Cheap Eats 2007: El Tapatio

A few doors down, a storefront that traffics in gaucho wear is selling knee-high boots made from snakeskin. The smell of grilled chickens from a nearby polleria fills the air as clouds of smoke billow above the plaza. The parking lot is jammed with cars and trucks, merengue pulsing from their open windows.

Situated on the outer edges of Little Mexico, this likable diner puts you in another world—you might think you were in Houston or LA. In a city whose Mexican restaurants often are Salvadoran places in disguise, El Tapatio stands out for its authenticity.

The corn tortillas have the rough texture of the genuine article; the puerco asado looks and tastes as though it’s been cooked for hours, falling apart at the touch of a fork; the marvelous sandwiches called tortas, stuffed with the likes of beer-cooked beef and braised pork and topped with stewed beans and avocado, are both light and filling. There’s also a tasty fried quail in green-chili sauce, and a hefty casserole, called chilaquiles, comprising torn tortillas, a lot of red or green sauce, a fried egg, and sometimes a fried chicken cutlet.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.