Rainy sunday, woke up in the mid-afternoon… called up Benny Z, just to see how he’s doin’. My blue-eyed-MI….T educated-“one hell of a catch-friend” from Boston, Benny Z was in town for the afternoon because of a Bar Mitzvah in Silver Spring. Thankfully, it wasn’t one of those really fun-maneshevitz flowing like wine- bar mitzvahs that the “reformed” J-O-Os in the suburbs threw when I was in middle school; no, this was a legit prayin’-Kosher-lochs ‘n bagels-early morning Bar Mitzvah. Me First & the Gimme Gimme’s did not ruin this one. This gave us the afternoon free for beer, burritos, and “bro” time. (That is the first and last time I will ever use the phrase “bro time”, but I’m a sucker for alliteration. Alliteration always.)
I had heard some recommendations to check out this place just north of the Columbia Heights metro station. When I asked people about this place, I got responses like “authentic,” “great menu,” “I’m sorry, I don’t give change to homeless people,” and “Please stop harassing me, I don’t know you.” All signs pointed to making this an early stop on the burrito blog, so there we went, roommates M-Chow and Patchy in tow.
We found the restaurant – a tiny place on 14th st. with a low ceiling and one open dining area. The first thing I noticed was a small piece of paper that says “Hay que comer para vivir y no vivir para comer,” which translates to “One must eat to live, not live to eat.” This eatery would probably be more popular if it dropped this mantra because that is counter to our country’s value system. In America, we eat as much as we want, whenever we want, regardless of how many third world fingers, dolphin dorsal fins, or endangered spotted owls it took to make us the food. Then we get type-2 diabetes, buy a Rascal Scooter, and complain about how Obama is turning this country socialist.
When one opens the menu, one is immediately impressed by the meat options. It makes pink sock night at Wonderland look like Lilith Fair. These options include al pastor (marinated beef & pork), carnitas (pork), carne asada (grilled steak), chorizo (Mexican sausage), and pollo (chicken) amongst the mainstream options. Rarer, and very interesting, choices included lengua (beef tongue), barbacoa versions of chivo (goat) and res (beef), costilla puerco (baby pork ribs), and for the health conscious vegan, the chicarron en salsa verde (pork skin in green sauce). This time I chose to play it safe and get al pastor; one of my favorites back home that I have not seen frequently in DC.
These burritos ($7.00) are described on the menu as containing “your choice of meat, pinto beans, rice, cream, cheese, onions, cilantro and avocado.” That sounds like some pretty good options to me. M-Chow and Patchy both chose the vegetarian burrito, which I didn’t think was an option. M-Chow tried to get more avocado put into hers as the replacement for the meat, but I think something was lost in translation because the end result was, by her accounts, little more than beans and rice. Looks like this place is just like the Bonesaw – all about the meat!
We were served some chips and salsa to munch on while waiting for our burritos. I feel this is an imperative of any sit down or quasi-sit down Mexican restaurant. Let me try your different salsa while I get warmed up for the maincourse. It’s like foreplay for the burrito experience. The salsa verde was soupy and slightly above mediocre. The habanero salsa was indeed spicy (or “picante” if you will), and very flavorful. It was easily my favorite. Their array of Mexican beverages was also a plus. The horchata was quite good.
When the burrito emerged from the kitchen and made its way to our table, I laid my eyes upon a grilled burrito of moderate size. Nothing to brag about, but I’m sure it would satisfy most mere mortals. Here I encountered the most authentic and best tasting rice I have encountered thus far on my burrito journey. The rice was flavorful, moist, and had a great texture. The al pastor meat blend was also “muy rico” and very enjoyable. Downside was the lack of the rest of the promised goods in the burrito. Avocado was undetectable, as was the majority of the ingredients. I love cilantro, cheese, and sour cream. Sadly, they were not in sufficient quantities to properly utilize their skills in the tortilla orgy known as the burrito. Ideally, no one flavor would be over powering, but it was clear that in this case, the balance was off and the rice and meat were far and away the dominant flavors.
Although the ratios in the burrito were less than ideal, I would heavily recommend Distrito Federal for any burrito enthusiast. The meat varieties alone make it worth multiple trips. I know that I will be a repeat customer.
Taqueria Distrito Federal
3463 14th St. NW
Washington, DC 20010