An Early Look at Fuego Cocina y Tequileria (Pictures)

Check out the new Mexican bar and restaurant from the Passion Food group.

Whole beef tongue is braised for several hours at Fuego, resulting in tender hunks of mild meat. It comes with a traditional garnish of onions and cilantro and three salsas (from left): tomatillo-avocado, spicy habanero, and red chili. Photograph by Jeff Martin.

If freshly made tortillas, 110 tequilas, and tacos stuffed with slow-cooked meats sounds enticing, then check out Fuego Cocina, now open in Clarendon.

Head past the entry-level 30-seat bar and up a spiral staircase to the dining room, and you’ll probably recognize the tall guy in the open kitchen. Chef Jeff Tunks is on his seventh Passion Food Hospitality restaurant with business partners David Wizenberg and Gus DiMillo, including the most recently opened District Commons/Burger Tap and Shake and the Latin-themed eatery Ceiba

The new Arlington venture is more wallet-friendly than its South American cousin, and the menu draws strictly from Mexico. To that end, the kitchen is helmed by chef de cuisine Alfredo Solis, a Mexico City native who’s cooked alongside Tunks for the past 11 years. You’ll find classics such as thin, freshly fried chips and corn tortillas flattened on a wooden press and cooked to order. Nine varieties of tacos are stuffed with crispy fish, grilled shrimp, or one of several slow-cooked meats, such as braised beef tongue and pork al pastor, prepared street-food-style: marinated in achiote and sour orange, sliced thin, layered on a spit with onions and pineapple, slow-roasted, and shaved to order, like a Mexican shawarma.

The full menu and larger entrée-size portions of dishes such as seafood enchiladas and grilled skirt steak with cactus salad are available in the upstairs dining room, which is designed for lingering with deep booths, a linear fireplace, and two balconies: one for a few lucky diners, the other for the kitchen’s chili plants. If you’re more in the sipping mood, stay on the ground-floor tequileria for Mexican beers, frozen and classic margaritas—made with agave nectar, Sauza tequila, and fresh-squeezed lime—or one of the many sipping tequilas and mezcals. An abbreviated bar menu of tacos, ceviches, smashed-to-order guacamole, and quesadillas is available to soak up the booze.

For those planning a night out in Arlington this weekend, Fuego is offering Saturday and Sunday brunch straight out of the gate with an iconic Mexican hangover cure: menudo, a spicy tripe soup kicked up a notch with a poached egg. If stomach is too much to, er, stomach, there’re also more common comfort dishes, such as chilaquiles verde (tortillas layered with salsa, cheese, and fried eggs), huevos rancheros, and micheladas, the bloody Mary’s gentler Mexican sister that uses beer instead of vodka.

Fuego Cocina y Tequileria. 2800 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington; 571-970-2180.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.