Cheap Eats 2007: La Sirenita

If you think every Mexican dish is really the same dish—variations on a theme of meat, beans, cheese, and rice—you’re due for a trip to this Riverdale joint, which should banish all memory of Tex-Mex haunts that make each plate indistinguishable from the last.

La Sirenita packs atmosphere into its tiny storefront and teems with the tastes and sounds of central Mexico. Expect to do a bit of pointing and gesturing with the waitstaff if you don’t speak Spanish, but don’t let that keep you from the satisfactions here: soulful bowls of posole and menudo; terrific tacos (two-ply corn tortillas stuffed with any of eight meats, including spicy chorizo, salty beef, and cubes of luscious pork); a delicately battered chile relleno stuffed with queso fresco; tortilla casseroles called chilaquiles that bring together torn corn tortillas, a zesty roja sauce, and a fried egg; and big, sharable plates of stewed chicken in a bittersweet mole sprinkled with sesame seeds, or of plump, butterflied shrimp in a sprightly red sauce with peppers and onions.

Not one of them is blanketed with orange cheese.

Open daily except Tuesday for breakfast, 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.