For authentic, Guadalajara-style goat tacos, fine herbs from Oaxaca and uncommon tropical fruits and vegetables from Central America, head for Little Mexico -- the Latino- flavored commercial district centered on Kenilworth Avenue in the Riverdale area with adjoining shopping streets that cross into Bladensburg. (Note: Some businesses, while in Riverdale, have a Hyattsville mailing address.) There, you'll find the highest concentration of Mexican restaurants, markets and bakeries in the Washington area.
But consider before you go: Many of the businesses listed below are small and family-owned. When you call or visit, there may be no one on hand who speaks English. Some markets might stock imported fruits and vegetables only for the weekend crowd. A number of the restaurants don't serve alcoholic beverages. Sometimes shops close early for the day when business is slow.
Alamo In a cozy, pine-paneled dining room, Alamo serves Tex-Mex and traditional Mexican as well as modern Mexican dishes such as chili-crusted scallops with a citrus sauce. More than 60 kinds of tequila are stocked in the adjoining lounge. Open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 a.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; 5510 Kenilworth Ave., Riverdale; call 301-927-8787.
El Bucanas Cafe The most popular entrees at this unfussy, five-month-old cafe are steak tacos topped with cheese and cream, and a spicy, Mexican-style steak served with rice and beans. Open daily, noon to 10 p.m.; 5409 Kenilworth Ave., Riverdale; call 301-277-1926.
El Tapatio The Navarro family's small, lively restaurant is noted for its house-made white corn tortillas, chicken enchiladas, seafood soup and its signature dish -- barbecued goat. Mexican beer available. Open daily, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; 4309 Kenilworth Ave., Bladensburg; call 301-403-8882.
La Sirenita More than 40 entrees are individually pictured in the colorful dining room festooned with filigree paper pennants. Highlights include the shrimp cocktail, tacos of chicken, beef or goat, chicken quesadillas and flan or fresh berries and cream for dessert. Mexican beer available. Open Wednesday to Monday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Tuesday; 4911 Edmonston Rd., Hyattsville; call 301-864-0188.
Pollo Fiesta At four-month-old Fiesta -- a counter-service restaurant -- the principal draw is Peruvian-style chicken. But most of the menu is Mexican- American-style with combination plates. Open daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; 6408 Kenilworth Ave., Riverdale; call 301-277-0298.
Taco Rico At chef and owner Myrna Luna's cute, blue-tiled taqueria, the specialty is good tacos as well as beef tongue stew. Open Thursday through Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., closed Wednesday; 4811 Edmonston Rd., Hyattsville; call 301-779-8001.
Taqueria Tres Reyes Excellent tacos and tortas (sandwiches) made with pork, beef tongue, tripe or goat. Open daily, 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. 5403 Kenilworth Ave., Riverdale; call 301-779-6060. (Other locations in Greenbelt, Manassas Park and Woodbridge.)
La Flor de Puebla This busy panderia has an extensive selection of Mexican-style pastries and fancy, fruit-topped occasion cakes. The popular concha is a soft and chewy egg-based bread covered with ridges of flavored sugar. French-style rolls called bolillos are crusty on the outside and soft within. At lunchtime, such bread is sold filled with ham, cheese and avocado -- a torta sandwich. Open daily, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., 6300 Kenilworth Ave., Riverdale; call 301-699-8657. A nearby satellite La Flor location (open daily with same hours; 5024 Edmonston Rd., Hyattsville; 301-699-8658) sells items baked at the Kenilworth Avenue bakery.
Americana Grocery A large market with a mix of Latin American, African and traditional American products. Sausage from Spain, Argentina, El Salvador as well as Mexico is available at the butcher counter. Open Monday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; 4900 Annapolis Rd., Bladensburg; call 301-864-4870.
El Super Store Groceries from Mexico and Central America. Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; 5550 Kenilworth Ave., Riverdale; call 301-277-7887.
El Primo Grocery A small, well-stocked market with the best produce, herb and dried chili pepper selection in Little Mexico. A favorite in the meat department is the thin slices of marinated pork shoulder. Open daily, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; 5022 Edmonston Rd., Hyattsville; call 301-927-8910.
La Poblanita This plain but charming store has basic Mexican provisions as well as some rare finds such as woven tortilla baskets and rustic comal pans for cooking tortillas, searing meats and blistering chili peppers. Open daily, 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; 5701 Riverdale Rd., Riverdale; call 301-277-5773.
San Jose Grocery Groceries from Mexico, a meat department and lots of dried herbs from Oaxaca. Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; 4917 Edmonston Rd., Hyattsville; call 301-699-8074.
-- Walter Nicholls