Cheap Eats 2008: Taqueria Nacional

Why go: James Beard Award–winning chef Ann Cashion—the woman behind the fancier Johnny’s Half Shell next door—has joined the upscale downscale trend, putting well-sourced meats and veggies in the service of humble taqueria fare. Hit the salsa bar, which offers three ways to punch up the flavor of your tacos.

What to get: Tacos filled with chunks of beef or smoky, shredded-pork carnitas, each topped with chopped onion and cilantro; batter-fried fish tacos with crunchy cabbage slaw and a slightly sweet crema salsa fresca; aguas frescas, cool and refreshing drinks that come in such flavors as sweet mango-orange or summery watermelon.

Best for: Takeout—there are no seats inside and only eight outdoors. Pick up a couple of tacos for a picnic in a nearby park or before hopping a train at Union Station.

Insider tip: Lovers of horchata, the almondy milk drink that’s a staple of most taquerias, will appreciate the version here made in the Spanish style with chufa nuts instead of ground rice and light on the cinnamon.

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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 Petworth.