When we first moved up to Virginia from our beloved “home” base in Charleston, we tried really, really hard to sell the kids (and ourselves) on why moving would be better. Being that the kids are so little though, you can’t speak in the abstract. Of course they wouldn’t understand why the hubby’s new opportunity here in DC has an impact on our family as a whole. But delicious tacos? That’s a reason that everyone can get behind.
So many choices, so little tummy space
We’ve been going to Taco Bamba since we started looking for houses in the area, and, in a nutshell, it’s fantastic. We have a taco bar night at home all the time because it’s so easy to throw together (slow cooker carnitas, anyone?), but what I love about Taco Bamba is their unique meats and flavor combinations that aren’t easily duplicated at home. Among our favorites are the birria (spicy goat), pulpo (grilled octopus) and the arabe (a lighter grilled chicken with cucumber pico and chipotle yogurt). Ge Ge insists that we order the pulpo, which he promptly devours and announces — every time — that it’s the “most tender octopus” he’s ever had. Meimei usually munches on the Black Pearl taco, made of crunchy fried tilapia. Since most menu items have some degree of heat and our littles are sensitive to it, I usually order their tacos without any spiciness, and the staff are always happy to accommodate us as best they can.
The Arabe, a grilled chicken taco topped with chipotle yogurt and cucumber pico
Taco Bamba’s chef-owner, Victor Albisu, also runs Del Campo in downtown Washington, DC. We haven’t made it there but they’re running a $45 bottomless brunch on Sundays right now. I’m not sure what that includes, but I’m pretty sure I foresee a giant heap of poached egg/polenta/manchego goodness in my near future. As Ron Swanson once said, “I worry what you just heard was give me a lot of bacon and eggs. What I said was: give me ALL the bacon and eggs you have. Do you understand?”
Left: the chilaquiles with chicken tinga; right: Toki Underground’s partnership with Taco Bamba until November 14th means you too can get these flautas with beef tendon and chorizo laab
That being said, there are days when my desire for Mexican breakfast doesn’t override my reluctance to pack the kids up for a jaunt into the city for an all day food coma-fest. That’s what makes Taco Bamba extra-special — all day breakfast. When it comes to Mexican breakfast, my love of chilaquiles burns bright and hard. However, I have a tortured relationship with them. It’s not that chilaquiles are a particularly complex dish, but man, they can just be so spectacularly disappointing if not done right. I’ve had so many plates of runny chilaquiles, with oily tortilla chips sagging under the weight of watery verde that sometimes my soul cries for a better world to raise my kids in. I’m happy to say that Taco Bamba’s chilaquiles are nothing of the sort. The chips are crispy, the queso and crema drizzle just perfect, and, with the addition of the chicken tinga that normally appears in their tacos, it’s filling, too.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that right now Toki Underground chef Erik Bruner-Yang is doing a guest stint at Taco Bamba, which means until November 14th you can have ASIAN flavored tacos. We enjoyed the flautas with beef tendon and chorizo laab on our visit — a spicy, lemongrassy/cilantro explosion of crispy tortilla encased meat. It was a fun dish to eat.
The only downside to Taco Bamba – and I mean this as a minor quibble – is that for parents who want to bring their kids for a dinner out, this probably isn’t the place for you. In addition to the pervasive spice that permeates through most of their taco selections, the place also only has a few stools and a row of metal chairs lined up against the wall outside of the joint. For us, that meant the kids ate standing up, using one of the chairs as a little table. That would’ve worked fine except that it was freezing cold the night we went and the chairs are slatted and sloped. We had to put coats back on the kids to eat outside, and the kids’ tacos were sliding everywhere. In other words, we were a hot mess eating those tacos. But we’re a hot mess most of the time anyway, so we just soldiered on. A family looking for a quaint evening out might not find the same resolve, especially on a weeknight after work. Next time, we’ll probably just do a takeout order.
That is assuming, of course, that I can make it to the car without breaking down and eating my chilaquiles in the parking lot.