Fish Taco is a misleading name. The new Cabin John taqueria from Michael Harr (executive chef at Bethesda’s Food Wine & Co.) does indeed serve tortilla-wrapped fish—you order it grilled, blackened, or deep-fried and slathered with cilantro-laced sauce—but this isn’t a one-hit wonder. In fact, some of the best offerings at the fast-casual restaurant, decked out handsomely in reclaimed wood, don’t feature seafood at all.
Among our favorite reasons to visit: an excellent vegetarian taco with slices of lightly grilled avocado, which Harr tops with smoky mushrooms, corn relish, and a mixture of onions and red peppers. Avocado is also atop the chicken tortilla soup—a textbook version of the cumin-scented comfort food—as well as mashed up in a terrific onion-studded guacamole. In the evening, try the chunky guac with house-fried chips and a lager or a frozen lime margarita.
Those earthy mushrooms and that onion-pepper mixture show up again in a slow-smoked-brisket burrito. The tender beef, along with vinegary adobo pork or chicken, can also be ordered in quesadillas, rice bowls, and tacos. Served two to a plate with beans and rice, tacos are the best way to go. As much as we enjoyed the brisket, midway through the plump burrito we began to get bored. It’s more fun to order a few different tacos—when it comes to the fish variety, fried flounder is our favorite, with sweet meat and crunchy cabbage—and share them.
You don’t want to get too full, because the best dish is, oddly enough, an eggy bread pudding doused in salted-caramel sauce. The confection is a scene stealer—and not at all what you’d expect at a strip-mall spot called Fish Taco.
This article appears in the December 2013 issue of Washingtonian.