A Late-Night Taqueria Opens in Shaw

Los Cinco Tacos makes its tortillas by hand and stays open until 3 AM.

Chef Jose Candelero opened Los Cinco Tacos on August 4th. Photograph by Travis Marshall.

Los Cinco Tacos. 711 Florida Ave., NW.

Bold red and white signs on Florida Avenue have been tempting passersby for months with the promise of tacos. Last week, Los Cinco Tacos finally fired up the grills, with a mariachi band heralding the grand opening—and stayed open ‘til 3 in the morning.

The storefront taco stand, from the team behind Capo Italian Deli next door, is the brainchild of chef Jose Candelero, who’s been Capo’s director of kitchen operations for five years. Candelero has spend more than two decades working in DC restaurant kitchens, including stints at Georgetown institutions Cafe Milano and (now-closed) Paolo’s Ristorante. At Capo, Candelero has overseen the finer points of thinly slicing capicola and whipping up tiramisu and cannoli filling from scratch as the business has expanded to Foggy Bottom, Tysons Corner, and Cabin John. But when Candelero cooked family meals to feed Capo’s staff, he reached for dried chiles and cactus. That inspired him and the deli’s owners to open Los Cinco Tacos.

“My new baby, Cinco Tacos, is one of my dreams,” Candelero says. “Mexican food is where I came from and I want to show people in DC.” 

The offerings are as simple and to-the-point as the taqueria’s name: five tacos. The options, all served on house-made tortillas, are carne asada, pollo asado, al pastor, nopales, and a weekly special. The rotating specials might include Candelero’s barbacoa, slow-cooked in banana leaves and rubbed with his own adobo, or his Yucatan-style cochinita pibil flavored with brick-red achiote, or annatto seed. Tacos, $4 each, are garnished with just cilantro and onion. For two bucks extra, you can get them as cheesy quesatacos with pico de gallo. The remainder of the menu: chips and salsa, guacamole, and drinks (including aguas frescas like horchata and tamarindo, and Mexican beers). A native of Las Choapas, Veracruz, Candelero says he may add Veracruz-style carne enchilada as a weekly special in the future.

“There are so many taco places, but the difference with Cinco Tacos is we do things with patience,” Candelero says. “I want to see peoples’ faces when they take the first bite of the tacos.”

Los Cinco Tacos has no seating, just a counter. The place stays open until 3 AM on Friday and Saturday nights, and until 10 PM on Thursday and Sunday nights. It’s closed Monday through Wednesday. 

Ike Allen
Assistant Editor