Food

President Biden Surprises a DC Taqueria Owner by Dropping by on Cinco De Mayo

POTUS visited Las Gemelas taqueria to highlight the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

President Biden dropped by taqueria Las Gemelas on Cinco de Mayo for takeout tacos and to highlight the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Photograph by Leah Judson

President Biden made his first in-person visit to a DC restaurant since coming to the White House on Cinco de Mayo, dropping by newly opened Las Gemelas taqueria at Latin marketplace La Cosecha. Previously Biden’s motorcade swung by popular bagel shop Call Your Mother, though POTUS never got out of the vehicle.

Co-owner Josh Phillips says he was contacted by the White House, but thought a delegation from US Small Business Administration (SBA) was coming to visit the Latin marketplace restaurant, near Union Market. Las Gemelas, which is a partnership between Phillips, his family, and longtime employees Yesenia Neri-Diaz and Rogelio Martinez, is the first to be approved for a grant from the SBA’s $28.6 billion* Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

“I guess he [Biden] wanted to tell us in person,” says Phillips, who also owns Espita Mezcaleria in Shaw. “It was a very happy surprise.”

Biden heads into the La Cosecha marketplace restaurant with partner Yesenia Neri-Diaz. Photograph by Leah Judson

Phillips says his business received $600,000 from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which among other things helps out new restaurants like Las Gemelas. The taqueria was slated to open last July, but didn’t debut until March due to Covid. The grant will help cover operating expenses as well as building out outdoor patio space.

“Opening this place was big challenge,” says Phillips. “We opened up severely underfunded. This was quite an honor.”

Phillips says Biden ordered four tacos to-go from on homemade corn tortillas from tortillera Neri-Diaz: pork al pastor, beef barbacoa, lengua (tongue), and carnitas. He also picked up a homemade green chorizo and a mushroom quesadilla. When reached by Washingtonian, Phillips was busy working behind the counter for what he predicted would be a crazy Cinco de Mayo—just not this kind of crazy.

“Cinco de Mayo is always an insane day. Usually nothing good happens —your tequila delivery doesn’t show up or the system goes down. So this ranks up there as the happiest surprise that’s ever happened on Cinco de Mayo.”

*This post has been updated from an earlier version.

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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.