Taco Bamba: Some Marrow in Your Taco?

At Taco Bamba, Victor Albisu serves up soft tortillas with offbeat fillings and fabulous crispy sopes.


This taco with grilled guacamole, chorizo, and skirt steak is a favorite. Photograph by Scott Suchman

About Taco Bamba



The last five years may have been all about pig worship—what with the endless stream of pork-belly BLTs, bacon lollipops, and roasted suckling pigs—but chef Victor Albisu is throwing the spotlight back on the cow. Six months ago, he opened the high-gloss Latin American steakhouse Del Campo in DC’s Penn Quarter, where he began serving up communal platters of fabulous rib eyes and Wagyu skirt steaks—at expense-account prices. Now he’s opened a second meat-centric place, the more wallet-friendly Taco Bamba in Falls Church.

The narrow carryout, a few doors from his mother’s grocery store, has some hallmarks of real-deal Mexican-expat taquerias—strip-mall setting, tongue and tripe on the menu, tall glass bottles of Coke. Still, Albisu puts a cheffy stamp on things. How many taco shops have you been to that have a sous chef (Faiz Ally)? Or brightly flavored guacamole ($3) made with grilled avocados? Or the options of sweetbreads and bone marrow?

The corn tortillas didn’t blow us away—they’re of the papery, packaged variety—but a few of the specialty tacos did. There’s the excellent Bamba Ball ($4), with bite-size, chili-and-tomato-braised meatballs, that grilled guac, and crumbles of salty cotija cheese. The El Beso ($4) showcases crispy-fried bits of pork and beef tongue with Sriracha-laced aïoli and grilled scallions. Less appealing: a portobello taco ($4) that was overpowered by chipotles. A standout version of elote ($3)—a big, mayo-slathered cob of corn—should be more pleasing to vegetarians.

Albisu’s attention to the little things helps elevate those creative tacos. The other, “traditional” side of the menu is a more straightforward lineup of meats, and you’ll want to grab lots of tomatillo salsa and lime to spruce them up, especially the shredded beef and chorizo ($3 each), which can tend toward the dry side.

But as it turns out, the best things at Taco Bamba aren’t tacos at all. They’re sopes ($4.50), which ditch the tortillas in favor of crunchy, deep-fried masa flatbread and add a verdant pile-up of extras: shredded lettuce, earthy puréed beans, tomatillo sauce, cactus salsa, jalapeños, and cilantro. They can be had with any of the meats, such as the wonderful slow-roasted marinated pork or the seared beef.

Pig, beef—it doesn’t matter. When it’s heaped on a sope, we’ll take it all.

Like many taquerias, Taco Bamba is a snug, dine-at-the-counter operation. Even better than the tacos are the sopes—deep-fried masa flatbreads, here topped with carnitas, jalapeños, avocado, and cactus salsa.

This article appears in the October 2013 issue of Washingtonian.

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.