If finding a new source for great Mexican cooking weren't enough, I learned the partners behind El Sol are already constructing another restaurant on 14th Street NW, just down the road from where they will soon shutter their first location.
Alfredo and Jessica Solis, the sibling chefs behind the terrific El Sol restaurants, will close their operation at 3911 14th St. NW at the end of the month, says Alfredo Solis. The owner of the property is selling it and has offered to buy out the El Sol lease. The Solises plan to take the offer and start planning for their next venture, located just a block south on 14th Street.
Construction is already underway for Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana, a 72-seat restaurant that Alfredo and Jessica Solis hope to open in July. The chefs will expand the conceptual boundaries with their new place: They plan to prepare more stews, more seafood and more seviches. They even want to create a selection of Mexican-style small plates, so diners can sample more food without investing in a full entree. Think small plates of mole enchiladas, quesadillas or chili rellenos.
As the name implies, Mezcalero will also put more emphasis on the bar program, which will specialize in tequilas and mezcals. At present, Alfredo Solis makes the drinks for El Sol, but for Mezcalero, he will bring in professional help.
"For this one," Alfredo Solis says, "I want to hire a real bartender."
That's the good news. The potentially bad news? Mezcalero will be located one door down from Taqueria Habanero, the taco outlet that Puebla native and chef Dio Montero runs with exquisite attention to detail. Can the neighborhood support two superior Mexican restaurants in the same strip?
Alfredo Solis thinks so, and he's working to carve out a personality for Mezcalero that's separate from Habanero's, so the two places won't offer the exact same menus. But he says he's already experienced the fallout of his decision: Two line cooks at Habanero, who used to work for Solis at Passion Food Hospitality, no longer talk to him.
Yicela Alvarado, daughter of Montero, didn't know for certain that the Solis siblings were opening a Mexican restaurant until I told her. "Logically, yes, it would hurt our business," she says. "We're just going to keep on doing what we're doing."
But the same time, Alvarado saw another side of the situation: Both restaurants will be promoting authentic Mexican food to Washingtonians. "And that's good," she says.