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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Mon–Thu 11:00am–2:00pm
Mon–Thu 5:00pm–10:00pm
Fri 11:00am–2:00pm
Fri 5:00pm–11:00pm
Sat 5:00pm–11:00pm
Sun noon–10:00pm

Features Outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


Arlington, VA
1727 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA
(703) 807-0840
Decent upscale Mexican—but when will we get great upscale Mexican?

Guajillo is accessible. We don’t simply mean the restaurant is near a metro station (although it is—you can walk to Guajillo from the Rosslyn station), or that it boasts the convenience of a parking lot and a friendly set of waiters with smart recommendations. It’s that Guajillo makes no bones about its appeal to non-Mexicans; in fact, the restaurant has a pretty English-language website advertising its “family-friendliness” and listing its menu options. More revealing is the website’s domain name: waheeyo.com—a phonetic pronunciation of the restaurant name—with further tips offered on the homepage as a quick guide for gringos with a lumbering command of Spanish.

This earnestness is part of why we like Guajillo. The other part is that the food, while similarly translated, is good. Guajillo will not appeal to those seeking the most authentic Mexican meal, or an exclusive culinary scoop. The restaurant’s location is no big secret, there’s no mystery chile that spikes the sauces, and the place is sufficiently mainstream for waiters to place a big basket of tortilla chips on your table when you sit down, but the dishes are coherent and regionally inspired—not just Tex-Mex. The meats are excellent, the ingredients are honest, and the sauces pack more than a little punch.

One of our favorite dishes is Guajillo’s tamal, a small, creamy number made with a darker, almost nutty-tasting masa and steamed to the point of cohesion but not dryness: this is one of the moistest tamales we’ve tasted in DC. The meat inside is plentiful, and the corn-to-meat ratio is excellent. Because there is little else inside the tamales, however, the dish benefits from the addition of Guajillo’s house salsa, which is a well-blended mixture of stewed tomatoes, onions, tomatillos, and additional spice. We also salute the availability of tacos de borrego (lamb) which are stewed with—what else—guajillo peppers; and of decent carnitas.

Other offerings, such as enchiladas, sometimes err on the side of dryness, and we wish the tortillas were a bit fresher. If you’re familiar with top-notch Mexican, you may miss the lard in the beans and other signatures of the real deal. But Guajillo’s meats make up for any shortcomings in its starches: the pulled beef is smoky, rich, and tender. All this in a nicely appointed dining room with large oils in the style of Diego Rivera. Like the food, the art isn’t concerned about authenticity, but it’s darn good.

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