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Gringos & Mariachis, From The Owners of Olazzo - Mexican On Cordell Avenue In The Former Bangkok One Space in Bethesda - Second Location Opening in Park Potomac


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Yesterday was supposed to be the first day for Gringos & Mariachis (see List of Restaurant Openings - 2014)), and although they still had their soft opening signs up, it was pretty well full, and I was fortunate to find a single bar seat.

The bar staff I saw there could be described in three words: young, male, and friendly. For example, the Wizards game was showing on the flat-screen in front of me, but one of the gentlemen took the time to come up to me (who was watching the game) and asked me if I'd mind if they switched it to the Olympics. ("No, actually I'd prefer it - thanks for asking.")

After enjoying a bottle of Breckenridge Agave Wheat ($8), I ordered a bowl of Pork Pozole ($5.95), a good appetizer-bowl of soup based on chicken broth, with all the requisites: morsels of pork, hominy, radish, a couple of tortilla chips for those who wish to break and dunk them, and tiny containers of hot sauce and dry spice for self-seasoning. This was a really satisfying bowl of soup, and even though it might not stand up to some of the more "meal-like" pozoles in town, I couldn't imagine anyone being terribly disappointed with it.

I ordered a second bottle of Breckenridge Agave Wheat too soon, and should have gone with the Breckenridge Vanilla Porter ($8) as a more perfect match for my Mole Poblano ($14.95), two pieces of chicken - large thighs, I think - drowned in a 28-ingredient mole (according to Bethesda Magazine), and served with a large scoop of tinted rice. This was a good mole poblano that might not win any awards, but one which I certainly didn't regret ordering, especially on night number one.

Playing a guessing game, if I had to pick out one restaurant Gringos & Mariachis feels like, it would be an early Bandolero, and the food - at least the food I had - was something comparable. I was pleasantly surprised by this restaurant which scarcely even has any signage up (Mia's Pizza will be your locator - this is in the old Bangkok One space).

The tacos, even though I didn't order any, looked a bit on the small side, but I didn't really get a good look, so I'm going to pretend I didn't see them and initiate coverage of Gringos & Mariachis in Italic in the Dining Guide.

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We stopped in here last Saturday night around 7 pm and were able to grab a 4 top table in the bar area.  The main dining area had a few open tables but was full by the time we left.  My wife had the same thought that you had regarding the Bandolero feel.  We both tried the margaritas and both liked the versions we ordered and felt they were reasonably priced ($8).  We started with the guacamole and two salsas (they have about 10 options for salsa), the kids devoured it.  For entrees, we tried the quesadilla, mixiote, carnitas and barbacoa tacos.  I agree with Don that the tacos are a bit small but priced fairly.  We enjoyed all of our dishes.

Service was great and food arrived quickly.  Great addition to the area.  We will be back.

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Interesting menu, but what an awful name--when I first read it, I figured it was yet another Cactus Cantina clone, a crappy fajita-slinging joint! Also, the menu has some issues: "al pastor" is always pork, and it is not stewed--it was first brought to Mexico by a Lebanese  immigrant, who substituted marinated pork for spit roasted lamb made on a vertical shwarma grill click; the birria is made of beef short ribs--it should be lamb or goat click. The Gringos should have consulted the Mariachis a bit more.

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Maybe it's not meant to be a duplication of standard recipes.

There is no indication that these are their interpretive variations of the traditional Mexican  recipes. I also meant to mention that "enchiladas roja" should be enchiladas rojas. I'm not even a Spanish speaker, but I know that the adjective should match the noun if the noun is plural.

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Not sure I understand your distaste for the name and your presumed association with Cactus Cantina.

Using the term gringos in the restaurant's name suggest to me that the place is designed to appeal to the palates of typical Americans: the most popular "Mexican" restaurants in DC are Lauriol Plaza and Cactus Cantina, which are packed every night with Americans ordering fajitas, which is a dish popularized in Texas. Very mediocre IMO. (YMMV)

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Using the term gringos in the restaurant's name suggest to me that the place is designed to appeal to the palates of typical Americans: the most popular "Mexican" restaurants in DC are Lauriol Plaza and Cactus Cantina, which are packed every night with Americans ordering fajitas, which is a dish popularized in Texas. Very mediocre IMO. (YMMV)

If it eases your fears, both the Pork Pozole and the Mole Poblano I had were better than anything that has ever come out of the kitchens of Lauriol Plaza or Cactus Cantina. After only one meal (on opening night yet), I have no idea if this is going to be a great, or even a good, restaurant, but I'm pretty sure it will be at a different level than those two (think Bandolero when it first opened (including, I will add, noise level)). The name reminds me a little of Busboys & Poets, or even The Frog And The Redneck - unlike Busboys & Poets, I don't think it's supposed to be taken too seriously.

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There is no indication that these are their interpretive variations of the traditional Mexican  recipes. I also meant to mention that "enchiladas roja" should be enchiladas rojas. I'm not even a Spanish speaker, but I know that the adjective should match the noun if the noun is plural.

Yeah, I think you are right, now that I think about it more.

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Went to the Bethesda location a few times over the summer, including this past week. They have some ok offerings for happy hous, and my office seems to really like it best (of the Woodmont Triangle area anyway) so it is often the place we hit.  The tacos are decent but not exceptional - they try too hard to be inventive I think and should relly stick to more basic variations and nail those perfectly before branching out. Always a decent set of beers on tap and more in bottles it should be noted. Not exceptional, but you can find some good stuff. I should state that I have never been there for a full lunch or dinner, so YMMV.

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