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El Chucho: Dreams Do Come True

For many years I’ve carried on an illicit love affair with tacos.  Tasty tasty morsels of succulent meat and vegetables wrapped tortillas. So many different types and varieties. My love affair started as a child with crispy tacos filled with cheese, and salsa, and seasoned ground beef. As I grew and traveled and sampled different culinary delights an idea grew in my mind. It was an idea formed around the fusion of flavors from around the world. From the Middle East, to the Caribbean, to Africa, Europe, and Asia. This idea was far from original, and in recent years I’ve seen it come to fruition. Here in D.C. you can find Asian fusion tacos at Chinitos and a Korean Taco truck – The Takorean – both are worth checking out.

But there is something to be said for tradition. There is something to be said for going home and the original version of things. Time and time again I find myself drawn to the original street tacos found in Mexico.  D.C. has long had issues with authentic Latin food within its boarders. I’ve been disappointed time and time again. This summer three new Latin spots opened up: Pacifico, El Chucho, and Bandolero.  I set a goal to try them all over the course of the summer. I can say with 100% certainty that only one of these establishments is really worth the time, trek, price point.  Pacifico was a major disappoint. I could caution anyone looking for actual food, to look elsewhere. Bandolero had some redeeming qualities – the suckling pig tacos were nothing short of spectacular, but the price point was way to high for my taste and the menu was some what deceptive. Quite simply put, I didn’t get the sense of culinary awe and amazement that I’ve come to expect from Mike Isabella.

El Chucho was the last spot on my list for the summer.  It was worth the wait. Owned by the same folks who own Jackie’s Sidebar in Silver spring, I had an inkling in my mind that this establishment would be something special; it was.  This place completely lacked the kitschy design that marks Pacifico and the pretense that flows from Bandolero. Rather it sparks of authenticity.  From the outdoor side walk patio where you can pull up a chair at the bar from the street, to the dark interior with retro tables and chairs you completely feel as if you have entered a Mexican Tacqueria. I’ve saved the best for last, upstairs is a rooftop deck made for sipping margaritas and sangria (which I did). This spot is tailor made for sitting and whiling away the afternoon. If you’re lucky enough to still be there sipping and tasting into the evening, you’ll be delighted when the patio lights come on.

I went to El Chucho with a buddy of mine on a Sunday afternoon. The menu is seemingly simple, but upon closer inspection we had a hard time choosing what it was that we wanted exactly.  We quickly came to an agreement to sample the menu until our bellies were full. We started out with the one item I absolutely had to try: Mexican street corn.  I’d been hurt before, but I decided to take a chance.  My adventurous nature was rewarded when the dish arrived.  Grilled corn on the cob topped with cilantro, butter sauce, and cheese.  You don’t know heaven until you’ve had something this succulent in your mouth.  It was buttery, and cheesy, and superb tastiness with the texture of corn.  This stuff was so good, it would have been impossible for anything else on the menu to disappoint me.

I won’t completely hype El Chucho. The chips and salsa left a bit to be desired; but that didn’t stop me from munching them half to death. My favorite place for chips and salsa is Oyamel – charred tomato salsa that makes my mouth water every-time; but I digress.

Margaret ordered the chicken tacos and I had the zucchini blossom tacos. We also ordered the guacamole and the pasilla rellena de pansa. Our waitress, an adorably curvy Latino in black rimmed hipster glasses was incredibly helpful. Nothing she brought to the table was lacking in taste. As far as the tacos went, the zucchini blossom tacos were nothing short of spectacular. In my opinion they outshone the chicken tacos.  The layering of the flavor profile on the zucchini tacos were much more complex than I would have guessed; I was pleasantly surprised.

El Chucho: Chicken Tacos

Squash Blossom Veggie Taco

While we were enjoying the tacos, the tacos both the chili renello and the guacamole arrived.  The guacamole wasn’t as good as mine ( but I’ve never admitted that any guacamole was as good as mine). The chili renello stuffed with pork belly was tender and succulent and beautiful; I literally couldn’t have asked for more.

Chili Renello

I’m going to take a moment to mention the El Chucho happy hour. The tacos are half price. The guacamole is $5.00 instead of $7.00.
The drinks are also $2.00 off.  All of our food was ordered during HH. For 4 drinks, guacamole, 4 tacos, and pasilla rellena de pansa – we spent $45.00.  For what we ordered, one of the best values in the city for authentic Mexican food. I dare you to be disappointed.

At this point my buddy and I were super proud of ourselves for finishing most of our food. While the Tacos were enough for us, there was some concern that our male friends would have to sell their first born to get full here.  This concern was alleviated when we saw what the table next to us ordered. There were three guys sitting there. While Margaret and I thought we had ordered a massive amount of food, seeing what they had ordered put out paltry order to shame.  The sandwiches were ginormous.  They were literally the size of my forearm, one of them was covered with sauce.  Only the fact that my phone had died stopped me from asking if I could take pictures of their food.

And then Foodie nirvana happened. We chatted with those three guys throughout our meal. We had a great time. It reiterate my feelings about food. There is nothing more communal than sharing a meal, nothing more likely to spark conversation, nothing more likely to bring people together than good food. There is something about sharing a meal, even if it’s huddled at a table from the rain, that make sharing a meal with strangers magical. There’s something about sharing a meal, that makes strangers not so strange anymore.  The food at El Chucho was amazing, the experience was even better than that.  I’m looking forward to taking my other buddies there to sip and relax on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

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