Let’s begin by acknowledging that there are not enough really good Mexican restaurants in downtown D.C. Sure, you can find solid options as you move farther away from the area. But within a mile radius of the White House, most people looking to spend big bucks on food would likely choose another cuisine.
Unless they’re a member of the administration, apparently.
In the past five days, two Trump officials made high-profile visits to pricey Mexican restaurants: White House adviser Stephen Miller and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. The timing couldn’t have been more ironic — Miller and Nielsen played a role in advancing and shifting the blame for the administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, which President Trump ended with an executive order on Wednesday following international outrage.
That outrage manifested in protests during each restaurant visit. The New York Post reported that a fellow diner spotted Miller at Espita Mezcaleria on Sunday and said, “Hey look guys, whoever thought we’d be in a restaurant with a real-life fascist begging [for] money for new cages?”
Two nights later, a number of protesters entered MXDC Cocina Mexicana and chanted “Shame!” and “End family separation!” as Nielsen dined with one other person.
“Secretary Nielsen!” a protester yelled, according to video footage posted on Facebook by Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America. “How dare you spend your evening here eating dinner as you’re complicit in the separation and deportation of over 10,000 children separated from their parents? How can you enjoy a Mexican dinner as you’re deporting and imprisoning tens of thousands of people who come here seeking asylum in the United States?”
This isn’t the first time a Trump official’s meal at a Mexican restaurant made news. Back in January, then-White House communications director Hope Hicks was spotted leaving Rosa Mexicano with former top aide Rob Porter, who resigned amid allegations of abuse from two ex-wives. The Daily Mail story on the sighting outed the two as a couple.
And though it isn’t tied to recent events, we mustn’t forget President Trump’s cringey, taco bowl tweet during the campaign.
There’s a common denominator among this year’s incidents, aside from the surrounding drama: All three restaurants — Espita Mezcaleria, MXDC Cocina Mexicana and Rosa Mexicano — are pricey. Entrees go for $22-35 at the first and range from $16-38 at the second. Rosa Mexicano’s tacos range from $16.75-19, while house specials reach $28.
MXDC — which is not a favorite of Post food critic Tom Sietsema — has received an unusual amount of attention since Nielsen’s visit. Yelp users flooded the restaurant’s page with reviews swayed by their political views to the extent that Yelp’s support team is now monitoring it for such posts.
“This business recently made waves in the news, which often means that people come to this page to post their views on the news,” states a pop-up message. “While we don’t take a stand one way or the other when it comes to these news events, we do work to remove both positive and negative posts that appear to be motivated more by the news coverage itself than the reviewer’s personal consumer experience with the business.”
BuzzFeed News reporter Julia Reinstein managed to get a screenshot of a few reviews before Yelp deleted them.
“I was there when the DHS secretary was yelled at,” wrote a five-star reviewer. “I enjoyed the show. If children at the border can’t eat in peace then neither does she.”
A less enthusiastic reviewer gave the restaurant a single star and wrote, “The management of this restaurant should be ashamed of themselves for permitting a total ruckus to occur in their place last evening. Beware!”
Yeesh. Which downtown Mexican restaurant will be next?
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