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Diego, Mexican and Tex-Mex on 14th and V Streets with a Large Patio - Second Chef Billy McCormick Has Departed - Closed.


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"What is *this*?" I asked my friend when I saw an enormous restaurant named "Diego" that I'd never seen before, packed to the gills with people on the patio.
 
Diego is on the northwest corner of 14th and V Streets (Eatonville is on the northeast corner), and apparently just opened recently - I had no idea it even existed. But it was crowded, so apparently the word is out.
 
Does anyone know anything about this restaurant? Here's their website - it's named after the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.

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This menu seems very boring and not at all representative of what Diego would actually have eaten at home. (Frieda Kahlo and the staff who helped her were renowned for their lush meals.) Perhaps the execution is far superior to my expectations. I do hope that is true, but I suspect it is not. If anyone has tried the food would you please report to us?

And as a bonus if you are interested in a (not completely historically accurate) account of Frida and Diego's life please read "the lacuna." You won't regret it.

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Does anyone know anything about this restaurant? Here's their website - it's named after the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.

My understanding is that it comes from the owners of Dupont Italian Kitchen, at 17th and R Street. Judging from the menu, it does for Mexican and Tex-Mex what DIK does for Italian . . . (finish this thought for me).

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We ate at Diego tonight.  Everyone was very nice.  As best as I can discern from the food (and the size of the space), this place aims to be the Lauriol Plaza of 14th St., with the menu and preparation catering to our collective lowest common denominator understanding of what Mexican food is.  Very disappointing.

Tacos, which I didn't try, came in Old El Paso style hard corn shells.  The chile relleno were two large peppers stuffed and smothered with industrial-grade (Monterey Jack?) cheese.  The dish was devoid of any spiciness, or much spice of any sort at all.  I think this place will do just fine, but I don't see myself going back.  Too bad.

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We ate at Diego tonight.  Everyone was very nice.  As best as I can discern from the food (and the size of the space), this place aims to be the Lauriol Plaza of 14th St., with the menu and preparation catering to our collective lowest common denominator understanding of what Mexican food is.  Very disappointing.

Lauriol Plaza is *exactly* what I was fearing. I didn't want to assume, but ...

Here's a little mini-look on Urban Daddy.

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Horrifying. The picture of the models pretending to be Hill staffers holding up bottles of awful beer tells me everything I need to know. The mini-biography of Diego Rivera is lifted wholesale from Wikipedia (I assume it's not the other way around), but other than the mention of the image of Lenin in the Rockefeller Center mural, it surprisingly leaves out everything about Diego Rivera being a communist. All of which suggests to me that this isn't really a sincere homage to the artist.

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Rats. Rats. Rats. I was SO hoping for credible Tex Mex.

Credible Tex-Mex to me is unavailable on the East Coast. I consider what I ate while growing up in El Paso (and we mostly ate Mexican food in Juarez) to be the real deal.  Seriously people, folks would make tamales and sell them door-to-door for extra money at Christmas time. There are NO tamales worthy of the name around these parts; although, the ones sold at Whole Foods (!) on P Street come closer to anything else I've found. I've never understood tacos made with pre-formed shells.  What is that crap?

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Credible Tex-Mex to me is unavailable on the East Coast. I consider what I ate while growing up in El Paso (and we mostly ate Mexican food in Juarez) to be the real deal.  Seriously people, folks would make tamales and sell them door-to-door for extra money at Christmas time. There are NO tamales worthy of the name around these parts; although, the ones sold at Whole Foods (!) on P Street come closer to anything else I've found. I've never understood tacos made with pre-formed shells.  What is that crap?

There are decent tamales to be found in Mt. Pleasant, including those sold a few days a week at the counter of the small International Market between Seven-Eleven and Beau Thai.  They probably don't compare to what you'd get door-to-door in El Paso, but I think they're better than most in the city.  And cheap, too.

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Well this is interesting. The Washington City Paper reports that Diego is temporarily closed because they're replacing the chef (and seems there were some service issues). Apparently one of the owners wasn't happy with the food either.

It's possible these are first-time owners who didn't realize what they were getting into, delegated too much authority to the wrong people, and quickly realized their error - this could be a good sign.

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It's possible these are first-time owners who didn't realize what they were getting into, delegated too much authority to the wrong people, and quickly realized their error - this could be a good sign.

They are the owners of Dupont Italian Kitchen, so they're not first-time owners, but this is the first they have launched a new restaurant and in a different cuisine. The original report was that they wanted to focus on different types of moles but it sounds like it was far more generic in approach. I agree this could be a good sign--it takes some guts to close a new restaurant that is already drawing crowds in order to retool it in (hopefully) a better direction. (Of course, it helps that it's August when business is a bit slower.)

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Just as a general fyi, if for whatever reason you ever drive to this place, do *not* park on V street between 14th and 15th if you care about your car. I can't tell you how many footballs I've seen hit cars. Also, the crowd of bored loiterers in front of the church/soup kitchen *will* sit on cars, as well. And frequently street harass anyone who walks by.

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Diego has hired a chef.  From Eater DC:

Billy McCormick, the EatWell Group veteran who most recently worked at the revamped Virtue Feed & Grain, will next give Tex-Mex food a shot. "The restaurant's closure kind of fascinated me," McCormick told Eater in an email. "I read about it in all the blogs and it's only a couple blocks from my house. One day I just looked up the owner's email address and got myself in the door."
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Like Don months ago (post #1 above), I had never heard of this place until earlier this week when I passed it.  I went in around 4pm and talked with one of the managers thinking it a new place. The manager told me they'd just opened a few weeks earlier but I guess he meant 're-opened.'  I looked the menu (barbacos, ceviche, maybe tacos) and listened to the manager describe it as "tex mex" and tell me the chef had come from Logan Tavern on P. The Logan Tavern background wasn't encouraging but can't say anything about the food here since I didn't try it.

I do worry that the 14th & U corridor is approaching over saturation.  Every time I'm in that area I think of Dutch Tulips circa 1637 and can't-miss dotcoms circa 2000.  Hope that's wrong since the more economic activity and good restaurants and shops at all price levels the better.

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The Logan Tavern background wasn't encouraging but can't say anything about the food here since I didn't try it.

I do worry that the 14th & U corridor is approaching over saturation.  Every time I'm in that area I think of Dutch Tulips circa 1637 and can't-miss dotcoms circa 2000.  Hope that's wrong since the more economic activity and good restaurants and shops at all price levels the better.

Logan Circle/14UP is my neighborhood and I couldn't agree more, darkstar965. I have little desire to try Diego (especially now, seeing the Logan Tavern background) -- "Tex Mex" in the 'hood is going in the wrong direction, IMHO.

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Logan Circle/14UP is my neighborhood and I couldn't agree more, darkstar965. I have little desire to try Diego (especially now, seeing the Logan Tavern background) -- "Tex Mex" in the 'hood is going in the wrong direction, IMHO. 

You have Alero as a base. Saying it's going "in the wrong direction" is pretty darned hurtin.'

El Chilango?

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You have Alero as a base. Saying it's going "in the wrong direction" is pretty darned hurtin.'

El Chilango?

You're right, Don, Alero is pretty much the bottom of the barrel. But it's been there for a while... before the area exploded with restaurants trying to outdo each other. My point was, with the handful of truly good restaurants (a couple of which I think even set the pace for mid-level places around town) that have opened here in the last couple of years, having a new place that is yet another unoriginal, bright, shiny, new drinking joint that readily self-identifies as tex mex is disheartening. We have enough already.

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We're a bit off topic here but I'll leave to others to decide whether a new thread is in order.  Was in your 'hood again today, Night Owl. Beautiful day and the sidewalks were packed with pedestrians and diners.  Kept thinking about The Bubble.

There's a lot of mediocrity seeping in to 14UP across ethnic and thematic categories.  And, there's also quite a lot of excellent, very good and promising places too.  Makes a site like DonRockwell.com all the more useful I think. No way Yelp, Eater or most of the other online-only types can help people sort through it all. Most of all true with the DC board, where the depth and breadth are both exceptional relative to everything else.

I've tried most/many of the spots and have a few others on my list along with a few I probably won't try.  On a list like the one below, really interesting the variance without calling out any spot in particular since not cool to do that. They mostly (maybe all) have threads here.  Some established. Others new.  Some with clear niches being filled  delightfully while others seeming very generic and maybe not so great.

- Doi Moi

- Cork

- Bari Bar

- Diego

- Logan Tavern

- Policy

- Pearl Dive

- M Restaurant & Cafe

- Diplomate

- Estadio

- Point Chaud

- Busboys & Poets

- Eatonville

- Bar Pilar

- Cafe Saint Ex

That's not a complete list even for the set just on 14th between P and V (Logan Tavern being the one exception just W of 14th on P).  If you check the google ratings and, largely, the Yelp ratings, not a ton of difference between all those spots.  If you're willing to read (and hopefully contribute back by writing some too), the differences are obvious, well supported and thus really useful here.

When it comes to 14th, I think the proviso has to be:  1) Caveat emptor, 2) Look out below!  and, 3) enjoy!

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@darkstar: I'm not sure what the purpose of your list is, and you do acknowledge that it's not complete.  Still, you're missing 4 of the best relatively new additions to 14th Street:  from south to north:

B Too

Etto

Ghibellina

Kapnos

I wasn't at all clear.  My partial list was just musing that the hype and frenzy on 14th is both a very good and concerning thing.  And that that's reflected in the rush of restaurants opening at such a fast pace. Some wonderful and some less so.  Some maybe motivated by love for whatever cuisine and with real passion to share it while others maybe motivated by a quick-buck opportunity and less passion for what's on plates.  it's a very obvious point--just interesting to me given all the activity.  Your four are great additions!

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I'm eating at the bar at Diego right now. The ceviche is delicious, the chips are lovely, the staff is super-friendly, and they have THE BEST DAMN MICHELADA IN TOWN.

Highly recommended.

Well maybe this really *is* one place that "closed for renovations" early, and actually did it, successfully. Perhaps they noted a huge problem early on and fixed it. They should be treated like they just now opened for the first time.

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Well maybe this really *is* one place that "closed for renovations" early, and actually did it, successfully. Perhaps they noted a huge problem early on and fixed it. They should be treated like they just now opened for the first time.

Yeah, I was pretty impressed last night.  I was already somewhat full from a stop at the Kapnos bar (which wasn't as great as I remembered it), so I didn't try any of the heartier dishes, but I talked to a few of the staff at the bar last night who were justly proud of the hand-crafted nature of their house michelada mix (which is wonderfully spicy, savory, and lime-y) and of the light crispiness of their chips.  They also gave me some sangria to try because they wanted to show me how better they think it is than most other places in town (it was very nice).

In addition to the ceviche, which had a great acid bite to it, I had the Diego Salad.  It was very tasty, with a large portion, and I didn't finish it only because I felt unexpectedly stuffed.

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We ate at Diego last weekend. I was really looking forward to it and had heard good things. I didn't realize the chef had left in November. All the interesting things he was doing seem to be gone. I found a menu from his tenure that was a lot more interesting than what's on the menu now, which is pretty standard fare you can get at other Mexican/Tex-Mex restaurants. The place was fun and the food was fine, but not interesting enough to warrant a trip across town if you already have a similar Mexican restaurant in your 'hood. The most interesting part of the menu I thought were the cocktails.

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Welp.  Hopefully the michelada recipe doesn't change.  Maybe I'll just stick to that on future visits.

Gadarene, have you been back? Diego's website does not list one single human being on it - owner, chef, or manager - and that's generally not a good sign to me. And it sure looks like they're promoting a happening happy hour scene with their stock photos of young people having a rousing good time.

For whatever it's worth, they do make the list of Late-Night Restaurants.

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I dropped in once for a michelada sometime last fall and it was pretty good; I've got no desire to go back. Having just spent last weekend in Austin, I'm absolutely craving some good interior Mexican food...too bad there's virtually none to be found within the district.

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"we will be going renovations through the month of February and will be opening under a new name and concept come March. We won't be a Mexican place anymore."

I respectfully suggest that the owner's idea that "concepts" are this fungible (let's just turn it into some other kind of restaurant!) is probably one of the reasons it failed in the first place.

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