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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Mon 5:30pm–10:00pm
Tue–Fri 11:30am–3:00pm
Tue–Fri 5:30pm–10:00pm
Sat 11:30am–10:00pm
Sun 10:30am–9:00pm

Features Kid-friendly, live music
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Not accepted


Alexandria, VA
2400 Mt. Vernon Ave.
Alexandria, VA
(703) 548-8226
Mon, Wed–Fri 11:00am–3:00pm
Mon, Wed–Fri 5:30pm–10:00pm
Sat 11:00am–10:00pm
Sun 10:30am–9:00pm

Arlington, VA
2503 N. Harrison St.
Arlington, VA
(703) 237-8250
Taquería El Poblano
Stick to the more traditional, simply made dishes to avoid a white-bread disappointment

Every city has a few silly Tex-Mex restaurants that seem to take their design cues from the desert in Road Runner cartoons. Taquería El Poblano is one of those restaurants, from its sunset-colored walls to the corrugated-tin roof over the bar, to the proliferation of cacti, chile peppers, coyotes, and sombreros. In short, it rocks the kitsch. Admittedly, the hokiness is a little fun, but when the décor screams “gringo expectations of Mexico,” doesn’t the food usually follow suit?

The menu is a mish mash of Mexican, Tex-Mex, and Cal-Mex. It takes great liberties with authenticity, which can be construed as poetic license in the right hands, but here these liberties are not executed with the sort of confidence and prowess that successfully reinvent regional cuisine. If you’re going to substitute anything for pork (why on earth would anyone do that?), duck can be appropriate, so long as it’s fatty enough. Carnitas made with such fatty duck are perked up by tangy pickled onions, but their unevenly cooked flesh is tough and dried out here and there. A taco featuring battered and fried fish is wonderfully flaky and moist, but it lacks much flavor, other than oil. After a few seconds, it quickly turns to mush. Grilled pineapples in tacos al pastor are a delightfully spicy treat, but they can’t improve the tough pork. And tacos al carbón wear a suspicious coating of cheese. Which distracts attention from the moist meat, fresh onions, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime in homemade corn tortillas.

There are some moments of beauty: cebollitas are grilled green onions, the textural equivalent of nesting dolls, where charred crispy layers give way to softer, more transparent inner layers, each petal marked with a different degree of onion-sharpness. The retinue of tacos is followed by plates of enchiladas, mole, and mammoth burritos that fare as well.

There seems to be a dearth of good Mexican in the District, but the standard adage of “the farther out you go, the better it gets” doesn’t necessarily pertain to Taquería El Poblano. But even if it doesn’t live up to the potential that’s reached in some more traditional kitchens, this place is well above average. It’s also popular for Sunday Mexican brunch—and it’s hard to argue with that.

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