Passion Food Hospitality chef and partner Jeff Tunks is known as Papa Grande, or “big potato,” among his colleagues. The name fits the restaurant group's new Mexican concept, Fuego Cocina, in Clarendon. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

Part of it has to do with the sheer scale of Fuego. Executive chef Jeff Tunks’s new restaurant is massive, occupying two floors in the former Market Tavern space. The place has the ability to serve more than 250 diners at once, piling tables high with chef-driven Mexican dishes such as cochinita pibil, sopes, pozole verde and even genuine al pastor meat sliced straight off a vertical rotisserie.

Tunks gave me a tour of Fuego earlier this week, a pair of former Texans reminiscing about the South-of-the-border food that has so influenced the state’s cooking. I came away with a renewed appreciation of the hard work that goes into this “humble” cuisine. After the jump, I’ll give you a sense of exactly how much work, all in photos.


Jeff Tunks bought this copper pot during a recent exploratory trip to Chicago’s Mexican eateries. It's the traditional vessel for making the slow-cooked pork known as carnitas. Mexico native and Fuego chef de cuisine Alfredo Solis's version is prepared with real lard, but tempered with — I kid you not — evaporated milk to help reduce the strong aroma of the pig fat. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

Precious few taquerias in the D.C. area make their own tortillas, which is a small-but-serious offense against these hand-held bites. Even my beloved Taqueria La Placita in Hyattsville doesn't make its own. Fuego has employees dedicated to doing nothing but making tortillas. That sound you just heard? My heart skipping a beat. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)