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Taqueria Distrito Federal, Owner Luis Marroquin in Petworth - Columbia Heights Location Is Closed


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Had my second dinner in a row here tonight, I can't believe that there is a restaurant this good on my way home from the metro.

The menu here is very simple, the have a number of meats that can be had as tacos, burritos, tortas, or tostadas. The meat here is the real attraction, they have chicken, chorizo, beef or goat barbocoa, carnitas, tongue, tripe, & carne asada. They also have a great al pastor that is not on the menu but was offered to me by the server both times.

All of the meats Ive had have been incredible, tender & very well spiced. The tacos are small enough that Ive had both barbocoas, the carnitas, the chorizo, and the al pastor. I think three would make a good sized meal, although my friend -who is a real eating machine- put away six tonight. The al pastor & the beef barbocoa are especially good, very flavorfull & not at all dry. I don't quite know how to put it, the meat here has that something that the rest of the bland mexican Ive had around here lacks. One of these tacos has more flavor than 400 meals from Haydee's or Don Juan's, let alone Lauriol Plaza or the Austin Grill. They must make a new batch of each meat everyday, the beef barbocoa in tonight's torta was incredible. The bun of the torta was good too it had been grilled with a small amount of cheese in it and did a great job of soaking up all the beefs juices. It also came with lettuce, tomato, & avacado. The tacos come with radish, onions & avacado. There were small cups of red & green sauce with my takeout, and the tables also have pickles on them.

Did I mention it is also dirt cheap, the tacos are $2 or 3 for $5 & the burritos & tortas are $5 each. The beer I had with my takeout last night cost me more than my meal. By the way the new Dogfish "Golden Shower" Imperial Pilsner goes very well with the beef barbocoa or al pastor tacos. They don't sell beer, but they do have 4 kinds of homemade drinks. The tamirindo drink I had tonight was quite tasty, but this is something I don't have alot of experience with so I dont feel too qualified to comment.

The guy running the place is very friendly & fluent in english. After I ordered he asked me where I lived & if I had drove. When I said I had walked from Mount Pleasant he mentioned that I had passed alot of restaurants on my way. My response that "none of them serve Mexican food" got a big smile. His place definitely does.

The meat in the tacos is in my opinion much better than the meat Ive had in Riverdale, I would be interested to see how the people who have posted negatively about La Sirineta ect think this place stacks up. If I could get a mole sauce here I wouldn't feel a need to go back Riverdale. It is worth noting that both El Tapatio & La Sirenita have broader menus (Enchiladas, Mole, Seafood ect). The guy said they may offer some of these things as specials. I also think the tacos here are better than the ones at Oyamel, again the difference is the meat (although Oyamel has better tortillas). I'm neither Latin or from California, but I imagine it is only a matter of time before this place gets a huge reputation in the Latin community and is always packed.

Can you tell I know where I'm having dinner tommorow?

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There were small cups of red & green sauce with my takeout, and the tables also have pickles on them.

What kind of pickles, really? Has this place been around for a long time? What is the ambiance like; fucky Mexican music, non-American diners? Does it have a bar? So, a hole in the wall? Lots of other people in there last two nights? Nice of you to do the street reporting. Where is Otis Street anyway?

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What kind of pickles, really?  Has this place been around for a long time? What is the ambiance like; fucky Mexican music, non-American diners? Does it have a bar? So, a hole in the wall? Lots of other people in there last two nights? Nice of you to do the street reporting. Where is Otis Street anyway?

The pickles aren't anything fancy, Im not sure how long its been open. I read about it in the Washington Post Express about two weeks ago. Its tiny, there are 4 tables for 4 and a few counter seats. I dont remember any music, there is a stereo in the corner. It looks really Mexican, there is a small shrine in the dining room & the whole place is painted in neon colors. No bar, it was empty tuesday and pretty busy wednesday. Otis street is about 5 blocks up from the Columbia Heights metro station. The restaurant is on your right if you're coming from the metro.
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I've been twice and concur that it is a great little hole in the wall (albeit a bright, clean hole in the wall). The tongue (lengua) is very good and does not appear on the English side of the menu. The owner seemed quite somewhat surprised that a gringo would order it. No liquor license, but they have horchata (which they gave me a free refill on) and other refreshing Mexican drinks in big vats.

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Tried it this evening. Outstanding. Richest goat and tripe I've ever happened into. Chorizo was also good, and the lengua brought up the rear but still no slacker by any means. Her chicken tasted pretty good too. Friendly owner. Even she liked it, even tho she's more into crispy taco TexMex. Cost me $20 all in for a total of 7 tacos, a giant serving of horchata, her bottle of water, and T&T. Go. You won't regret it.

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What kind of pickles, really?  Has this place been around for a long time?  What is the ambiance like; fucky Mexican music, non-American diners?  Does it have a bar?  So, a hole in the wall?  Lots of other people in there last two nights?  Nice of you to do the street reporting. Where is Otis Street anyway?

http://www.dcist.com/archives/2005/10/14/w...nd_burritos.php

Susan wrote about it last October; I think it was fairly new then.

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The guy running the place told me they had been open about a year.

I ate here four times last week, and the only thing I didn't love was the burrito. I think its best to stick to things that showcase the meat, like the tacos & tortas. The bread in the torta is wonderfully light & soaks up the juices from the meat well.

Sorry if I keep making a big deal about this place, its just that its amazing to me that there is only one place in the DC city limits that does this one thing (mexican food) even at an OK level. I think I would fall over dead if an OK chinese restaurant opens any closer to DC than Rockville or Fairfax.

Once again, edited for basic spelling.

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I noticed that too. Also Kliman mentioned it in his "chog" or whatever it's now being called was yesterday. It's interesting how when news of a place like this rises up and gets on the radar screen on this and other sites it starts to show up in force everywhere.

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The meat in the tacos is in my opinion much better than the meat Ive had in Riverdale, I would be interested to see how the people who have posted negatively about La Sirineta ect think this place stacks up. If I could get a mole sauce here I wouldn't feel a need to go back Riverdale. It is worth noting that both El Tapatio & La Sirenita have broader menus (Enchiladas, Mole, Seafood ect). The guy said they may offer some of these things as specials. I also think the tacos here are better than the ones at Oyamel, again the difference is the meat (although Oyamel has better tortillas). I'm neither Latin or from California, but I imagine it is only a matter of time before this place gets a huge reputation in the Latin community and is always packed.
Got there for a quick, late lunch away from the office today.

Had the aforementioned three tacos: chorizo, goat and al pastor. Fresh, tasty and only a bit messy. Got a side of beans & rice - topped with a nice slice of queso. Rice was right taste though not steaming hot. I agree with Mt PleasantEater that, when the timing is right, I'd welcome a broader menu.

I do feel comfortable comparing the noise level to most of the Riverdale places. I thankfully didn't get my ears blown out today. I saw the CD stereo set up in the back corner - silent. There are two small flat-panel TVs. One set to Spanish TV (appropriate volume level for the size of the restaurant and tile walls) and the other on English programming (silent with closed captioning). Today, the English show was 1994's Little Giants with Rick Moranis and Ed O'Neill - perfect as an away from the office EEG smoother.

Thanks, nice find y'all.
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I think I actually severley under-reported the menu in my original posting, they offer daily specials and many more meats than I realized at first. This is partially because none of the menus are complete, most of them don't match each other & none of them mention that they offer specials. The thing to do is ask the guy what they have.

The meats include: carnitas, costillas de peurco (a fattier cut of pork), pork ribs in green sauce, tripe, tongue, chorizo, chicken, al pastor (pork cut from a rotisserie made with pineapple), carne asada, beef barbacoas, goat barbacoa, chicken or beef milanesa's & ham. I think the last three are just for the tortas. The two barbacoas & the pork preparations are the highlights I think.

The specials have included pork soup (posole?), beef soup (menudo), chille relleno's & chicken with mole. The mole is the only thing I didn't really like, I've had better at Oyamel or El Tapatio.

Like I said the thing to do is just ask the guy what they have & ignore the menu.

My apologies for the spelling errors to anyone who know spanish.

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Lunch today was the carne asada special, beans/rice and a tamarind drink (just under $9 before tip). The meat was spiced and piping hot with a nicely arranged lettuce, tomato, cuke, radish, lime and avacado on the side.

Entertainment was, of course, World Cup (USA v. Czech Republic). Both of the little HD-TVs had Univision's coverage, but only one had its sound on. It was loud enough for the kitchen, but not blasting for me. Didn't have a chance to ask whether they'd have all the games on, but it's a safe bet.

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Tried this place out yesterday based on previous posters' recommendations - I knew I joined this board for a reason... I'm a non-meat-eater, so most of the Mexican food I've had within the District has been a bland, greasy mess. Not so with the simple, tasty vegetarian (well, the beans may not have really been vegetarian, but I wasn't going to look too closely) tacos at Taqueria Distrito Federal - the ingredients were fresh and well-seasoned, the salsas out on the table were nice and spicy, and the corn tortillas did not appear to come from an industrial supplier. I wasn't crazy about the mango drink that came from a big vat - I can't speak to its authenticity, but to me it tasted like Mango kool-aid.

Just when I was about to give up hope of finding a reasonable Mexican restaurant in DC.

Now, if only I could find a Chinese place that does good seafood or vegetarian dumplings.

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The world needs more places like TDF: small joints owned by good, hard working people who put out great, cheap food.

When I walked in the owner was in the kitchen. He greeted me and told me that I should let him know what I wanted and the waitress would ring me up. She spoke as much English as I did Spanish, but when you are talking about great food the lanuage barrier is small. The owner suggested I get the special of the day, the taco camarones (shrimp), so I did. I added a carnitas and barbacoa res to the order. Needless to say the tacos were worthy of all the praise they have received.

While I was waiting for the food the owner came out from behind the corner and talked me into trying his homemade Mexican flan type dessert. I also asked for a drink suggestion and am now a fan of their tamarind drink. We chatted while waiting for my food and he took the opportunity to brag about his young daughters. It sounds like he has the right be a proud papa. He asked if I had been in before and I replied yes, during the World Cup. He then remembered that it was during a later game when Germany played and pointed to the table where I sat. On my way out he asked if I was walking because he was concerned I would have to carry the food far and had a reassured look when I told him my car was half a block away.

We should all be able to make a living enjoying ourselves as much as it appears he does.

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Dunno if this is a question of decline or what... my first visit yielded dry pork and chicken. Horchata tasted a lot like bubble gum. Carne asada was flavorful, but again perhaps a little drier than it needed to be. Someone else told me that had a similar experience. Or maybe this was being spoiled by an amazing first experience in California.

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Dunno if this is a question of decline or what... my first visit yielded dry pork and chicken. Horchata tasted a lot like bubble gum. Carne asada was flavorful, but again perhaps a little drier than it needed to be. Someone else told me that had a similar experience. Or maybe this was being spoiled by an amazing first experience in California.
I stopped by on Sunday and was similarly disappointed. But, given my prior excellent meals there, I think it may have just been an off-day.

The owner did not seem to be there, and they were apparently out of avocados. Additionally, we had ordered, and were charged for, meals that were to come with dessert, but no dessert was either given or offered. Which was a good thing given the amount of time we had already spent there, first waiting for our food, and then for our silverware.

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I stopped by today for some take out. I've driven by here countless times and always said, "hey I should check that place out, esp since all my cooks seem to love it.." So, today I did. All I can say is that I like it, I like it alot. Had the tripe and costillos as tostadas and chorizo, lengua and barbacoa de chivito as tacos. I ate the tostadas in the car ;) couldn't help it, besides, if I waited to get home they would have been soggy right? right? Anyway, the costillos were awesome as was the tripe, I really like the richness of the beans and the crema, simple wonderful. I am always a fan of roasted pork so this was an easy sell. The chorizo and chavito were the best of the tacos, I didn't really like the tounge as it was a bit tough, but I'll get it next time to see if it's more tender. The lady wasn't busy so we chatted a bit in spanish which always suprises everyone that I hablo espanol lol. anywho, all the meats seemed fresh and moist with the exception of the lengua......total....$12.00 including $2 tip cause she was just so nice :P

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It's good to see this addition to Petworth/Brightwood. I'm still suffering because Colorado Kitchen is no longer in the 'hood. Jamie's note on DCist has more info on the opening.

Thursday, July 31, 2008 - 2:18 PM EDT

Taqueria Distrito Federal opens in Petworth

Washington Business Journal - by Missy Frederick Staff Reporter

Taqueria Distrito Federal plans to open its second location Friday.

The popular Columbia Heights dive, owned by Luis Marroquin and known for its authentic Mexican food and humble atmosphere, has a new location in the Petworth neighborhood of D.C. The second location is at 805 Kennedy St. NW.

The new spot will feature the same menu as the first incarnation. Marroquin said Thursday that the restaurant is still waiting on its liquor license, and hopes to eventually feature an outdoor cafe. The Petworth branch is a bit more spacious than its predecessor, with seating for around 30 people, he said.

"I just want everyone to have a good time and feel welcome and happy," Marroquin said.

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Don't be afraid of the chicharron en salsa verde...I know, I know it is a heart attack in a taco skin. Pork skin simmered in green chili sauce, it is probably the best I've had in this country. Luis is our neighbor, and as a chef and single parent just like he is, I appreciate the blood and soul he has put into his stores. Like many of us in this business he has to contend with staffing issues and crazy things like when the produce company lets you down. Luis has two stores now and Im sure is running back and forth to each one. He also goes to the big market on New York Avenue every morning and loads his truck full of produce so that he has the opportunity to hand select his stuff. If he ran out of avocados, its probably because he was selective and there weren't as many good enough for him to stock two stores. This is the type of restaurant owner we need to get behind. An independent guy that cares about his customers and his products. In a couple of months he and his staff will work out the kinks and the youngsters he has working for him will get it and know the drill.

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Don't be afraid of the chicharron en salsa verde...I know, I know it is a heart attack in a taco skin. Pork skin simmered in green chili sauce, it is probably the best I've had in this country. Luis is our neighbor, and as a chef and single parent just like he is, I appreciate the blood and soul he has put into his stores.

I tried four tacos last night ($2.50 each), one of which was the Chicharron en Salsa Verde. It was every bit as good as you describe, and maybe even my favorite of the four (which included Lengua, Barbacoa de Chivo, and Chorizo). As I waited for my carryout order by the entrance, looking at the stuff on the wall, I was thinking it had been way too long since I'd been in here. Then, Luis came strolling in, on his cell phone, seemingly talking with a family member. Without missing a beat, he walked up to the counter just as my order came up, grabbed it (still conversing on the phone), walked over to me, put it down in front of me, and patted me on the shoulder with a smile.

I love Taqueria Distrito Federal, and strongly prefer their tacos to those of La Sirenita and El Charrito Caminante.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I tried four tacos last night ($2.50 each), one of which was the Chicharron en Salsa Verde. It was every bit as good as you describe, and maybe even my favorite of the four (which included Lengua, Barbacoa de Chivo, and Chorizo). As I waited for my carryout order by the entrance, looking at the stuff on the wall, I was thinking it had been way too long since I'd been in here. Then, Luis came strolling in, on his cell phone, seemingly talking with a family member. Without missing a beat, he walked up to the counter just as my order came up, grabbed it (still conversing on the phone), walked over to me, put it down in front of me, and patted me on the shoulder with a smile.

My friend and I grabbed a quick bite here before the DCU game last Saturday. I wouldn't necessarily call the food great but it was definitely enjoyable. The meat was definitely on the dry side -- a criticism I've seen on other sites as well. My favorite was the lengua (most flavorful), followed by the chorizo. The chicharron wasn't as fatty as I had hoped unfortunately.

We'll definitely return though. The three tacos + drink + dessert for $9.70 is an excellent deal.

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Went to petworth a little while back - the steak was definitely on the dry side, but the pollo and carnitas were moist and full of flavor. We got take out, but were the only ones in the store... we sat and waited, and were generously given an extra carnitas taco to eat while they packed our food! All the food bubbling away on the tiny stove looked and smelled great - return trip is definitely on the calendar.

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A third location has popped up on Wayne Avenue in downtown Silver Spring, across from the Wayne Avenue Garage (in the old Skew Works space, for anybody familiar with the area). Might have just opened this week.

And for my money, unless I'm missing anything while I type this at nearly 7 in the morning, this then becomes the best counter-service restaurant in downtown Silver Spring. Terribly excited to have this as an option for lunch before work.

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We had dinner at the new Silver Spring location last night. The space is odd, very large and as brightly lit as a laundromat. There is a large counter directly in front of the entry doors, and we walked up expecting to order and take a seat, but found out that it's table service for dining in. Our server was a very friendly young man, and very eager to explain the menu. I got the three taco combo, and my dining companion ordered one of the plates. Carnitas, barbacoa res, and lengua tacos were all decently flavored but a little dry, and not filled enough to balance out the double corn tortillas. The salsas on the tables were tasty, particularly the red. The alambre plate with chicken, chorizo, melted cheese, onions, tomatoes and peppers had a spicy bite, and is a tremendous value for $10.50. My taco combo came with a bottled soda, and a wee slice of flan for $12.50. Nice addition to the neighborhood, and I'm looking forward to coming in for breakfast one day.

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Can anyone confirm that the Columbia Heights location is where it used to be? I've driven by a couple of times in the past year, and could swear it was replaced by another taqueria, but nothing at all on the internet seems to confirm that suspicion, so I assume I'm just plain wrong.

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Lunch at the Silver Spring location yesterday (2/16) was a mixed bag. As noted up-thead, the ambiance is convenience store chic. But this shouldn't deter the gas-station-taco cult adherents :). The complimentary (whole-grain?) taco chips are tasty; the accompanying salsa verde is mild -- just ok. I ordered 3 tacos: barbacoa chivo , chorizo, and costilla puerco. The barbacoa chivo had excellent flavor, the best of the three, but the gristle content was overwhelming. I've only had goat at an Indian restaurant where you can maneuver around the gristly bits with knife and fork. In a taco ... I was fearing for my dental work and not enjoying the mouth feel. The costilla puerco was dry, needing a few squirts of lime to make it palatable. The chorizo was even drier and mysteriously lacking heat; I slopped salsa verde from the condiment jar on the table to get through it. The tacos are double wrapped in corn tortillas but alas, Don, you can't really produce 2 tacos from one. Will I be back ? Yes, at least one more visit. Planning to take my burrito-addicted son next time to see what he thinks.

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I personally like the sterile convenience store feel of the Silver Spring location as former regular customers of the Kennedy St location where I always hoped my daughter would not have to go to the potty while we were there and we always cringed at putting our son in the high chairs. Simply not the cleanest of environments.

The carry overs are the warm welcome of the staff and identical menu. I had always lamented the lack of reasonably priced and good Mexican food in this city until we tried TDF. We moved here from Chicago where good Mexican could be had for a fraction of the cost here. I always get the taco combos with multiple choices of meat. The one problem is the meat is sometimes on the dry side. Agree with previous poster that the chorizo could be spicier.

The other plus here is the free plate of beans, rice and chicken they give to kids.

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My husband and I visited the silver spring location. We had a torta, tamale and several tacos (goat, chorizo, al pastor, chicharron in verde sauce and lengua) The chorizo and goat were the winners, lengua was okay and the pastor was dry. The chicharron was too chewy for my tastes.

We ate outside so didn't know about free salsa. They gave us this delicious avocado salsa that I enjoyed.

We will definitely be coming back for tacos in the future!

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Silver Spring location is "closed for renovations" according to sign on door. No target re-open date posted. Store is pretty much cleaned out and no apparent work being done.  :(

I occasionally stop by for lunch when I am working from home. More often than not, I am the only person there. It would not surprise me if the decision was made to close the joint down.

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Silver Spring location is "closed for renovations" according to sign on door. No target re-open date posted. Store is pretty much cleaned out and no apparent work being done.  :(

I occasionally stop by for lunch when I am working from home. More often than not, I am the only person there. It would not surprise me if the decision was made to close the joint down.

It's closed. Sixteen months - a landlord-tenant issue, perhaps?

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It's closed. Sixteen months - a landlord-tenant issue, perhaps?

No. Just an utter lack of foot traffic caused in no small part by the library construction shutting down the sidewalk. The location was effectively at the end of a dead end. Having the parking garage across the street didn't help in terms of foot traffic on that block. Plus, anyone who parks in the garage pretty much automatically exit onto the Ellsworth Ave pedestrian mall.

If you walked out of any office building downtown, you'd go past any number of other options. Even from the closest office building on the SE corner of Georgia and Dale. Cross Georgia - Le Madelaine - Pete's Apizza - Ghar E Kabob. Discovery Channel people feed straight into Ellsworth Ave.

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No. Just an utter lack of foot traffic caused in no small part by the library construction shutting down the sidewalk. The location was effectively at the end of a dead end. Having the parking garage across the street didn't help in terms of foot traffic on that block. Plus, anyone who parks in the garage pretty much automatically exit onto the Ellsworth Ave pedestrian mall.

If you walked out of any office building downtown, you'd go past any number of other options. Even from the closest office building on the SE corner of Georgia and Dale. Cross Georgia - Le Madelaine - Pete's Apizza - Ghar E Kabob. Discovery Channel people feed straight into Ellsworth Ave.

The lack of any illuminated signage couldn't have helped, either.  They never had more than a banner hanging in the window.  So even if you did wander down to that part of the street, there was nothing to draw your eye in.

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It's now reopened at the Kennedy St location. Ate there tonight and had a wonderful chorizo torta, which actually isn't on the menu as an option. Kids got their free plates of beans, rice and chicken. Got out with three adult entrees and three beers for $55 including tax/tip.

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Ate with two other families tonight and food still good and very affordable. The one thing to note is that they no longer have the watery avocado sauce for the chips and now serve them with soupy refried beans. Chorizo torta was huge and kids all loved their free rice, beans, and chicken.

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Headed out today with a friend to have lunch at the 14th Street location. We ran into Luis on the street as we were walking up. He's closed this location, leaving only Kennedy Street. Their lease was up, and the rent was going up too much for him to afford. 

We chatted a while, and he tells me they are planning to update the Kennedy Street location, maybe try to expand the dining room.

I'm sorry to lose the place that is walkable from my house. This is happening to too many of my neighborhood places.

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41 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

Taqueria Distrito Federal's webpage says their Columbia Heights location is still open - can anyone verify that it did indeed close, and stay closed, in 2017?

I think he just hasn't updated the page. Columbia Heights store is indeed gone, Kennedy Street was open on Saturday.

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