After a two year hiatus, chef Victor Albisu’s Northern Virginia-based taqueria Taco Bamba will make its return to DC. The new location is slated for the burgeoning City Ridge development (a.k.a. the revamp of Fannie Mae’s former headquarters) in Upper Northwest this fall.
This will be the taqueria’s first District location since the 2020 closure of its Chinatown storefront due to the pandemic. “The request from DC has been enormous and we are excited to be back in the city,” Albisu says. The City Ridge development (3900 Wisconsin Ave., NW) will also host locations of grocery chain Wegmans, Boston-based cafe Tatte Bakery, and King Street Oyster Bar.
The 3,100 square-foot fast-casual restaurant will the largest Taco Bamba of all six locations in Virginia and Maryland, with a 1,500-square feet patio. Each location features a “taco nuestros” lineup of creative riffs on tacos inspired by its neighborhood in addition to traditional street-style tacos, breakfast options, torta sandwiches, nachos, and more. Albisu says a few of the former Chinatown favorites may carry over to City Ridge.
The fast-casual chain is on a roll. Albisu plans to debut a seventh location in Landmark on April 20 (look for specialty tacos there like an Ethiopian-inspired berbere-spiced barbacoa and Korean-style fried chicken). Two more branches in Gaithersburg and Herndon will open this summer.
To help with Taco Bamba’s fast-growing expansion, Albisu recently hired two prominent chefs. Harper McClure, most recently the executive chef of Mintwood Place in Adams Morgan, is now helming Taco Bamba Vienna. Meanwhile Pittsburgh-based meat master Justin Severino of Cure (now closed) and charcuterie shop Salty Pork Bits has been brought on as the director of development. In his role, Severino—a longtime friend of Albisu—oversees the construction and design of new Taco Bamba locations and contributes to the menus.
This is a new chapter in his career, Severino says, as he’s been wanting to tap into his passion for design (prior to a cooking career, he grew up working construction). Severino says he plans to relocate to DC in the summer. While hushed on his vision for the space, Severino says is that he’ll be directly involved in the construction, in addition to crafting the design and concept. “I don’t know that I’ll be able to not be hands on,” he says. “It’s in my blood.”
Albisu opened the first Taco Bamba in 2013 as a carryout in Falls Church. Since then, the brand has expanded in the DC-area and employs more than 150 people across six locations. Albisu says he’s excited to bring on more talented chefs as Taco Bamba continues to grow, and he isn’t ruling out expanding outside the region. “I feel like there’s a lot of growth left to do in this area. But we absolutely are intending on growing outside of the DMV,” he says.