Food

Taco & Piña Debuts in Shirlington With Frozen Margs and Old Bay Nachos to Go

Good news: restaurant openings are still a thing.

Tacos are available for carryout and delivery. Photo courtesy of Taco and Piña.

“I’m used to big grand openings — fireworks, big staff, all those things,” says  Graham Bartlett. The chef helped open spots like El Centro and Buena Vida with boldface names like Richard Sandoval and Ivan Iricanin, but his own restaurant is being born into a very different world. Even a quiet unveiling feels like a huge feat.

Taco and Piña, which debuts today in Shirlington, is open for delivery and carryout-only until Virginia restaurants are permitted to allow dine-in customers with social distancing measures—a new reality that may set in as early as next week. Regardless, Bartlett says he was prepared to debut in the midst of a pandemic. When Covid hit the area in March, his team switched gears from planning a traditional launch to figuring out next steps, and talking to restaurant colleagues across the country. Learning from their experiences, Bartlett pared down the opening menu and posted signs around the entrance to help maintain the restaurant’s social distancing measures. Taco and Piña was always intended to be carryout-friendly, easing the transition into takeout-only service.

A masa tofu taco with watercress. Photo courtesy of Taco and Piña.
A masa tofu taco with watercress. Photo courtesy of Taco and Piña.

Dishes are designed to take creative license. Carnitas are marinated in orange Fanta before being stuffed into tacos, and “nacho fries” layer melty queso and tajin over crispy fries. The menu isn’t limited to Mexican fare, either. Take the spicy sambal chicken enchiladas or crab chilaquiles drizzled with dashi-spiked salsa verde.

There’s also booze to-go. The restaurant sells four-packs of Virginia and boxed wine. Also on tap: trendy pouch cocktails, like a roasted pineapple frozen margarita.

“It’s almost like you’re having a Capri Sun as a kid,” says Bartlett.

Taco and Piña. 4041 Campbell Ave., Arlington. 

A mural in the dining area. Photo courtesy of Taco and Piña.
A mural in the dining area. Photo courtesy of Taco and Piña.

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Assistant Editor

Daniella Byck joined Washingtonian in August 2018. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she studied journalism and digital culture. Originally from Rockville, she lives in Logan Circle.