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La Mexicana Bakery, Salvadoran - Tex-Mex Sweets and Savories Arlington Road near Huntley Meadows Park


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I ventured out this morning to La Mexicana based on the this CH Post. Perhaps Sunday morning at 11 a.m. isn't the best time to visit because my tacos were all overcooked (thus tough and dry) and pretty much devoid of flavor. I had a tongue, a beef, and a chicken taco. I also had a Torta Ahogada, described as:

these are fried pork sandwiches served wet and swimming in a chili sauce. In La Mexicana's case, the sauce is jabanero based, which makes for one spicy hot sandwich....The fried pork had a bit of a char to it, and was stuffed with shreddewd iceberg lettuce drizzled with crema, and topped with raw onion rings and an avocado slice. But what really made the sandwich was the bread.

It was indeed drenched in hot sauce (both temperature wise and spiciness). By the time I got to it, the onions were soft and I couldn't tell if they were cooked or not. That was the least of my problems as the sauce was more than my taste buds can handle - I can eat the food but I couldn't really taste much else other than the heat. The sauce also made the bread soggy, which might've been a problem had I been able to taste it. For the half hour or so that I was there, there were two other customers who came in for baked goods.

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I was in the area running errands and stopped here for a taco. I asked for al pastor and she said 'ah carnitas' - I do not care what its called - it was the best tasting pork I've ever had in a taco. There were crispy, not burnt bits mixed in with the shredded pork and the remaining meat was still juicy. The taco was dressed with onions, cilantro and a side of lime and the corn tortilla was good, but nothing special. But the meat - definitely special.

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Al pastor is thin slices of marinated pork stacked onto a vertical grill with slices of pineapple and shaved off as the outside of the stacked meat gets browned by the heating element. Carnitas is twice-cooked pork shoulder: braised in liquid and then crisped in the oven or sometimes deep fried.

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Al pastor is thin slices of marinated pork stacked onto a vertical grill with slices of pineapple and shaved off as the outside of the stacked meat gets browned by the heating element. Carnitas is twice-cooked pork shoulder: braised in liquid and then crisped in the oven or sometimes deep fried.

I know the technical definitions, but in my experience some taquerias play it fast and loose with what they call their various fillings. Hence the cubed meat in my al pastor sopa later that day at Tacos El Costalilla (meat was meh but the sopas shell was great - would get birria instead next time). And why carnitas tacos are usually either dried out or super juicy, but rarely crispy and juicy.

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I visited La Mexicana for the first time a few weeks ago on a Friday night for takeout; it's in a nondescript strip mall set back a bit from Route 1 so even though I drive by it all the time I didn't realize it was in that location. Walking in and looking at the menu on the wall, I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to order. My dumbfounded look must have been really noticeable because the gentleman behind the counter asked me if I'd ever eaten Mexican food before. After assuring him that I had and was just trying to figure out what to order he recommended the fish tacos. I also ordered papusas and beef fajitas. The prices are a smidge higher than some of the other Mexican/Salvadorian places along Route 1 but I got multiple meals out of what I ordered. I was told there would be a 25-minute wait so I ran across the street to Safeway, but by the time I got back 20 minutes later it was ready to go.

I'm very glad I got the fish tacos, as the lightly-battered fried fish was excellent. I love papusas so I was also happy with those. The beef used for the fajitas was a bit tough but the flavor was good and there was more than enough to fill the tortillas. I think it's a takeout place only, since there's very little seating and the ambiance is nil, but it's another good option to have along Route 1 that isn't a chain.

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The prices are a smidge higher than some of the other Mexican/Salvadorian places along Route 1 but I got multiple meals out of what I ordered. I was told there would be a 25-minute wait so I ran across the street to Safeway, but by the time I got back 20 minutes later it was ready to go.

The prices are indeed relatively high. I got a Carne Asada Platter ($15.99) with a medium-sized portion of flavorful steak, rice, refried beans, salad, and tortillas (choice of flour or corn), and enjoyed it, but it was a couple dollars too expensive. That said, I'm raising the South Alexandria ranking (just a smidge) in the Dining Guide based on the baked goods I saw, and the good job they did with this dish - I also saw a couple others come out of the kitchen, and the cook back there seemed to know what she was doing.

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Went yesterday based on a recommendation from a friend, so he took me there. I really thought it was excellent, compared to much of the taco and taco-related dreck you can get in Northern Virginia.

Started with the guacamole, which was fresh and typical. The chips were made fresh, not too oily (which is what usually seems to happen when they are made fresh). There was a hot sauce in a bottle that he can give you from behind the counter. I think it's habanero-based, it's fairly spicy, but not overpoweringly so.

We each got two tacos. I got the chorizo and the goat barbacoa. I absolutely loved the chorizo. It was spicy, not dry, and perfect. There was some refried beans in there, and I'm not sure if that was an accident or not. I'm not familiar how to tell if they use the masa dough - would someone be able to tell me? I'm not sure if I can tell the difference. It tasted good to me. The barbacoa was in a sort of chunk in the middle, and when you wrap up the taco it falls apart. It was a bit chewy, but very flavorful and I liked it, but not as much as the chorizo. The real star of the show was the torta that we split. It was "The Mexicuban". It had ham, chorizo, refried beans, lettuce, jalapenos, avocado, mayonnaise and freshly baked bread of the store. I thought it was fantastic. I had just a few bites, because I was already stuffed, but I'm going to tear it up for lunch in a few hours.

This place is really good. I'm surprised that many other people don't think so. I think it's better than the other taco places in the DC/VA/MD area, save for that gas station in Elkridge. I like it better the DC offerings for sure, and most of the VA offerings nearby. I didn't think it was too expensive, though probably more than most local places. We spent just short of $30 for guac/chips, 2 tacos each, a huge torta, and 2 diet cokes. I'd definitely go back, without question.

Simul

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Finally stopped by here after being urged by several people from several sources (including Don) and will definitely be going back. I grew up in New Mexico about 30 minutes from the border, and the Menudo here took me back to the days of my youth - tasted like it was made in my hometown, not in a strip mall in the Route 1 south corridor in Northern Virginia. If you have any interest at all in this style of food I highly recommend.

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Well, there's Dishes of India, Su Pollo, Kimchi House, Tacos El Costalilla, and Rahama for Ghanaian food. They're definitely not upscale, but it's hardly a "wasteland" anymore.

Have you tried River Bend Bistro in Hollin Hall? Nice upscale eatery using local ingredients and decent wine pours. I just wish half their menu didn't give me gout attacks.

I can't say that I've visited the Route 1 corridor much in the last decade, and when I do, it's usually a Central American rotisserie chicken place for me.

Back in the day, I used to frequent Mike's for reasonable Italian fare and good drinks. It was a throwback, with lots of veal dishes and heavily=poured drinks, sort of like Marco Polo in Vienna or Pine's of Italy in Arlington. Mike's closed in 2011, I believe....

If you're in the area, La Mexicana Bakery is worth knowing about. It's carryout-only from what I remember, but you can get a decent plate of food without spending too much money - it's a bit expensive for what it is, but this family needs to stay in business.

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La Mexicana upgraded their folding chairs and plastic tables. They've got six wooden two-person tables for dining in now. I also don't mind spending the extra couple of bucks just because the owners are such nice people.

Really miss their torta ahogada. The Mexicuban is a solid sandwich, but it's a pretty obscene, two-person affair. Tacos El Costalila still does an ahogada, so I'll have to give theirs a try, but their bread isn't nearly as good as La Mexicana's.

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So I was trying to track down some Topo Chico mineral water and remembered I hadn't tried the torta ahogada at Tacos El Costalila. Ordered one to go and it's pretty solid: shredded al pastor stuffed in a dense, crusty bolilo roll with two ziploc bags of sauce. One is sliced onions in spicy arbor chili sauce and the other is just tomato sauce to soak the sandwich. The sauce registers pretty high on my pain index, so you might want to go easy on the stuff. At a certain point, my lips went numb. What surprised me was the bread, which used to suck, but kinda reminded me of the dense Bosnian lepinja bread they serve at Cosmopolitan Grill and Balkan Grill. Really chewy with a good bite, not like the light, airy loaves at La Mexicana. Worked really well to soak up the sauce while still holding the sandwich together. Filling and around $7 which is comparable to the tortas at La Mexicana. If you're looking to burn your face off on the cheap, these guys will hook you up. Too bad the parking lot is a double-parking nightmare. You'd be better off parking in the big lot next-door and walking.

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