There have been a recent slew of of Latin restaurants opening recently in the district. There’s El Chucho Cochino in Adams Morgan, a spot with margaritas on tap. There’s Mike Isabella’s new spot Bandolero in Georgetown offering old school style and octopus tacos, an experience to be savored. And there’s Pacifico Cantina on Barrack’s row. During the epic heat wave of 2012, in which temperatures reached 109 in the District. My friends and I were determined to enjoy the day despite the blistering heat. Of the three choices mentioned above, only one was opened for lunch at 3PM on a Sunday afternoon. So we headed off to Pacifico Cantina. The spot has a rooftop deck that was designed for sipping margaritas and people watching.
There were so many things right about Pacifico Cantina, mostly the alcohol and the guacamole. I’m not a margarita fan (please withhold your gasps of shock and horror), they’re mostly made with a mix rather than traditional fresh ingredients = Sin #1. Margaritas are also way to sweet to my sensitive palate. Alcohol and sugar tend to make me a little queasy when served together. I dislike mojito’s for the same reason, too much fake sugary sweetness. So against my better judgement I ordered a mango CoronaRita, Corona mixed with mango margarita. One of my companions ordered the regular CoronaRita, while another ordered the strawberry mojito. The drinks were things of cooling alcoholic perfection, they were nothing short of delectable.
My friend described the mojito as fresh with subtle hints of authentic freshly muddled strawberry sweetness. The overly subtly sweetness of pre-made drinks was pleasantly absent. We ordered the guacamole, which was advertised as made to order. While we were not asked how we wanted our guacamole made, it was an extremely tasty bowl of guacamole made in traditional mojacate. It was almost as good as the guacamole I made at home, which is a compliment in and of itself.
Looking at the menu, there wasn’t much there for a Saturday afternoon late lunch. They were still on their brunch menu, which is typical, but brunch means lunch and breakfast and this menu was incredibly limited. Unless we were looking for breakfast at 3:45PM in the afternoon our options were tacos. There was no mention of the interesting appetizers listed on the website, the sizzling fijitas, or cinnamon sugar donuts, no shrimp pork nachos. So tacos it was. Between the three of us we sampled most the tacos on the menu. The tacos weren’t bad, but neither were they anything to write home about.
One of my companions ordered the Carne Asada taco. She described the meat itself as bland, lacking seasoning, but the taco as a whole was saved by the other toppings. Another friend ordered the fish taco, it too was a disappointment. Here’s the thing: we know that when restaurants say white fish, that they’re using talapia. We also know that talapia is cheap. So there is no excuse that a fish taco shouldn’t have a sizable portion of fish to accompany it. Calling the fish in that taco miniscule would be a compliment; it was non existent. I myself ordered the achiote spiced shrimp taco and the vegetarian taco. I’m fairly certain I made the best decision, though the refried black beans that my buddy ordered topped with crumbled cheese did look tasty. So a couple of things to be aware of on your visit: extra sauces cost an amazing 3$ for a tiny amount (they should really be embarrassed), they don’t give you rice and beans like most Latin restaurants (Rosa Mexicana) and it’s anyone’s guess as to what you’ll actually find on the menu.
All in all, I’d go back. The tacos weren’t bad and on the right night they’re 1/2 priced. The cocktails were tasty, the remainder of the menu looked promising, and the people watching from the rooftop deck was premium. Just beware about going at weird hours on the weekend; you could have any one of three menus, limiting your choices.