Samantha's Restaurant melds a variety of Latin American culinary traditions into a single menu rife with fresh seafood, sizzling fajitas, and stuffed poblano peppers. Washingtonian magazine highlighted the masitas de puerco, a traditional Havana dish of bitter orange-marinated pork, as well as the "peppy mariachi soundtrack" that fosters a lively atmosphere. As appetizers of citrus-and-ginger-infused ceviche disappear like a repossessed magic kit, diners can turn their focus to mesquite-grilled fish or a refreshing cocktail from the fully stocked bar.
Featuring authentic Mexican cuisine fashioned with fresh ingredients, Pica Taco's menu offers a feast of traditional burritos, tacos, enchiladas, and more. Take a seat in either of Pica Taco's casual dining establishments and sip a cold Corona while munching on one of eight soft or crunchy tacos, such as carnitas, pollo, or barbacoa ($2.25 each). A supreme burrito ($8.50) with an order of chips and salsa ($2.75) or plantains ($2.50) silences stomachs long enough for you to get in a word and order another Tecate with lime. The menu makes room for 10 vegetarian items such as the cheese enchilada, veggie taco salad, or veggie sandwich ($6.50 each). Breakfasters can make a fast break for a cheese bagel ($3.25); huevos rancheros ($5.25); or breakfast burrito ($4.50) to prepare themselves for skipping the morning chores.
El Rincon Espanol resembles the courtyard of a Spanish villa, with huge arched windows shedding rays on tile floors, hanging greenery, and framed prints of bullfighters. Whether seated at a wooden table around a pitcher of sangria or at the marble-topped bar with a margarita, guests can dig into Spanish and Latin American dishes such as sizzling paellas and Peruvian-style flank steak. The enormous menu holds options at just about every level of fanciness, from a plate of nachos supreme all the way up to the lobster thermidor, stuffed with shrimp, scallops, and crab. And then there are the tapas: 100 small plates of poultry, grilled meats, seafood, and veggies. Upstairs, the restaurant beckons revelers with weekly live entertainment. Named "The Cave" for its low lighting and status as a popular after-work hangout for spelunkers, the space hosts disco dance nights and, occasionally, live Salvadorian music.
When Jose and Betty Reyes emigrated from El Salvador to Washington D.C. in the 1980s, they were excited to set down their roots and start a new life. One thing was missing from their new neighborhood, though: the rich flavors of traditional Central American cuisine. Rather than trying to grow a ceviche tree, the couple set out to rectify the problem by opening El Tamarindo. Thirty years later, their eatery still serves time-tested recipes with house-made sauces for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as fresh margaritas and other cocktails. Guests savor bold flavors in traditional Salvadoran pupusas—handmade corn tortillas stuffed with a choice of toppings—or plates of bone-in chicken topped with mole sauce.
The fragrance of sizzling spiced meats waft through the brightly hued dining room of Azteca Restaurant and Cantina, enticing diners as they sit at cozy tables and pull cornflower-blue napkins into their laps. Helmed by owners James Burick and Mario Orellana, Azteca Restaurant and Cantina titillates taste buds with generous portions of unusual yet authentic Tex-Mex eats. Diners can rev up their eating engines with the tamales de elote filled with creamy sweet corn before moving on to a beef chimichanga, a roundup of beef, beans, guacamole, and cheese in a tortilla big enough to blanket a replica of the Aztec pyramids. A sizzling plate of lobster-tail fajitas comes with chicken and beef, whereas the enchiladas monterrey provide a meat-free option resplendent with cheese and ranchero sauce.
Perch on high-backed chairs to peruse the exhaustive menu of Latin-American flavors and start with a beefy app such as the taquitos ($8.95) or the Mexican pizza with melted cheese, guacamole, and shredded beef and chicken ($8.95). Vegetarians can advance directly to platanos con crema y frijoles ($6.95), an order of deep-fried sliced plantains sided with sour cream and beans for dipping. For heartier appetites, try an order of fajitas for two. The combo platter includes marinated steak, shrimp, chicken, and pork ribs, served with grilled veggies (tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers) and south-of-the-border toppers (guacamole and ranchera sauce), all for $31.95. For an authentic mouthful of El Salvador, stick your fork into a few pupusas ($1.75 each), cheese-stuffed corn tortillas with a choice of six fillings, served with pickled cabbage and carrots. Diners will also find a variety of burritos, chimichangas, enchiladas, and egg-centric entrees.
Tomatillo Taqueria's menu features quickly crafted Tex-Mex lunch creations. A burrito ($6), three white corn tortilla tacos ($6), or a single taco ($3) can be filled with a bevy of fresh ingredient combinations. Choose from meats including carnitas (naturally raised pork), chicken, or barbacoa (beef rubbed and braised), or vegetarian ingredients such as roasted peppers, onions, black beans, and fresh guacamole. Soft drinks are $2 each, and sides such as chips and salsa ($3) or chips and guac ($4) complement the main course with added Tex-Mex taste. Tomatillo Taqueria serves midday Southwestern fare from a window with friendly customer service, and is great for a quick, satisfying meal.