We all love it, but, for better or worse, we don’t live in Texas or California. That means that when we’re starving for Mexican food, we’re farther away from the original source. But these seven Mexican restaurants will scratch your itch for enchiladas and tacos just fine, and in some cases will sub in for a trip for Mexico until you book your plane ticket.
The warm embrace of this Arlington restaurant begins with the heated salsa. And it’s just a hint of what’s to come from the sauciers in the kitchen. Guajillo is a destination for mole Poblano. Though it may taste a bit watered down from what you’ll find in Mexico, it’s one of the best versions in NoVA, rich with chocolate and sesame. 1727 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
This Manassas destination has won many fans for its myriad preparations of beefy birria. The dish is served in forms that range from the original soup to cheesy mulitas to tacos. But the wonders don’t cease there. Tacos, enchiladas, tres leches cake, and everything in between is prepared with care. 9792 Center St., Manassas
Ever wish that your Mexican meal had some South Asian flavors to liven it up? Oakton chef Renu Prakash did. She plays with spice like few other chefs know how. Her fusion includes dishes like Tex-Mex queso with spicy masala. Other mouth-awakening dishes include paneer tikka tacos and Jalisco-style lamb birria with basmati rice, cilantro-mint crema, and naan bread. 10443 White Granite Dr., Oakton
Perhaps the best Mexican restaurant in NoVA is actually just outside it, in Winchester. The chic atmosphere, menu items, and friendly staff all indeed hail from Guadalajara. That means some harder to find dishes, including torta ahogada. The sandwich features carnitas and beans stuffed into a roll “drowned” in chile sauce. The messy eat will haunt your dreams. 1181 Front Royal Pke., Winchester
The star attraction at this Alexandria spot is tacos al pastor, carved from the rotating trompo. The meat and pineapple are stuffed into corn tortillas made in-house every day. But not everything is a craft representation of the best of Mexico City. We also like to save room for a Sonoran hot dog, wrapped in bacon and bathed in charro beans, pickled onions and jalapeños, and habanero mayonnaise. 1472 N. Beauregard St., Alexandria
Loudoun County isn’t yet a destination for Mexican food, but the enchiladas at this Leesburg restaurant belie that fact. The best way to sample them is by ordering the Mexican Flag, which includes chicken tinga in salsa verde, beef barbacoa in chipotle sauce, and melted cheese in bechamel. It’s as visually striking as it is satisfying. 19345 Promenade Dr., Leesburg; 42010 Village Center Plz., Ste. 170, Aldie
It’s only natural to head to this Manassas Park tortilla maker for tacos. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But the best way to spend $12 is with the carnitas platter. The plate of crispy, garlicky pork comes with rice, beans, salad, and tortillas, but also anything you can grab from the salsa bar. Fill those fresh tortillas with cilantro and fiery tomatillo salsa for a meal to remember. 8456 Centreville Rd., Manassas Park
Feature image by Alice Levitt
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