When Covid-19 hit, China Chilcano pastry chef Teresa Padilla and Geraldine Mendoza, who works front of house, were furloughed like so many in DC. Padilla, a 15 year veteran of José Andrés’ Think Food Group, had always dreamed of bringing her Puebla-style cemita sandwiches and tacos to Washington. Fellow restaurant workers had raved whenever they appeared at family meal. So, with the help of China Chilcano head chef Carlos Delgado, the two friends came up with a business plan.
Taqueria Xochi, a nod to Padilla’s hometown of Xochimilco, recently launched as a ghost kitchen with delivery in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, Friday through Sunday. Padilla’s specialty is the cemita, a kind of torta (sandwich) from Puebla made with a brioche-like sesame-seed bun. Padilla bakes them fresh and stuffs them with crispy milanese-style beef or chicken cutlets, avocado, tomato, chipotle, beans, and shredded Oaxacan cheese. You can also order street-style tacos on homemade tortillas, with fillings that include shrimp, lengua (beef tongue), and wild mushroom adobada. There’s also the option of birria—a spicy adobo beef stew that’s tucked into the tortilla with onions and cilantro, and served with fragrant broth for dunking. In addition to individual portions, Xochi offers family-style taco boxes for four with homemade tortillas, garnishes, and salsas. Jarritos and Mexican sodas round out the menu.
As of now, the taqueria is delivery only, but business partner Brett Burka says the team is scouting for a brick-and-mortar location. While an independent restaurant is the end goal, Xochi will likely first manifest as a pop-up out of a DC bar or restaurant that’s looking for means to reopen, or as part of a business that wants to add something different to its menu. For now, you can place orders online for weekend delivery—though it’s a good idea to reserve in advance. During the pre-launch, Xochi sold out with over 200 orders per day.