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At Taqueria Xochi, Chef Teresa Padilla will share the most comforting dishes from different corners of Mexico with Washingtonians. There are tlayudas from Oaxaca, cemitas from Puebla, and little bundles of lamb called mixiotes from Mexico City.
“All of our recipes are from Teresa’s family,” says Geraldine Mendoza, Padilla’s business partner and the restaurant’s director of operations. “They’re all her grandmother’s recipes. They remind me of something good.”
The duo, who worked together at José Andrés’ China Chilcano for five years, are behind Taqueria Xochi, opening in early fall at 924 U St. NW. When both women were laid off after China Chilcano temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant’s executive chef, Carlos Delgado, mentored them so they could strike out on their own. They named their concept after the ruins of Xochitecatl in central Mexico near Padilla’s hometown of San José Teacalco.
Taqueria Xochi tested the market as a ghost kitchen offering a delivery-only menu that specialized in cemitas and later a pop-up out of Little Beast in Chevy Chase. “Teresa needed a means to create some income,” Padilla says. “She wanted to sell something quick and easy. There was a lot of support. We sold out of 150 cemitas on the first weekend.”
A cemita is a sandwich containing a breaded cutlet—either chicken, beef, or eggplant—topped with avocado, tomato, chipotle, beans, and a special cheese from Oaxaca. The bread, which they bake in house and top with sesame seeds, differentiates it from a torta. “The bread is very special,” Mendoza says. “It’s not like the bread you use for torta. It’s fluffy, like brioche. That’s what distinguishes cemitas from tortas.”
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The space is small and designed for carryout only, though Mendoza says they’ve worked out a deal with Service Bar next door to share a few outdoor tables in case diners can’t wait to tear into their cemitas or tacos. Taqueria Xochi will also be available for delivery through common apps. They hope to obtain a liquor license before opening so they can serve cocktails like margaritas to go.
While cemitas might draw customers in for a first visit, the Taqueria Xochi menu features many more dishes, including a tacos on corn tortillas Padilla makes every morning. Everything is made from scratch. Mendoza recommends the quesabirria, a braised beef dish from northern Mexico. The beef is cooked for five hours with an array of chiles until it’s stew-like. Then it’s shredded and layered onto tortillas coated in melted cheese and topped with garnishes. It comes with a side of consommé from the cooking process.
Mendoza says they’re still determining the hours of operation, but they plan to start out by serving lunch and dinner. South Philly Barbacoa, Chef Cristina Martinez’s ultra-popular restaurant, inspired them, especially when it comes to the lamb dish they’re currently perfecting. The menu below is only a sample.
Taqueria Xochi, 924 U St. NW; taqueriaxochi.com