Food

Las Gemelas Cocina Mexicana Amps Up Ambition With Rebrand as Destino

Sister concept Taqueria Las Gemelas will remain the same.

A braised beef tamales is paired with mole negro. Photo by Leah Judson.

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.

Egg noodles are an atypical addition to mole verde. Photo by Leah Judson.
Egg noodles are an atypical addition to mole verde. Photo by Leah Judson.

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.

Brussels sprout quesadillas are available for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Photo by Leah Judson.
Brussels sprout quesadillas are available for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Photo by Leah Judson.

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.

A riff on a sundae is made with black sesame ice cream and peanut sorbet on pomegranate ice. Photo by Leah Judson.
A riff on a sundae is made with black sesame ice cream and peanut sorbet on pomegranate ice. Photo by Leah Judson.

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.”

A cocktail is garnished with flowers. Photo by Lead Judson.
A cocktail is garnished with flowers. Photo by Lead Judson.

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.

Smoked beets and a beverage. Photo by Leah Judson.
Smoked beets and a beverage. Photo by Leah Judson.

Although Las Gemelas Cocina Mexicana is changing, neighboring sister concept Taqueria Las Gemelas will remain the same.

Destino1280 4th St., NE; 202-866-0933. 

Daniella Byck
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.

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