Northern Virginia has been fan-girling over Chef Victor Albisu’s Taco Bamba since the first counter-service shop opened in 2013 in a Falls Church strip mall steps away from the Latin market his mother owned called Plaza Latina. Vienna came next in 2016, then Springfield earlier this fall—with all of the openings drawing amusement park-level lines.
“At Springfield we said, ‘It’s going to take an hour, come back tomorrow,’” Albisu recounts. “I can’t tell you how many people told me, ‘We’ve been waiting a year for this to open, I don’t give a shit about another hour.’ The response has been enormous. It’s humbling.”
Four years later the District is getting its first Taco Bamba. Sort of. While Albisu looks for a permanent home within D.C. boundaries, he will be running a full-fledged Taco Bamba out of his existing downtown restaurant Del Campo during lunch hours from Nov. 8 through January 2018. Patrons will be able to dine in the bar, in the front dining room, and take tacos to-go. The back dining area will still function as Del Campo for private functions.
The reason for the move isn’t a stagnating lunch business. “Right now, Del Campo has been packed for lunch, which if you think outside the box makes this a good opportunity even though the check average might be less,” Albisu says. He’s bringing Taco Bamba into D.C. from the ‘burbs to test the concept and see which tacos Washingtonians like best.
Albisu estimates that there will be about 26 items on the menu including tacos from a “traditional” category like chicken tinga and carnitas, plus a wide range of tacos they call “nuestros.” These more creative takes include tacos with grilled sweetbreads and burnt habanero chimichurri sauce and a taco play on fish and chips featuring crispy cod, tomatillo minty mashed peas, malt vinegar pickled jalapeño, and tartar sauce. Sides include grilled guacamole and street corn. Tacos are generally priced at $3 or $4 each.
Some of the chefs making tacos at Taco Bamba have worked at three-star Michelin restaurants. “It’s a chef-driven taqueria with multiple chefs on the line making tacos,” Albisu says. “It changes the game—the way we can explore flavors and textures is at a higher level than most people are looking at.” There’s also a possibility Taco Bamba will bring back some of the chef collaboration tacos, including one developed by Maketto’s Erik Bruner-Yang.
The Taco Bamba menu will be available weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Del Campo located at 777 I St. NW.