Mexico: El Lugar Secreto

I started this adventure this year to find foods I have never had and experience the most authentic versions of a country’s cuisine as possible.  So far we have eaten at numerous restaurants claiming to make authentic dishes.  We have also attempted (some success, some not so much) making authentic cuisines from a collection of countries.  Today was the exact place I was thinking of when I started this challenge.

The place and the situation couldn’t have been any more sketchy; however, it was extremely good food and company so ultimately it didn’t matter.   I warn you now there are no pictures of the food, as this was not allowed.  Also I will not be giving the name of the place as the owner told me he doesn’t want it publicized.  No name, no pictures it doesn’t matter as this place was as authentic Mexican you can find in DC without eating at someone’s abuela’s.

I first was told of this place by a friend and couldn’t even find it on the internet.  I finally found it on Yelp, which told me it was closed.  I called them and asked if I had to make reservations and he told me I could come Saturday or Sunday 7am-7pm.

After reading past reviews I saw someone say it was BYOB.  Bridget wasn’t sure if it was cash only so we called again.  I made the mistake by letting Bridget call.  She asked if the “restaurant” was cash only and if we could bring alcohol.  The guy who answered proceeded to ask how she got this number and promptly told her there was no restaurant and hung up on her.  I called back 30 minutes later and told him I would be there at 5PM to eat.  He said okay and hung up.  This was confusing to both of us and realized saying “restaurant” was the key, a big no-no.

We arrived at an old, probably low income, apartment place in Northwest DC.  I called the number again and no one answered.  While it was ringing a person stuck their head out of the window and threw down keys on a lanyard to me.  This made us laugh and surprisingly not nervous. (And yet the sketchiness continues.) We walked in the building and up to a 2nd floor apartment where I assumed the keys came from.

At first the guy that answered the door wasn’t too sure about letting us in.  He looked us over and figured we were cool or safe, not sure which one but he definitely looked us over.  We walked into what was a tiny kitchen and makeshift dinning room with two old ladies sitting at a long table.  I knew right then we were in for a good meal and something “authentic.”  If not, we were going to get murdered and never come out there alive. At that point those were the only two options, no turning back now.

The proprietor, can’t say his name, first let us know that we couldn’t take pictures (along with the giant sign hanging in the dining area) or drink alcohol.  With this I put away the 40oz of Corona I bought for this Mexican meal.  He opened up more with us as he realized we were not cops nor there to rat him out.

photo 1 (2)

He let us know they were out of many things, as they prepare everything on the menu on Friday.  They open at 7AM Saturday and when they run out of, they are out of through Sunday at 7PM.  We started the meal with a few fresh drinks that were homemade.  Bridget got a hibiscus tea and I got the ever so thirst satisfying horchata.  Both were made perfectly and tasted great with the meal.

For our meal we just ordered an appetizer, a few tacos and a quesadilla.  We split everything and it was plenty of food.  For the appetizer we ordered a mole tamale which came out fast.  It was wrapped in a corn husk and we devoured it in seconds.

We ventured out a little bit for our taco choices and ordered one thing that I’ve never had: cactus.  The beef and cactus taco came out on what was obviously homemade corn tortillas.  The cactus was a bit crunchy and tasted great with the marinated beef (editor’s note: Matt loves a good crunch with everything he eats!).  The other taco we ordered was the special of the day: a stuffed poblano pepper. This too came out on homemade tortillas and was stuffed with a wonderful tasting queso fresco.

On the table were many small beautifully hand-crafted pottery bowls with lids.  Inside each was a different sauce from guacamole, pico de gallo, to salsa rojo y verde.  Of course each one was spicier than the next.  I enjoyed the guacamole, which was quite spicy, on each of my bites of taco.

Lastly we ordered a chicharron prensado quesadilla.  Chicharron prensado is pork skin that is fried, then removed from the fryer and pressed so all the oil is squeezed out, then fried again.  The chicharron is placed in a crunchy quesadilla and I believe had a type of re-fried beans in it as well.  This was by far the best food we had all day and was gone in 4 bites.

After we finished our meal, the owner came over and told us all about the region of Mexico he was from, Oaxaca.  He was much more open after we happily enjoyed his food and knew we weren’t there to report him to the authorities.  He was very nervous that people were coming to his home to make sure he couldn’t share his amazing cuisine with others in DC.

We assured him we were no threat and would be back.  I respected his wishes with no photos, not saying his name and not mentioning where he is located.  If anyone ever wants to enjoy this authentic Mexican cuisine don’t hesitate to ask us and we will happily share this wonderful secret.

-Matt

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