Osiris Hoil and Marc Wallace had an inside track on the F Street NW space that will become, much to the owners’ relief, District Taco’s f irst location in the District of Columbia itself. When Wallace owned his own software company, he used to work in the same downtown building and had regular dealings with the landlord, the Douglas Development Corp.
“I knew Douglas, and I was like, ‘I want that space when it becomes available,’ ” Wallace recalls during a hard-hat tour of the future District Taco at 1309 F St. NW, the partners’ second bricks-and-mortar restaurant since launching as an Arlington food cart in 2009.
Wallace and Hoil eventually got that space; in fact, they’ve had it since last spring, when the partners signed a lease. They couldn’t take possession of the spot, however, until the previous tenant, that health-conscious restaurant and organic liquor spigot/lounge known as FunXion, concluded its proceedings in bankruptcy court.
“We’re in here months later than we wanted to be,” says Wallace, who hopes to open by March or April with the same hours and menu as the Arlington-based restaurant. “But we’re rockin’ and rollin’ now.”
CORE, the District-based design group, has drawn up plans that call for a grill station, a salsa bar and an elevated mezzanine area that will seat about 26 people (with another eight seats on the main floor). Demolition crews were already working to exterminate the lounge-lizard vibe, stripping walls down to the terra-cotta brick, removing anything that glows and otherwise preparing the space for a casual taqueria that balances American and Yucatecan influences.
The structure itself, known as the Brownley Confectionery Building for the candy factory once housed in it, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Designed by Porter & Lockie, one of Washington’s leading architectural firms in the early 20th century, the building is considered a “rare example of earlier, more exuberant art deco ornamentation” in the District, according to a Washington Business Journal story from 2002.
Hoil hopes to bring a genuine taste of his native Yucatan to the historic building, although he notes the authenticity of one’s experience at any District Taco is completely dependent on the customer. Each can choose between flour and corn tortillas, not to mention a variety of meats and toppings.
“It’s up to you whether you want to make it very original,” Hoil says. “Or it’s up to you whether you want to make it very American.”