Beautiful, sunny day in the district. Woke up functionally hungover, and was feeling mighty peckish at this point. I ride by Pica Taco every day on my way to work and have been dying to try this place out. It’s located in the grundle between (or if you’re being mature: “at the crossroads of”) Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, and Adams Morgan. There is also a second location in the taint between Columbia Heights and U St on Florida Ave and 14th Street.
Rolled down with my quasi-hetero lifemate, the Bonesaw, whose curiosity about this place was almost as insatiable as my desire to eat burritos, and mosey on over at midday. I was pretty famished so I decide to have a chicken taco as an appetizer, which will slow my eating of the burrito and let me savor the flavor. The establishment is called Pica Taco so all the more reason to get the title dish. On top of that, there was a special on chicken tacos… only $1.95 per! How can I turn down that deal? The answer? I can’t. So of course….Boom: Taco.
A yummy little chicken taco with lettuce, tomatoes and cheese provided a delightful warm up to the main course. Two corn tortillas, a serving of chicken, and fresh veggies. Can’t complain. The turnaround time on the burrito was relatively quick, which was very appreciated in my hunger weakened state. For this excursion, I settled on the barbacoa burrito (On a previous trip, I tried the chicken burrito so I had some experience with the Peek-Tac as it’s called on the street). and added avocado slices for $.95, which I don’t mind paying for (we are very far away from both California and Mexico which produces roughly 99.8% of all avocados), but cheese was an extra $.95 as well! This I could not stand, but ultimately gave into because, as the old saying goes, “tis not a burrito sans cheese.”
The burrito came delivered in a classic steamed flour tortilla and was of moderate size. I noticed a bottle of salsa near the register which much to my delight was a very good (and what tasted fresh and made from scratch) salsa verde. (That’s spanish for Green Salsa… according to google translate)
(Hold on a sec, side bar people…. So I am writing this while in Tejas visiting the Mama and Papa Mase/celebrating the birth of a Jew that may not have actually existed on a day that he wasn’t actually born on/doing Texas burrito research, and the two main things I forget about until I’m here are: 1) How fat people in Texas are and 2) How hilariously foreign most of my family is. For example, every family has their own holiday traditions and idiosyncrasies. Some families always go to Grandma’s house, some might do a secret santa, some decide to confront you on your alcoholism which I still maintain is functional, but there’s an another layer to the comedy when you throw in an international flair. Being of Latin descent, and my grandmother (Abuela) being very Catholic, means we have a big ass party on Christmas eve instead of Christmas day, get hammered and open our gifts at midnight. It’s actually pretty fantastic because then I get to sleep through the hangover… I mean sleep in, on Christmas day. Thing is one of my aunts was born on December 25th, which I imagine growing up was something like this, and we sing her happy birthday. My abuela tries her best to sing it in english but it just results in sound like “Happy Verde”. My cousins and I have found it hilarious for years and now I sing “Happy Verde” to my brother with a thick spanish accent for his birthday. Isn’t it nice how family traditions can arise at the expense of another family member? Ah, the holidays. But I digress…)
I would have loved if the salsa verde had come in the burrito, but I am happy that it was available and let’s the burrito consumer (or burrisumer) decide how much goes on. Every single burrista makes their burritos differently, and what may be right for you, may not be right for some. The barbacoa was simmering in a light red sauce, and while it was tasty, my initial reaction was that it was drier than I would have liked or expected, but was solid. The rice was a hearty yellow Mexican rice but was somewhat undercooked, which diminished its otherwise flavorful base. The veggies inside, especially the avocado, were fresh and tasty, my only complaint here is there wasn’t enough of them! Their cool, crisp texture was a nice contrast to the warmth of the meat and rice. For an extra $.95, you can get a cheese blend added, which I think is a travesty and is like having to pay for a carry on bag (I’m looking at you… Spirit Airlines). The burritos came with black beans that on some bites I found to be overwhelming, but overall did not add much to the burrito except a hearty texture, and didn’t take much off the table either.
Pica Taco is a great, small neighborhood eatery. Their prices are reasonable, and the menu contains enough variety to warrant multiple visits (as long as you don’t focus on the fact that 90% of Mexican food is meat, rice, and beans arranged in different ways inside, on top of, or next to a tortilla). There’s even some authentic lengua (cow tongue) on the menu, which has little to no appeal to me, but to someone like the Bonesaw (who has lived in China for many years, eaten weird parts of weird animals, and was nicknamed “Scraps” in high school), this was a delicious surprise! If you do venture to PT and are hungry, I highly recommend the taco-burrito one-two punch. It left me feeling very satisfied.
While not exceptional, for those of us who live near U Street, Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, or Mount Pleasant, it’s a great neighborhood burritoria. Pico Taco gets a very respectable 3 out of 5 sombreros.
1629 Columbia Road Northwest, Washington D.C.
1406 Florida Avenue Northwest, Washington D.C.