Chop Shop Taco
By the Gastronomes
Chop Shop Taco
One of Alexandria’s newer kids on the block, Chop Shop Taco opened this spring in the Parker-Gray District of the city on Madison Street in the remaining space of a former auto body shop that also houses Grateful Kitchen and Zweet Sport Total Fitness. This cool new place added another bit of spice to the block and more “taco joint” competition to the area. We currently have 4 designated “taco” places in Alexandria along with several Mexican food restaurants. Wonder what the new fad is going to be?
This taco spot was introduced by Chef Ed McIntosh, previously of DC’s taco delivery service Tortilladora and Alexandria’s rotating concept carry out restaurant Pendleton Carryout Co. McIntosh’s collection of restaurants consistently focus on quick, tasty and price appropriate food, and Chop Shop Taco fits the same bill.
Obviously the name comes from the reference to the old body shop practice of “chopping” up vehicles and repurposing the parts into others. These guys did much of the same thing by repurposing parts of the body shop into the décor. The old car lifts now have tables on top of them, a tool bin now holds flatware, napkins, a variety of hot sauces and a self-service water jug. We didn’t look in all of the drawers but I bet there were some cool things in them as well. There is seating in the rear of the restaurant that resembles reupholstered car seats and the same sort of theme is taken out on the chairs. Old tires serve as plant holders. The garage door still opens and there is counter seating in front of it. The murals and the paint job in Chop Shop is fantastic. This is a really fun place to be – it takes you “out of the city”. It made us feel like we were in Old Mexico or in the islands. The photos don’t really do it justice. You need to go see for yourself.
The menu is pretty eclectic and you aren’t going to find anything that resembles an Old El Paso or Taco Bell taco in this joint. They serve five varieties of tacos ranging in price from $3-$4.50 and rotate daily depending on the availability of seasonal fresh ingredients. They are all served on fresh Masa tortillas made in house daily. We tried the Pork/Achiote/Banana Leaf with cilantro, radish, medium salsa, quick pickle red cabbage and a lime to squeeze and the Chicken/Yucatan with mango salsa, scallion, pickled red onion and the lime to squeeze. They were both very tasty. We each had one of each and accompanied them with two of the sides – the Frito Pie and the Roasted Corn on the Cob/Za’Tar. The Frito Pie was really good – lime crema, za’tar red onion, cilantro, jack cheese and chile beans served over corn chips in an individual Frito Lay bag. Presentation is key! The corn, on the other hand was no great shakes. The problem was the quality of the corn itself. This time of year there should be some really good ears out there. It was tough and flavorless even with the chipotle-lime crema and cotja on it. We didn’t venture into the entrée they have on the menu – The Rib – but it sounds really good. You probably can’t go wrong with a bone-in duck fat roasted beef short rib with gochujang (whatever that is), cilantro, lime, red onion and handmade tortillas. We aren’t in the habit of regurgitating a restaurants entire menu since most of you can check them out online but they have small plates and a version of guacamole that we are going to try on our next trip.
We also had a couple of the house classic margaritas and they were exceptional. Most of the ingredients in the cocktails here are made in-house and we are sure the freshly squeezed lime juice makes the difference in the margs. We also liked the presentation with the black sea salt on the side. They have 5 kinds of margaritas and a rotating cocktail menu along with the prerequisite craft beers and some good Mexican beer selections. The wine list is limited but there is something for every palate.
Chop Shop is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. They are open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 11 am to 11 pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 am to 12 am. The taco window is open until 9 pm and they have a late night menu that is served until close. This is just the place for a late night beverage and a snack!
Chop Shop Taco is definitely headed in the right direction –it will soon be one of Old Town’s top hot spots – if it isn’t already!
Chop Shop Taco
1008 Madison Street
Old Town Alexandria