Fans headed to Nationals Park and Audi Field have a new spot for game-day tacos and tequila at Él Bebe, opening today in Navy Yard.
Metropolitan Hospitality Group signed the lease for the 3,3000-square-foot space near the ballpark almost three years ago. One part was set to become a fourth location of its Modern American bistro chain, Circa. The other remained a mystery. As MHG began brainstorming concepts, the Falls Church-based group strayed away from its typical process of looking at the neighborhood’s demographics and needs. Instead, MHG president Matthew Carlin looked within his company and polled everyone from social-media-savvy millennials to older executives. Carlin describes the process as “incredibly fun, hysterical, and exhausting,” with one point of unanimous agreement: tacos.
“We talked about all the things that this space could be, and it was the one unifying thing that everybody agreed upon,” Carlin said. “I think tacos cover a lot of ground. If you’re hungry, you can have a lot. If you want to eat clean, you can.”
The result is a collaborative menu. The team loved the Peruvian green sauce that chef Javier Loayza made for family meal one night, so you’ll find a version with mini beef empanadas. The tres leches cake is a version of the one that chief operating officer Vince Spinoso’s wife bakes for birthday parties.
Though you’ll find classics such as guacamole, ceviche, and chicken mole enchiladas, the menu isn’t traditional—especially when it comes to the 11-odd tacos like bánh mì-inspired pork belly with a soy glaze and pickled vegetable slaw, or vegetarian options such as beer-battered cauliflower.
With the restaurant’s proximity to Nationals Park and Audi Field, creating a pre-game, post-work happy hour was a priority. The deals are available throughout the entire space, indoor and out, five days a week. Specials includes $2 chips and salsa, $4 Tecate and Corona cans, and $6 margaritas. The classic and frozen margaritas come with a rim of salted chili powder, or you can turn up the heat with dehydrated jalapeños.
Miami artist Miguel Paredes is behind the paintings that brighten the dimly lit space. Zero in on the one of a dancing man above a chartreuse banquette to find hidden symbols in his tattoo sleeves.
“I secretly reached out to [the artist], and I sent him a PowerPoint of all of the personal tattoos of all of our leadership team,” Carlin says. “Everyone had a good laugh, and it turned out pretty cool.”
Like so many restaurants these days, the decor was designed with Instagram in mind—think a neon “Tequila yes, you maybe” sign and a mustache mug for a mezcal and dry-ice cocktail dubbed My Paloma Is Smoking. Even the bar is outfitted with outlets and USB ports to charge waning batteries.
Él Bebe is open for happy hour and dinner service starting at 4 . In upcoming weeks, the restaurant will also begin serving lunch.
Él Bebe. 99 M St., SE.