Editors' pick

District Taco

$$$$ ($14 and under)

Editorial Review

A quick taco could take time
By Fritz Hahn
Friday, July 20, 2012

If you have only a few minutes to grab lunch before a 1 p.m. business meeting, forget about District Taco. The downtown taco joint, which opened on F Street NW in May, has become so popular that a long line spills out the front door between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

One day, as the mercury stretched toward 100, I thought I’d grab a couple of breakfast tacos. I arrived at about 11:15 a.m. to find a line down the sidewalk and a doorman -- basically, a bouncer to control the flow at lunchtime -- handing out umbrellas to offer a bit of shade to patrons.

“How long do you think the wait’s going to be?” I asked, feeling steam rising off my neck.

He conferred briefly with a co-worker. “Probably at least 25 to 30 minutes before you get your food,” he said, almost apologetically. I handed him back the umbrella and went off to find something to eat elsewhere.

It’s possible to get in and out of District Taco in 10 minutes or less, but you have to be willing to ignore those rumblings in your stomach until 2 or 2:30 p.m. If you can wait, you’ll enjoy some of the city’s best tacos.

The restaurant is one of the area’s brightest food-truck success stories: Chef Osiris Hoil and partner Marc Wallace started the business as a Rosslyn food truck, then opened an Arlington bricks-and-mortar restaurant and have now added this shiny two-level Washington taqueria, which offers a few dozen seats on a mezzanine level.

Hoil, who grew up in the Yuca­tan area of Mexico, designed District Taco with a ton of options, starting with a choice of flour or corn tortillas. The tacos, burritos and quesadillas can be made from six main ingredients, including well-seasoned barbacoa, chopped steak, vegetarian beans and the smoky pork al pastor, which gets its flavor from being marinated in guajillo chilies. You can add more than a dozen free toppings, including jalapeno peppers, cilantro, and a mix of grilled peppers and onions. A cool salsa bar lets you customize the heat even further.

Look for the menu items designated “Yucatan spicy,” which add kicky salsa de chili or salsa Maya for vegetarians. The giant Burrito Mojado arrives drizzled with cheese and sour cream with piles of lettuce and tomato. It’s enough for two meals.

Breakfast items are served all day. The huevos rancheros have the same complements as the Burrito Mojado, but they’re served over a corn tortilla. Try the breakfast taco: a corn tortilla full of eggs, chopped potatoes, melted cheese and a touch of tangy, citrusy green tomatillo salsa to cut through the richness. It’s the kind of taco you find yourself thinking about long after you’ve finished, especially if you upgrade and add some chorizo.

With tacos selling for $2.25, it’s easy to eat well here on a small budget, even if you want garlic-lime rice ($3) or a side of the homemade chips with rich guacamole or queso ($2.50). The drinks include Mexican cane-sugar Coke and Fanta ($2.25) or a selection of Jarritos sodas ($2.25).

Taco fans complaining about how hard it is to get "real" Mexican food without going to Columbia Heights or the 'burbs will rejoice at finding fresh, delicious tacos and burritos downtown. You just have to be willing to wait.