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Espita Mezcaleria, Southern Mexican Food (Mezcal, Masa, Mole) in South Shaw


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Couldn't find a thread here for this place, opening Tuesday.  It looks promising: they are importing all their masa and making everything in-house daily.  Menu looks interesting and ambitious, but expensive for Mexican food.  

"PoPville Preview: Espita Mezcaleria Opening Tuesday, 'Showcasing The Best Of Mexican Southern Cuisine'" on popville.com

Dinner Menu

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I wasn't excited about this place when it was first announced, but walking by it frequently and seeing it come together has changed my mind. I hope this place can be a good Mexican restaurant because DC sorely needs one. 

On 3/3/2016 at 1:10 PM, funkyfood said:

Couldn't find a thread here for this place, opening Tuesday.  It looks promising: they are importing all their masa and making everything in-house daily.  Menu looks interesting and ambitious, but expensive for Mexican food.  

"PoPville Preview: Espita Mezcaleria Opening Tuesday, 'Showcasing The Best Of Mexican Southern Cuisine'" on popville.com

Dinner 

While I agree that $20 for three tacos does seem expensive, I object to the idea that Mexican or any other ethnic food should be inexpensive or cheap. There are plenty of overpriced restaurants throughout DC regardless of cuisine but it is rare to hear someone say that a place is "expensive for Italian/French/American food."

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I took my mom here last Monday and we enjoyed our meal. She had read their recent glowing review in the Post where Tom called it possibly the Mexican in the city and wanted to go.

We ordered split an order of chips and 2 salsas -- one a verde, the other the borracho because it has Mezcal in it. Both were outstanding, and the chips were some of the best tortilla chips I've had. Think Fritos, but fresher and better. We debated getting a few more salsas for dessert.

For our entree we split an order of the al pastor tacos (2 or 3 come with an order, we opted for 2) and the short rib mole, which came with a nice-sized chunk of meat atop the mole with pea shoots(?) and radishes to give the dish freshness. The moles all come with four housemade corn tortillas to an order so you can make your own tacos. We also got a side of black beans, because they were specifically noted in the review, but were underwhelming -- needed more seasoning.

The Mezcal flights looked interesting, but we had done a lot of walking so wanted something more refreshing and opted for cocktails with all seeming to be made with Mezcal. My first was a Oaxacan sour and my mom got one that was basically a margarita with Mezcal, served up. I finished with a more bitter drink, which also featured Fernet.

Everything came out to a little over $100 including tax and tip for chips and 2 salsas, an order of tacos, the mole, and three cocktails. Not cheap, but definitely high quality ingredients. Would recommend having a larger party so you could sample more food, especially all the salsas.

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We really enjoyed it on our one visit. I wanted to try their tlayudas, since I loved them in Oaxaca and haven't seen them on menus here. We were warned off by the bartender, who indicated that they still had work to do on that dish. Tacos were fantastic, the one mole we had was great, and so was the ceviche. Cocktails were excellent, and so was service at the bar. 

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Sietsema says that, "the restaurant's only rival is Oyamel." After brunch here on Sunday I couldn't agree with him more. The drinks are creative, tasty, and don't taste of overly sweet bar mix. We had the Misa del Gallo (tequila, honey, grapefruit, sparkling rose) and their version of a margarita with mezcal subbed for tequila. While those were good, the subsequent salsas that followed were fantastic. A far cry from the ubiquitous out of season pico de gallo, the roja (guajillo, roasted tomato, onion garlic) was a rich, smokey, and slightly spicy while the verde asado (roasted tomatillo, onion, garlic, serrano) was bright, acidic and frisky. Both proved to be fantastic foils for the crisp and crunchy tortilla chips. Our family definitely prefers the lunch part of brunch so we of course ordered the tacos. I went with the skirt steak (salsa bagna, cilantro) while my wife dug into the grilled tilapia (pickled slaw, chipotle mayo). The proteins were cooked well, but the real stars of the dishes were the sauces and tortillas. My wife positively swooned over the chipotle mayo, ordering an extra tortilla just to swab the errant mayo that had parachuted to the plate. Both of us said these tacos were in contention for best tacos in the city, and my wife even claimed that Espita was worth getting a sitter in order to go to dinner.

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Thinking about maybe trying this place for date night tonight.  Does anyone recall if they have desserts on the menu (wasn't able to tell from the website)?  Just want to know whether to stick around or go someplace nearby, if my sweet tooth shows up.

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MichaelBDC and I went to Espita Mezcaleria when it first opened and had a fine but not particularly great time. We left a little disappointed despite a tasty dinner. We had ordered the snapper ceviche that tasted mostly of the orange slices that came with it, the Colardito (pork belly mole) that desperately needed salt, and the pork jowl tacos which was overwhelmed by the mustard mayo. We could tell that the quality was there and while the cooking was good, there were a few elements that kept it from being great. 

I returned on Saturday night to catch up with a friend and had a great and delicious dinner. I got there at 7pm without reservations and was told there would be a 90 minute wait so I ordered a drink from the wonderful bartender (James) who I knew from his time at A&D. I told James just to pick something for me and he made me an amazing Mayahuel, a mezcal based margarita. I loved it and ordered a second one soon after. James and his fellow bartenders were great and despite a very busy evening he was able to let me know when two people at the bar were paying their checks so we could grab their seats. (Coincidentally, one of those two people included a former co-worker). Soon after sitting down, my friend and I ordered the borracha and arbol salsas to start. They were both very interesting and flavorful and a good start to the meal. Both my friend and I are San Diegans and grew up eating a lot of Mexican food, and we were very wowed by the uniqueness of the salsas and the depth of the flavors. We also ordered the queso fundido with ramps, pea tendrils, and salsa arbol and short rib sope. Both were really amazing, especially the sopes. I loved the masa tartlets. We rounded out the meal with an order of skirt steak tacos and avocado tlayudas. I was skeptical of the skirt steak tacos because I make skirt steak tacos myself, but these were very flavorful and tasty. Not sure it was worth $23 for 3 tacos, but the tacos were very enjoyable. The tlayuadas was definitely unique, but at that point I was too full to really appreciate it. 

I'm not sure whether we just ordered better my second visit or if the restaurant has improved but Saturday's meal was vastly improved from my first visit. I am excited to go back. 

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I liked the place. Great scene. Crazy wait - 3 hours at 7pm on a Thursday night. Got lucky with 2 bar seats, but had to stand for the first appetizer. Loved my Oaxacan Sour, a mezcal drink. Don't have too much to say about the food, except the I enjoyed the octopus ceviche, the borracha salsa was tasty and not crazy spicy. Got 3 lamb barbacoa tacos to share. Tortilla is good. They only give you 1, which I like, instead of the usual 2. Trying to not eat the carbs as much, but when it's front of me I'm a crazed fool (speaking of which, I went to Chipotle last week, thinking I'd get a healthy-ish lunch. I got a burrito with tortilla instead of a bowl, added guacamole and at the whole thing in one sitting. It's gotta be a thyroid condition ...). Was on a date, and was trying to focus on not eating too much on food. 

So, it did feel pricey. Hard to say whether that has to do with the expectation that Mexican food is usually cheap. It's about $7.50 for 3 barbacoa tacos at El Charrito Caminante, but that's a total hole in the wall, without great cocktails and nice atmosphere, and $22 at Espita. 

Will certain go back, heard the other sauces are good. Girls forced to live in a bunker under a crazy reverend and make these incredible sauces - mole women? Sorry, for the bad joke. Weird mood.

 

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Came for a very early dinner on Sunday after the crazy thunderstorm cleared. We were one of the first patrons through the door after opening so I haven't had to contend with the crowds or wait that @Simul Parikh and others have commented on.

Eat: GuacamoleVerde Asado Salsa (tomatillo, garlic, serrando), Ceviches: Sea Scallop Hamachi, Amarillo Mole (striped bass), and Tacos: Fried Oyster / Al Pastor

Drink: A flight of three mezcals (see picture)

FOH staff was without fail accommodating, friendly, and cheerful. Again, they weren't at all in the weeds so it was a lower level of difficulty round. My dining companion was supposed to be in a wheelchair, which I alerted the restaurant to before arriving. They had kindly and without fuss arranged for a table that was accessible. Worth nothing: the entrance and bathroom are also wheelchair-accessible. Turns out my friend was feeling better than usual and was up on her crutches this day so it wasn't necessary in the end but the way they happily complied was satisfying.

Mezcal: Knowing almost nothing about this drink, we turned ourselves over to our server. They've obviously structured the mezcal menu and trained the staff for exactly this kind of low-information customer. He started by asking what our usual preferred liquor is. Having said "I'm a rye guy" he set us up with a flight called "The Whiskeys of Mezcal." It's smart that they've pre-assembled these tastings and my guess is the flights have been big sellers.

Standouts: The heritage masa they use for the corn tortillas is just out of this world. The Al Pastor did not disappoint. A mezcal called Rey Campero was my favorite of the three we tried (most resembling a rye whiskey). Also a shoutout to our server Dallas was an absolute joy and had a lot of fun with us.

He alerted us to their new late-night bar menu, which will go to 1am on weekend. I have a copy of the menu but can't seem to find it right now. I do recall it including a 6 oz. mezcal pour for $21 (which seems like asking for trouble!). 

Price: I think we spent around $140 (incl. tax). So I echo others -- it's not cheap. But I think they're cooking at a high level, sourcing some ridiculous ingredients , and given the location the overhead must be vertiginous. I imagine this'll be a place I'll look forward to getting a more affordable lunch at if I'm in the neighborhood, or swinging by during HH if it doesn't look too crazy.     

UPDATE: In response to @bettyjoan, there was no dessert listed on the main menu, and we were not offered any. But if you're craving something sweet to end the meal, Buttercream Bakeshop is two doors down (past All Purpose). That's what we did after a spicy and smoky dinner. They have some incredible pastries from master pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac, both small and big and also feature Compass Coffee. A few seats but not big. I had a cherry scone, a double shot of espresso, and a few bites from my friend's chess cake. Espita may have (intentionally or not) realized they're better off in a more cooperative relationship of specialization with the neighbors!

Awesome_1471875538402.jpg

Edited by saxdrop
details on dessert
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The Wife, the little princess, and myself stopped in for brunch on Saturday.  We had high hopes going in.  Meal and service were flat.  We were not impressed. Also, how can a place not have any high chairs for kids?  All they had were booster seats.  Normally, I would not care but now that we are trying to get back out there on the dining scene, we have to take the little one into account.  We felt like this place was sending out the vibe "yea, some kids are okay, older kids.  Don't bring your kid if they are less than a certain age...."

With that said here is the one dish that I guess made the cut.

1.  Biscuits & Eggs: jalepeno biscuits, slow poached eggs, arbol hollandaise (the biscuits were like rocks)

IMG_5446.JPG

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21 hours ago, TheGut said:

The Wife, the little princess, and myself stopped in for brunch on Saturday.  We had high hopes going in.  Meal and service were flat.  We were not impressed. Also, how can a place not have any high chairs for kids?  All they had were booster seats.  Normally, I would not care but now that we are trying to get back out there on the dining scene, we have to take the little one into account.  We felt like this place was sending out the vibe "yea, some kids are okay, older kids.  Don't bring your kid if they are less than a certain age...."

With that said here is the one dish that I guess made the cut.

1.  Biscuits & Eggs: jalepeno biscuits, slow poached eggs, arbol hollandaise (the biscuits were like rocks)

Were there any dishes that were more Mexican? Seems an odd choice to put what amounts to eggs benedict at a Mexican restaurant (Mexican culture has a rich breakfast/brunch tradition).

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Just now, Jonathan said:

Were there any dishes that were more Mexican? Seems an odd choice to put what amounts to eggs benedict at a Mexican restaurant (Mexican culture has a rich breakfast/brunch tradition).

most of the dishes are mash up between American and Mexican style dishes.

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Had dinner here Saturday night- and while I thought the food was good, the service was just off- start to finish.  We choose this place because we have friends, one of which is vegetarian, one of which is a somewhat picky eater.  We arrived early, and our server came by to get us drinks, but the whole night I felt like I had to flag him down for drinks for our friends, more chips, etc.  Early on he came maybe too often, and maybe then this threw him because our friends wanted to catch up and look at the menu a bit.  And he was just what I would call- Millennial precious in his attitude and it really turned us all of- the vibe was just weird.  Our friends wanted to order a drink with vodka, and the bar only had one vodka which they didn't like.  Then they wanted a diet soda, which the restaurant doesn't have, they only have Mexican coke.  So the server suggested a cocktail, they both got one, but when it arrived it had strong smokey mezcal to it, and they commented that it tasted like burnt toast, I tried it and it did have an aftertaste resembling burnt toast.  Hubby took one of the drinks, and one of our friends sent her cocktail back for another.  Our other friend got a glass of red wine- apparently they brought the wrong one, he didn't notice and liked what they brought.  The server then came over and said he brought the wrong wine, didn't even ask our friend if he liked it, set down the new wine and took the old one, which had been partially drank.  Had he asked our friend would have said it was fine and actually preferred to the second.  As they were just going to pour it down the drain, and it was their error, I thought they should have just let him keep it.  It was a strange interaction.  Anyway, chips and salsa were good.  I have the ceviche with beet, which was delicious- between the fish, the beets, the avocado mousse and some acid, it all balanced really well between acidic, fatty avocado, earthy, crispy, meaty, soft and smooth.  I thought about the kale salad which looked good too. Then I had the lamb tacos which were tasty- I thought they had very good flavors.  Our server brought out tortillas as everyone else got moles, but he brought one little container and placed it on one side of the table, by our one friend, it was a bit strange, I would think you would either place it in the middle, or bring two, as I would think the vegetarian mole would get tortillas too.  Also, the restaurant week meal looked good, but they only had one option for each selection and no vegetarian selection posted.  The whole thing just made us feel old and get off my lawn like for being in our thirties.  As good as the food was, and as good as the company was, the service would make us not have this on the top of the list of places we would want to return, it wasn't terrible, it was just strange.

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After having been to the Mescal bar a few times we tried dinner for Mom's birthday- what a wonderful treat. 

Started with Guacamole (Very smooth) , Tacos al Pastor (YUM), Tacos de Romanesco (To spicy for me), and Ceviche

A round or two of wonderful cocktails (Currently inspired by movies, we have fun narrowing in on what Mom wanted to drink - but taking it upon ourselves if it wasn't right for her - she ended up with the 'Bergamot Honey Highball'  (I though the 'Wendy Peffercorn' would be her choice - I enjoyed the fact that it wasn't, I also had an 'Oaxacan Zombie' while Pooch enjoyed a 'Dry Land Is A Myth' and a flight of mezcals)

Dinner was Tamal de Pollo for me (YUM!!!) , Tlayuda De Arrachera for Mom, and Mole Verde for Pooch 

Dessert was Mousse de Chabacano and Churros 

Staff was great (Robin from the bar came over to say hi) water was kept full, very helpful in ordering and spice levels.

Restrooms are single stall any gender.

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This place has changed their menu quite a bit recently, and has gone higher end. Very few tacos on the menu, for instance. The food is really good though.

We got chips and salsa (they've eliminated the spicy options unfortunately), two tacos romanesco, a thai influenced iceberg salad, and a coconut chicken tamale, plus a cocktail each.  Everything was really great, plus they have a dog friendly patio.   Bill was $100 before tip, so not cheap and I could have eaten a tad bit more, but the quality is definitely there.

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First, to the question about desserts: Yes, there is a separate dessert menu. Last night, there were three tacos on the menu at $4.50 each, mix and match.

We began with a Chuparosa ($13), under the "Shaken and Citrusy" section of the Cocteles menu, which says: "This cocktail explores the art of preservation by fermentation. Angostura spice, honey liqueur, mezcal, and aged tequila blend exquistely with fermented Pu-Ehr tea sourced from the Yu-nan province in China."

IMG_0366.jpg

Interesting, so that funk was partially due to Pu-Ehr, a tea which I love (it often comes in little "cakes"). 

Our server had originally asked us if we wanted to start with "guac," and after we got our drinks, the Guacamole ($10) is exactly what we started with - this was a simple version: the avocado mash, topped with cilantro, mild jalapeño, and raw white onion (accept the fact that you'll be terminally onioned after this). The chips were "okay," and the guacamole was good if you like raw onions.

IMG_0368.jpg

For our main course, we split everything: four Tacos ($4.50 each), two vegetarian, Camote y Hongos, sweet potato, maitake, black bean and carrot hummus, almond crema; one fish, Pescado, crispy fluke, salsa tartara, avocado, pickled kohlrabi; and one meat, Al Pastor, adobo pork, pineapple, pickled watermelon. The tortillas are made in-house daily with ground masa, and are quite good; the toppings suffered from the same problem as the other main course - namely, that they destroyed themselves by trying too hard, by being too busy, and by not having confidence in fewer ingredients. The Camote y Hongos was, I suppose, the best of the three, but even this tasted like it had conflicting sauces all over it; the Pescado was the consensus clunker of the night, tasting something like Mrs. Paul's Fish & Chips. Nothing about these tacos would call me back to order them again - they were symptomatic of an immature, over-enthusiastic palate back in the kitchen. At this point, another table was seated next to us, and I turned the flash off:

IMG_0370.jpgIMG_0369.jpg

With these, an order of Pulpo ($26), charred octopus with smoked mussels, salsa macha, pickled papaya, and charred avocado. As you can see from the picture, this also suffered greatly from "kitchen sink syndrome" - the octopus itself was "good," slightly soggy around the exterior, but firm enough on the inside to be enjoyable; the rest of this composed plate was a hot mess.

IMG_0371.jpg

Having finished my Chuparosa (the highlight of the meal), we ordered a House Margarita, made with enough Mezcal to notice, and rimmed with some chili salt; and a can of Modelo to wash everything down with. 

IMG_0372.jpg

People reading the Dining Guide may wonder why I have Espita Mezcaleria rated in Italic - recall that all it takes to be in Italic is to be in (approximately) the top 20% of independent restaurants (which really isn't saying much), and this pleasant, friendly, neighborhood tavern is trying to please. I personally wouldn't come here again unless I was in the neighborhood; if I lived nearby, I'd give it another go. 

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4 hours ago, DonRocks said:

We began with a Chuparosa ($13), under the "Shaken and Citrusy" section of the Cocteles menu, which says: "This cocktail explores the art of preservation by fermentation. Angostura spice, honey liqueur, mezcal, and aged tequila blend exquistely with fermented Pu-Ehr tea sourced from the Yu-nan province in China."

4 hours ago, DonRocks said:

Having finished my Chuparosa (the highlight of the meal), we ordered a House Margarita, made with enough Mezcal to notice, and rimmed with some chili salt; and a can of Modelo to wash everything down with. 

Oh jeez:   This review makes this out to be a place for cocktails and not food.  Oi.  Not inviting.

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On 2/25/2019 at 2:56 PM, DonRocks said:

With these, an order of Pulpo ($26), charred octopus with smoked mussels, salsa macha, pickled papaya, and charred avocado. As you can see from the picture, this also suffered greatly from "kitchen sink syndrome" - the octopus itself was "good," slightly soggy around the exterior, but firm enough on the inside to be enjoyable; the rest of this composed plate was a hot mess.

IMG_0371.jpg

The Pulpo had way too many sauces on the plate, and there weren't any smoked mussels that I could find in the dish. The Chuparosa was definitely the highlight of the meal for me. I liked the atmosphere, the service and the guacamole. 

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57 minutes ago, DIShGo said:

The Pulpo had way too many sauces on the plate, and there weren't any smoked mussels that I could find in the dish. The Chuparosa was definitely the highlight of the meal for me. I liked the atmosphere, the service and the guacamole. 

There were no smoked mussels that I'm aware of. The outer millimeter in the yellow mole had begun to oxidize - it was slightly darker in color than the interior (it didn't harm the dish, but I guess it was partially pre-prepped).

Also, you can see Jesus in that yellow orb. There are four patches of light, and in the large one (left-center), you can see JC's face nestled in a crescent of stars.

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