork pozole and even a burger. Of course, it’s not just a burger: Chef Rod’s Caliente Burger features a pepper-flaked bun and cheese made with sweat-inducing ghost peppers.
The bar officially opens tonight, but the owners say they won’t have dinner service running until Tuesday. Food will be served beginning at 5 p.m. Brunch will begin in a few weeks; lunch service will start at an uncertain date, which will surely cause frustration among Dupont office workers. (Brogan tells me they want to wait until dinner service is running before launching lunch.)
Tequila is the focus at Mission, with more than 50 on the growing list. The house El Jimador is $8 per shot; many others are $9, which Brogan says is so people “don’t just order the same 2 or 3 brands.” Aficionados should scope the menu for such rarities as Gran Patron Burdeos Anejo ($120 per shot) and Milagro Unico ($100). For groups, any tequila can be ordered in a “quartito,” or four-shot beaker, which arrives at the table with four glasses.
Yes, there are frozen margaritas, in both regular and strawberry flavors. Strawberry is actually featured prominently on the cocktail menu: There’s a regular strawberry margarita and a “Sparkling Strawberry Champarita” with tequila, lemon sour, strawberry simple syrup and sparkling wine. Mixed drinks are comfortably in the $9-$10 range; the draft list is an unsurprising mix of Mexican beers (Pacifico, Dos Equis, Corona Light) and domestics. One inclusion I wasn't expecting: Atlas Brew Works District Common.
The designers have really done a number on the One Lounge space, exposing a barrel-vaulted glass ceiling in the main bar, and brick walls throughout. Nooks are filled with Mexican tiles and cow skulls; the dining room has comfortable leather banquettes as well as informal high tables. Upstairs has its own bar, though it’s not clear (even to the owners) whether this will be a Friday night party space, a private party area or just overflow.
A cool touch: A former phone booth is being converted into a phone charging station, though there are also outlets next to every bar stool. DJs will liven up the party on Friday and Saturday nights, but Landry and Brogan stress that they’re not trying to turn this into Mason Inn East. Probably a good idea: The vibe is far more foodie than fratty.
Mission: 1606 20th St. NW. 202-525-2010. www.missiondupont.com.