Tequila & Taco
By the Gastronomes
Tequila & Taco
If you are looking for a new place to take a break from the rigors of holiday shopping in Old Town, take the short drive to “New Town” and visit Tequila & Taco on John Carlyle Street in the heart of John Carlyle Square. The Square is located between Duke Street and Eisenhower Avenue across from the train station and King Street Metro and is home to the U.S. Patent and Trade Office and the Federal Courthouse. This fairly new area of Alexandria is growing at a steady pace and is also home to several new eateries. One of the newest kids on the block is Tequila & Taco – another of local restaurateur Mike Anderson’s dining establishments. T & T joins sister restaurant Sweet Fire Donna’s BBQ on the 500 block of John Carlyle Street.
We decided to test the waters….and the tequila….at T&T on that rare, sunny Sunday afternoon after Thanksgiving. It was a nice treat after the turkey and wine. Naturally, we started out with a couple of margaritas on the rocks w/salt to accompany the chips and salsa while we perused the menu. Just like the name indicates, there are several taco variations (13 to be exact) and tequila choices (over 40 kinds) but we were also impressed with the other offerings. The menu is simple and straight forward with the ever popular fajitas (chicken, shrimp, steak or a combo), burritos (cheese, pulled chicken, pulled pork and sliced brisket), enchiladas (pulled chicken, sliced brisket and veggie), three salads (beet, taco cobb and Caesar), T&T style shrimp ceviche and tuna tartare. There is also a burger on the menu. Not to be overlooked are the starters and desserts. The starters range from some of the best queso blanco that we have ever had to fried oysters and the empanada of the day with nachos, quesadillas, yucca fries, street corn and guacamole in between. There are only three dessert choices – tres leches cake, key lime pie, and churros – but that is plenty. The cake and key lime pie are made in house as is most everything else on the menu.
These guys pride themselves on fresh ingredients and the fact that most everything is prepped daily and the food is a good indication that they aren’t kidding. As mentioned earlier, we started with margaritas – one original and one spicy – and house-made chips and salsa. The “margs” are made with fresh squeezed lime and orange juice and blue agave tequila. There are several variations including a few seasonal flavors so we had to try the pomegranate/kiwi combo with dessert. And…yes, they even fresh squeeze the pomegranate and kiwi juice here! We both really liked the chips but weren’t that crazy about the salsa. It isn’t that it isn’t good – we ate a lot of it – but it isn’t traditional in that is has a very smoky chipotle taste instead of the fresh tomato, cilantro, onion, jalapeno combo that we both prefer. Don’t let our opinion dissuade you. In keeping with his standard Mexican restaurant M.O., my partner ordered the chicken fajitas while I stepped into taco and burrito territory. He was very impressed with the T&T fajitas and commented that this is the first place that has served the plate with enough tortillas to accommodate the dish. The tacos are street-style so are small and made with soft corn tortillas and made to be ordered ala carte, however, there is a three taco combo offer on the lunch menu for $10.95 – this is the way to go if you are just there for the tacos. I ordered one ground beef taco and a pulled pork burrito and was very happy with my choices. The taco was very tasty and just what I expected and the burrito was exceptional. This dish is served with lettuce, rice, cheddar, black beans, entomatado sauce and pico de gallo. We were pleasantly surprised when our server – Helena, who is fantastic BTW – placed a piece of the Key Lime Pie on our table with two spoons. We are both huge fans of this dessert and it was one of the best we have had in a long time. Just the right amount of tanginess with a perfect graham cracker crust. The aforementioned pomegranate/kiwi margarita was a nice compliment to the pie but I imagine it would be great with a cup of coffee as well.
While neither of us are huge tequila drinkers, we really don’t appreciate the inventory here but it is impressive none the less. For those of you aficionados of the blue agave juice, this place is a small slice of heaven. Over 40 kinds and served any way you like it, there has to be something that will impress you. While we are on the subject of alcohol, something that did impress us was the fact that Tequila & Taco has “Happy Hour” EVERY day from 4 to 7 pm – $3 beers, $5 margaritas and pina coladas and $5 glasses of wine.
We would be remiss if we didn’t comment on the décor. If you are a fan of “Dias de los Muertos” aka “Day of the Dead”, you will love the way they have incorporated the iconic artwork into the interior design. It is worth checking out for sure.
If you haven’t ventured over to the Carlyle Square area, put it on your list of places to check out and make it a point to stop in Tequila & Taco for lunch, dinner or brunch. They are open daily 11 am – 11 pm.
Tequila & Taco
540 John Carlyle Street