District Taco

5723 Lee Highway
Arlington, VA  22207
District Taco on Urbanspoon

I'm going to see my folks and other family this coming weekend and was planning to stop by R&R Taqueria which is not only famous because of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives but also purported to be the best place to get Mexican food in the area.  I thought I needed a baseline in order to find out what the "best" tastes like so I decided to head out to District Taco which is only a short distance from my apartment and, more importantly, a joint with a solid reputation for producing good Mexican food.  I'm also planning on going to Taqueria Poblano down the street later on the week so I'd have a greater point of comparison.  Okay, so I have this Mexican kick going on too.

District Taco is right off Lee Highway in a little shopping center with a really narrow parking lot.  It's easy to find but parking is a bit of a pain.  The storefront is pretty unassuming and I went just a little after 6 PM on a weekday so I was hoping to get there before the dinner crowd.  Nope.  When I walked in I was hit by a chaotic rush of things.  There was a line to the door, servers running around shouting out crazy numbers for take out and sit down orders; some brightly colored walls; and more kids than I've ever seen in an eating establishment since the last time I was at Chuck e Cheese.  No, that wasn't last week and even if it was, don't judge. Now, all this wasn't necessarily a bad thing, it just wasn't something I expected.  I guess I expected some kind of hip hole-in-the wall taco dive but instead I walked into what felt like a Walt Disney World Food Court.  To be fair, it's located in a heavily suburban part of Arlington and it was still early in the evening.

While waiting in line for my turn at the cashier, I decided that I would just stick with their tacos for today.  I ordered their carnitas (shredded pork), barbacoa (shreded beef) and pollo asado (grilled chicken) tacos.  I kept the toppings the same:  sour cream, lettuce, tomato, pico de gallo, shredded cheese and cilantro.  I ordered a soda with it and was pleasantly surprised to see Boylan's sodas in their drink machine.  I've always been a fan of their birch beer so I loaded myself up, found a table and waited for my number to be called.  I couldn't help but notice the speed at which they put all the food together and even though there was a ton of people, there wasn't a back up in the kitchen.  It was really a pretty impressive site.

I usually get beef tacos (does Taco Bell count?) when I ordered tacos so I started with the barbacoa.  My first bite felt a little bland like there was something missing so I went and got some hot salsa from their condiment bar and applied it liberally to all three tacos.  This gave it that extra dimension of flavor and zing that I think I was looking for.  The beef still left me wanting (maybe some seasoning?) for more flavor.  The tacos felt too soggy to me and it may have been the addition of pico de gallo since they didn't feel too overstuffed.

The carnitas were much more flavorful than the beef and gave me a bit more of the depth I was looking for.  The pork was juicy and moist with a slight peppery taste.  The tacos still seemed too moist but again I think that was my choice of toppings rather than any one single ingredient.  Having the first bite of the taco already have the hot salsa (which really wasn't too hot) was huge change in the flavor profile and maybe would've changed my opinion of the carnitas.

The pollo asada was, surprisingly, my favorite taco of the meal.  The chicken had a nice char on it and provided a much needed crunch/contrast to the rest of the ingredients.  The chicken was well seasoned and really took well to soaking up the rest of the taco.  I had been a tad disappointed to this point but the chicken made up for any it's less flavorful cousins.

I'm certainly no expert on what authentic Mexican tacos are supposed to be.  District Taco was my first foray into Mexican food in a very long time and even though I came at a really busy time, they still managed to produced food that made me want to come back for more.  True, I was a searching for a bit more flavor from some of what I ate but I tasted enough promise to think that District Taco would be a solid choice if I was just looking for a quick and flavorful bite.


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