100 Best Restaurants 2009: Oyamel

No. 64: Oyamel

Cuisine: Mexican regional cooking gets the José Andrés treatment. Translation: playful little plates known as antojitos, full of fire and crunch. House-made salsas and tortillas elevate the experience but not the prices.

Mood: The bar is a favored spot for the in-a-hurry Shakespeare Theatre– and Verizon Center–bound, while the dining room, with its orange nooks and metal butterfly mobiles, draws an eclectic, young crowd.

Best for: Diners who appreciate the differences between regional Mexican cooking and Tex-Mex as well as the before- and after-theater/sports event/concert crowd.

Best dishes: House-made guacamole; short ribs with chili-tomatillo-cilantro mole; tacos of pit-barbecue pork with pickled red onions; grilled skirt steak with green chili sauce; shrimp with a spicy/nutty sauce of pumpkin seeds and serranos; fried potatoes with almond-and-chocolate-spiked mole; warm chocolate cake with Mexican-hot-chocolate froth.

Insider tips: Happy-hour specials—drinks and food—make an ideal repast for diners on the run. Classic margaritas by the pitcher are better and cheaper than top-shelf takes. The novelty grasshopper tacos are just that—you won’t pine for them after the first time.

Service: ••

Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday and Sunday for brunch and dinner. Inexpensive to moderate.

See all of 2009's 100 Best Restaurant 

Get Our “Brunches This Weekend” Newsletter

The best breakfasts and brunches to try every weekend, plus our most popular food stories of the week.

Or, see all of our newsletters. By signing up, you agree to our terms.
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.