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No need to drive out to a gas station in Elkridge, Md., or a strip mall in Perry Hall, Md., to sample the sought-after tacos from R&R Taqueria. The taco shop’s chef and owner Rodrigo Albarran will oversee the menu at Dupont Circle’s new Mexican restaurant, Mission, which officially opens tomorrow.
“I was ready to make another move,” Albarran says. “I want to get my name out differently so people will know all the things I’m capable of doing.”
The restaurant is owned by Reed Landry and Fritz Brogan, who also operate George and Mason Inn in Georgetown. Landry was at a dinner party when a friend told him he had to try R&R. When he and Brogan finally did, “it was just too good to be true,” Brogan says. “And so we started talking to him.”
Like Albarran, the owners are also trying to expand their repertoire with Mission. “Reed and I have really wanted to move away from doing the heavy-volume alcohol and doing more food. We thought that Mexican food comes hand and hand because when people eat Mexican food they have some margaritas, they have some tequila,” Brogan says. The bar at Mission serves nearly 50 types of tequilas and mezcals, several margaritas and cocktails, and eight beers on tap, including a few Mexican varieties, Atlas Brew Works‘ District Commons, and Shiner.
The menu is much more extensive than R&R Taqueria, with dishes like cactus sopes, whole clam soup (“something we eat a lot on the coast of Veracruz,” Albarran says), mole chicken, and ribs with spicy adobe barbecue sauce. There are also several burgers including a chorizo burger and Chef’ Rod’s Caliente Burger with ghost peppers and pepper jack cheese. Taco lovers will find a mix of familiar and new. The carnitas recipe is the same at R&R, as are the tortillas, which come from a special producer in Atlanta whose identity Albarran wants to keep a secret. “These tortillas are as close to Mexico as you can get…It costs more but the taste is very unique.” Eventually, Albarran says he’ll add more adventurous tacos like tongue and tripe.
The chef will continue to operate his R&R locations, spending time there in the mornings and then heading to Mission in the evenings. He’s also working on a cookbook of 25 meals he learned from his grandma growing up in Mexico, which he plans to self-publish sometime this summer.
The two-story building, formerly One Lounge, features a new arched skylight overhead the 23-seat bar, which is lined with electrical outlets so you can charge your phone. The space is decorated with longhorn horns, a fake fireplace, and reclaimed church pews. One of the quirkiest touches is the second floor phone booth. The phone itself doesn’t actually work, but there are outlets so you can charge up and make a call from your cell. If the weather ever warms up, you’ll be able to eat your tacos on the 35-seat patio too.
“Nothing beats eating them at a gas station,” Brogan says. “But this is certainly nicer.”
Check out the menus below.
UPDATE 3/26/14: The menu in this post has been updated to reflect the finalized version.
Mission, 1606 20th St. NW; (202) 525-2010; missiondupont.com
Photos by Jessica Sidman