Taqueria Poblano

2400-B Mount Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA  22301
Taqueria Poblano on Urbanspoon

Down the street to Taqueria Poblano turned out to be downtown Del Ray.  While there is a Taqueria Poblano about half a mile from District Taco, I had a chance to go to the original Taqueria Poblano for lunch today.  I've definitely tasted some different flavors and have had a good time during this taco kick of mine but the one thing that I've found annoying is that tacos really aren't conducive to pictures.  They are sloppy and disparate things that are then mashed together and stuffed in your mouth.  When you order them, you care little for aesthetics.  You just want a series of bites that deliver a multitude of different flavors.

Taqueria Poblano felt more authentic to me but that could have just been a factor of it being less busy than District Taco and the fact that I love Del Ray so my viewpoint was already biased.  I got there for a late lunch and only a few tables were occupied.  I decided to stick to my taco sampling so I went with a selection of tacos.  Unlike District Taco, you choose your protein only for their L.A. Style crispy tacos and then they fill it for you.  So, I ordered one of those with their Chile-braised shredded beef.  Additionally, I ordered a Baja Fish Taco and a Duck Carnitas Taco.

It took me a while to catch onto the fish taco craze.  For the longest time, I didn't think it was natural to have fish of any kind in a taco.  I'm still hesitant to order one but I wanted to inject some variety into my little adventure into Tacoland.  This particular taco is described as being deep fried in a beer batter with some Mexican slaw, crema, and pico de gallo served on a soft corn tortilla.  The batter on the fish was thin, crispy and added just enough crunch to give a good textural balance to the taco.  I was hoping for more heat from the toppings (especially the Mexican slaw) but I think it got drowned out by the crema.  Nevertheless, I did enjoy the creaminess of each bite and it melded well with the flaky fish and crispy batter.

Up next was the Duck Carnitas.  The duck was marinated with lime and roasted.  The toppings included guac, cheese, pico de gallo and some pickled red onions.  I liked the crunch and bit of a bite (though subdued because of the pickling) from the red onions while the rest of the toppings provided the complement of flavors that you look for in a taco  The duck, though, had that rich, fatty taste that you expect but what set it apart was the lime marinade.  The slightly bitter acidity that cut through in every bite gave the taco such a great depth of flavor and balance.  I suppose I could have added some hot sauce for a bit of spiciness that i was looking for but after taking my first few bites of this, I didn't think adding anything extra was warranted.

When I got to the Chile-braised shredded beef taco, I wasn't really sure what it was since it came with a huge bunch of lettuce.  I mean mounds of lettuce and I had to take almost all of it off to get to the bottom of the taco.  This taco was served in a crispy tortilla shell which was a nice crunch but I think my was a little bit overcooked as it was much tougher than I expected.  After my lettuce modifications (I still wasn't convinced there was anything but lettuce in there), I took a bite on the end of the taco finally got into the beef.  Thankfully, it was a surprise worth waiting for as the beef was tender & juicy, well-seasoned with just a hint of heat, and rich in flavor.   The crunch and juiciness in this taco were in great balance and made it my favorite bite of the day.

I finished off the meal with a serving of Mexican Rice Pudding which is cooked rice mixed with milk, cinnamon and with raisins inside the mixture.  It comes out very much like a Filipino sticky rice pudding that I grew up with so was an immediate hit for me.  I like the bit of tarty sweetness that the raisins provided and the acidity from the accompanying lime was a new wrinkle for me but I thought it worked quite well.  To me, it was a nice way to finish off a meal that was very familiar but had a few new elements to it.

To me, District Taco and Taqueria Poblano occupy two very distinct places in the Mexican food universe.  District Taco is for when you're craving a quick and simple taco fix.  They churn out a ton of good food in a quick and efficient manner.  Taqueria Poblano is more of a laid back casual place that requires a bit more commitment but also offers a menu with more depth.   I did enjoy the tacos from Taqueria Poblano more but I think only because the food had a more creative flair.  Nevertheless, I think I've established a good baseline for my visit to R&R Taqueria and I certainly hopes it lives up to the hype.


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