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Yang's, Pop-Up at Impala Cantina Y Taqueria (Formerly Tacos Impala), 13th and H Streets, Atlas District


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Friends and I were a bit trigger happy in our attempt to visit the not-yet-opened Toki Underground last night. But in lieu of ramen, we were able to try out chef Erik Bruner-Yang's popup taco stand "Tacos Impala" at the Philadelphia Water Ice space on H Street between 12th and 13th NE. Look for the wooden handpainted sign that reads "TACOS Impala".

The menu consists of 3 types of tacos: carne asada, carnitas, and vegetarian (refried beans) all served in white-corn tortillas that are made from scratch and pressed to order. They are hands down the best tortillas in the area--fresh, soft, and so deliciously flavorful! They'd be good even with mediocre fillings, but fortunately all the fillings are very tasty and well-seasoned. The steak was surprisingly super tender, but my favorite was definitely the carnitas. They were a perfect blend of crisp pork and luscious fat, and the spicy green tomatillo salsa was the perfect compliment.

Gosh, I could happily die drowning in that delicious green tomatillo sauce.

At $3 a taco, I actually think Tacos Impala is a bargain dinner, but I've heard others balk at the pricing. Honestly, I feel that the quality of the ingredients more than warrants the cost and wait-time. And you can cut down the wait-time by calling ahead your order: (202) 375-0537.

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But in lieu of ramen, we were able to try out chef Erik Bruner-Yang's popup taco stand "Tacos Impala" at the Philadelphia Water Ice space on H Street between 12th and 13th NE.

From what I've gleaned doing internet research, Tacos Impala is only here temporarily until Philadelphia Water Ice is back in season. True?

Falling stars are wondrous when you see them; I hate the thought that I'll never see them again.

Cheers,
Rocks

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From what I've gleaned doing internet research, Tacos Impala is only here temporarily until Philadelphia Water Ice is back in season. True?

Falling stars are wondrous when you see them; I hate the thought that I'll never see them again.

Cheers,
Rocks

That's true. I'd heard that they were looking for a more permanent location, but as of now looks like they will be gone come spring.

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I have reservations as well for the later one.

Don, Impala does not currently exist, although they are "close" to opening. My understanding is that they will be opening as Impala Cantina y Taqueria sometime this spring, although I don't recall an official opening date right now.

They put some pictures of their "menu" up on their Tumblr (http://impala-dc.tumblr.com/), and a few other things. The space itself looks closer and closer to opening when I walk by it, for what that's worth. I'm very hopeful that this place will be very good. Hopefully we'll get some clarity on Sunday, as well as some good Mexican food.

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I went to the pop-up Sunday. Typing from the menu:

Cucumber with lime

Queso Fundido (this was served with a thick, warm flour tortilla and was yummy)

Salad of chayote and papaya (I expected the chayote to be more crisp, but this was nice after the rich, hot queso)

Taco of goat (the goat was delicious but overall the taco needed sauce)

Taco of chicken (came with a bit of salsa verde, I would have liked more)

Empanada of guava with lime creme (perhaps slightly overcooked but I loved this)

Chocolate abuelita, which +1 called "decent instant hot chocolate" but I do not think it was instant

The goat taco was served with a taste of Tequila Arte NOM Seleccion 1079

And the chicken was served with a taste of Purasangre 10 meses Highland Reposado.

We also shared a $6 margarita and it was bracing and tart and strong. No sugary mix used.

The food showed a lot of promise, and once they open and get comfortable in their own space, I think Impala will be a big hit on H street. I want to taste their hot and cold sauces as this menu really didn't include sauces. This tasting showed a lot of care and precision, and I am eager for them to develop a full menu.

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I meant to write about this as well, as I was also at the pop-up at Toki. A couple of thoughts:

  • The tortillas were very good. This is a very important thing, and has me excited for them to open for real.
  • I liked the salad quite a bit, and agree that it was well placed in the progression.
  • The goat taco was probably my favorite thing on the entire menu, but I agree, it could have used some sauce.
  • The chicken taco was nothing special, except for the tortilla.
  • The empanada was quite good, we liked it a lot.
  • The chocolate abuelita was very grainy.
  • The margarita we had was out of balance. I don't like my drinks sweet, but this was overly sour in my opinion.

Anyhow, I pretty much agree with DCandOhio. The tasting didn't absolutely knock my socks off, but I remain as excited for this restaurant to open as for any in the city (in large part because it is two blocks from my house).

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I went to their Cinco de Mayo party in their outdoor space yesterday and it was a lot of fun. Good crowd, good beer (from 3 Stars), and quite good food,although nothing too involved given the setting. The real stars were the tortillas (homemade, to the point where occasionally they would have to delay selling tacos because they tortilla making had fallen behind) and the tamales (chicken mole, chicken poblano and something else that I can't remember). They were wonderful.

Anyhow, I'm excited about them opening, my expectations are reasonably high.

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Per the Post, they're going to be opening relatively soon. While they've been "opening soon" for a couple of years now, the photos in this piece at least make me believe that this time they may actually be opening this year. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/going-out-guide/wp/2013/07/17/could-h-streets-impala-cantina-y-taqueria-open-soon/

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I want to believe it this time, but I've been hurt before...I'll believe they're open when I'm paying my check after enjoying a bowl of pozole.

Agree 100%. Also, while I really, really want to believe that they'll be serving great Mexican food, I won't fully buy in until I eat there.

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FWIW, the Impala folks have been serving food in the courtyard next to their upcoming restaurant on Saturday evenings recently. They typically tweet the details. I haven't been, so can't comment on the experience. I also just want to comment that while restaurants often have very slow buildouts in DC, this is one of the absolute slowest I can remember. I do notice them doing work, at least sporadically, when I walk by, but I have absolutely no idea when they'll be opening up. 

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And now, on Twitter, owners are saying they will open in March. FWIW, they seem to have gotten a lot of work done recently on their building, and their sign went up a couple of weeks ago.  We will see.  After this amount of waiting my standards for this place are absurdly high.

EDIT: Frozen Tropics talked about it this afternoon.

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Per their Twitter, the "Taco Window" at Impala just opened at 5 pm this evening. I've said that I'll believe it when I see it, so I intend to venture over there this evening to check it out. I suppose technically what was announced in February is accurate (since this is kind of opening, and this is still barely March). I'll see if I can learn when they intend to open up the entire restaurant.

The picture of the menu on Twitter lists five varieties of taco for sale tonight, braised pork, carne asada, chorizo, lengua, and a "tofu chorizo".

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Per their Twitter, the "Taco Window" at Impala just opened at 5 pm this evening. I've said that I'll believe it when I see it, so I intend to venture over there this evening to check it out. I suppose technically what was announced in February is accurate (since this is kind of opening, and this is still barely March). I'll see if I can learn when they intend to open up the entire restaurant.

The picture of the menu on Twitter lists five varieties of taco for sale tonight, braised pork, carne asada, chorizo, lengua, and a "tofu chorizo".

Some members may be starting to notice that I'm writing them privately, nudging them to switch over to their real names (as their member name). This tweet is a perfect example why - it would be so nice to have been able to accredit the real person for this information.

I will never require people to use their real names, but I am making a behind-the-scenes effort to get people to switch for precisely this reason - it makes the fabric of our community stronger. *I* know who everyone is (and because of that, I know how bloody awesome our membership is), but I'm the only person who knows, and I really wish that would change.

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So we stopped by last night. As promised on their Twitter, they had a take out window open for service, although we learned that the main restaurant won't be opening for "a few weeks". The main floor (which consists of a long bar, and possibly tables? It was tough to tell) looked relatively well pulled together, but obviously I have no idea what steps remain before they open for real. The takeout window will be open from 5 pm to 10 pm and offers the following:

Tacos

with cilantro, onion, radish, cotija and salsa roja/verde

Braised Pork - $3

Carne Asada - $3.50

House Made Chorizo - $3

Lengua - $3.50

Vegan Chorifu (tofu chorizo) - $3

Tortas

on fresh bakes telera rolls

Steak and Cheese - chihuahua cheese, grilled onion, poblano - $7

Braised Pork - pickled red onion, jalapeno and avocado - $7

Sonoran Hot Dog - bacon, beans and chili con queso - $7

Chorifu Burger - lettuce, tomato and avocado - $7

Bebidas

Jarritos - Grapefruit or Mango - $2

Mexican Coke - $2

Fanta - Orange - $2

Water - $1

I ordered all of the non-vegan tacos, with the salsa roja. They're very good. First, the tortillas are made in house, and they're fantastic. This makes a massive difference. My favorites were the chorizo (which is not often my favorite in taco form as it can be crumbly and dry, or extremely greasy) and the carne asada. I thought both were delicious, although I would have liked a little more spice out of the salsa. The other two were both good, and I would have guessed they would have been my favorites before diving in, but they didn't pack as much flavor.

Anyhow, I remain hopeful that one day this place will actually open for real, and this sampling of tacos keeps my expectations for the place quite high.

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Per a conversation with one of the owners, and now this morning through their Twitter account, Impala will be opening for real this Thursday. For those interested, they're also having a Cinco de Mayo party on their patio tonight starting at 4 pm. 

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We made it to the real restaurant on Saturday evening, and it is actually open. And it wasn't crowded, as we were able to walk right in at around 8:30 pm with a party of six and get seated. The menu is much more limited than I expected. That said, everything was delicious. I think they still need to iron out some service issues, as things continue to be a bit slow, but I'm happy they're open, and I'm happy they appear to be delivering a quality product.

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Last night, we decided to wander down to the eastern side of H Street - originally, we had plans to sit and eat pizza at the Red Rocks bar.  However, after a HORRIBLE service experience there, we paid for the one round of beers we actually received and headed over to Impala.  What a fantastic turn of events!  The patio was hopping, but we sat at the bar (as usual) and had wonderful food and service.  The bartenders were awesome - friendly, charming, and very knowledgeable.  My margarita was very tart (they use fresh lime juice), but I was sad I didn't try a mojito when I saw how much work went into them and how good they looked and smelled.  I also enjoyed the Pacifico on draft; hubby loved the Tecate in a can.  The chips, salsa, and guac were all really good, though maybe they needed just a touch more salt and spice (personal preference - just a bit more diced jalapeno would have done the trick).  Jason's chicken enchiladas with red sauce were so good I barely got a taste before he wolfed them down, and the rice and pinto beans that came with them were superb.  I tried the pork and lengua tacos, which I thoroughly enjoyed - the tortillas are great, and I loved the radishes and onions that came on top (and also the spicy sauce).  The grilled corn was also delicious - perfectly seasoned, great char, yum yum yum.

The verdict: GO.  We will definitely be back - Jason said he could eat there 7 days a week and be perfectly happy.  Not sure our waistlines or wallets can support that, but we are so happy Impala is in the neighborhood.

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7 months later and even living in a different neighborhood, we still love to go to Impala for dinner and drinks.  A word of advice - if you go Tuesday through Saturday, sit at the bar where Anselmo is working.  He is awesome - friendly, funny, attentive - everything a great bartender should be.  They have recently changed their chips and salsa - the new chips are amazing (though probably worse for you), and the salsa is more pico de gallo style, which makes me happy and hubby sad (he prefers a smokier salsa).  I always order a Paloma, which for me highlights the tequila and is more balanced than a margarita.  This past Wednesday, I tried the fish tacos for the first time, and they were so very delicious - they come with a spicy habanero slaw, and the fish is really perfectly cooked.  The enchiladas and beans and rice continue to be top-notch as well.  Still definitely worth the trip!

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What are the crowds like? I have a show at the Atlas tonight at 7:30. If I try to walk in at 6 tonight, will I be able to get a table? Or should I do something like Granville's where I can make a reservation?

I can't imagine you'd have any trouble at 6, but to be honest, we don't usually go on weekends, so I don't have any real evidence to back that up.  I don't know if they even take reservations - maybe give them a buzz and see what they say?

The only time we ever had to wait (for a table OR a seat at the bar) was brunch, way back when the weather was nicer and folks wanted to sit outside.

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Unfortunately, after two recent visits, I can't recommend Impala anymore.  I don't think Anselmo works there any longer, and service at the bar seems to range from passable to terrible.  But perhaps most disappointingly, the food just doesn't seem to have the same care and love behind it as it once did.  The tortillas for the tacos are still the best in town, but the fillings - and we've had everything from lengua to pork belly to chicken to carne asada - are very "meh" in terms of flavor and seasoning.  It's a real shame, but I guess I'm on the hunt for a new go-to Tex-Mex joint...

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We hadn't been to Impala in a few months, but finally made it back last night (in part because it was a 90 minute wait for Maketto). It was disappointing. Service at the bar was good, and the tortillas remain fantastic (and you can watch them being made in front of you). The lengua was completely flavorless, as were the rice and beans. The guacamole needed some kind of punch, as it was basically just like eating pieces of avocado on chips (literally, as it wasn't close to fully mashed). This is really too bad, because I really liked this place, and we need good Mexican food in DC. 

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On 12/6/2018 at 11:50 AM, Pat said:

Per Washingtonian, Erik Bruner Yang is opening Yang's, a hot pot and taco concept, in the old Impala Cantina location on H Street. It opens tomorrow, December 7.

Does anyone know when Impala Cantina closed? I can't find anything about it on the internet, and their website is still up, but they haven't Tweeted since Jun, 2017.

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45 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

Does anyone know when Impala Cantina closed? I can't find anything about it on the internet, and their website is still up, but they haven't Tweeted since Jun, 2017.

The way that article is written, it sounds like Bruner-Yang is a partner in Impala and they're trying the new concept out there for the winter:

Quote

The idea came about because Bruner-Yang and Impala business partner Troy Hickman wanted to do something different for winter—the chef says if the neighborhood likes the concept, they’ll keep it going.

Perhaps the website is still up because the old concept might be brought back?

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