Crios Modern Mexican

Tex-Mex
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Editorial Review

The influx of Mexican joints is officially unstoppable: After Mama Chuy, the Logan Circle Tortilla Coast, Pacifico and El Chucho, July saw the opening of Crios Modern Mexican, the vast restaurant you can find in Dupont Circle adjacent to its sister restaurant, Scion.

Sisters Joanne Liu and Julie Liu DeFrain say they arrived at the “modern Mexican” concept for their new restaurant because the neighborhood — home to Pizzeria Paradiso, Eola, VFalafel and more — was missing a tacos-and-margaritas spot.

The restaurant they’ve arrived at is sizeable (it should be good for groups), brightly designed and unfussy. You can place Crios firmly in the same family as Tortilla Coast, meaning it’s a casual eatery with a menu that doesn’t billboard its trendiness; no “artisanals,” “locally growns” or “handcrafteds” here, and the small-plates offerings are blissfully short. For now the restaurant will open at 5 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays, though its Web site notes that brunch is on the way.

We haven’t tasted everything, but on the first night Monday, we supped on the truffled esquites, a new take on the classic grilled Mexican corn, served shaved with arugula and salty queso fresco; and the veggie tacos, with beets and corn. The restaurant offers a complimentary round of salsas that are some of the best in D.C.; the “house red” in particular has a kick, spiked as it is with tequila and pineapple.

Like Scion, Crios has an unexpectedly good draft selection -- when's the last time you went to a Mexican-themed restaurant with Uinta Sum'r Ale, Breckenridge Agave Wheat Ale or Troeg's Iron Man Stout? -- but most people at the bar were ordering margaritas, including "Margarita Clasica," a traditional margarita with agave juice and a spicy rim of chipotle lime salt. I might be more inclined to order the Tequila Mockingbird again, which got its crisp, almost tiki-ish flavors from pineapple and basil atop a base of ginger beer and bitters. (The tequila isn't as prominent as in some other cocktails, making it a good choice for people who still have bad memories of margaritas.)

--Lavanya Ramanathan and Fritz Hahn (Aug. 1, 2012)