When Las Gemelas Cocina Mexicana opened inside Latin marketplace La Cosecha in March, owners Josh and Kelly Phillips landed on a casual coastal all-day cafe as the best option for operating under pandemic constraints. Months later, they decided it was time to shake up the menu. But once brainstorming began, the Phillips realized they were heading towards a completely different restaurant.
“When we were planning [Cocina Mexicana], we were kind of afraid of doing something pretty ambitious,” says Josh. “But once we saw what our team was capable of, it was like, ‘why are we holding ourselves back?'”
The restaurant will rebrand as modern Mexican spot Destino on Tuesday, December 7.
Destino will serve riffs on classic Mexican dishes for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Cilantro-spiked mole verde is plated with crispy pork belly and an unexpected consort: handmade egg noodles. Enchiladas are stuffed with an autumnal combination of butternut and delicata squash.
Lunch dishes are designed for a quick break with handheld options like Brussels sprout quesadillas and torta rounds topped with ham and cheese or roasted cauliflower. Weekend brunch features crispy chilaquiles and French toast drizzled in chocolate and caramel. The restaurant’s tortillas will remain under the domain of tortilleria and Guerrero native Yesenia Neri-Diaz.
Food is paired with Mexican beers and bottles of wine from Argentina, Chile, and Mexico. Beverage director James Simpson wanted the cocktail list to feel like the offerings at an upscale cocktail bar with specific glassware for each drink and flavor profiles listed on the descriptive (real!) menu.
“People have been staring at QR codes for so long, so they’re embracing the menu again,” says Kelly. “They want to talk to the server and talk to the bartender, so we’re creating a conversation there.”
Like the entrees, some drinks are interpretations of the classics—think a citrusy Paloma with five spice syrup and a michelada melded with chamoy, a pickled fruit. All classic cocktails are $3 off during happy hour everyday from 4 to 6 PM. Other original creations include a drink made with blue corn chip bourbon and a hot passionfruit-rum beverage.
Although Las Gemelas Cocina Mexicana is changing, neighboring sister concept Taqueria Las Gemelas will remain the same.
Destino. 1280 4th St., NE; 202-866-0933.