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Seems like there are a million new Mexican-ish restaurants, and each one calls its version of the cuisine something different. To keep them all straight (and to introduce you to some new terms), we’ve put together this handy guide.


Texas-style Mexican means Texas-sized portions, typically slathered in cheese with refried beans and flour tortillas. Burritos, fajitas, and nachos are definitely on the menu. If they have margaritas, they’re probably served in pitchers.

Example: Lauriol Plaza


Chefs get fancy with Mexican food and call it “modern.” A sure indication: vanilla and rose in the ceviche and hibiscus ice and “absinthe mist” in the cocktails.

Example: Oyamel


American fare with a Mexican twist. Think chorizo burger with Oxaca cheese and yucca fries.

Example: Maddy’s Taproom


The Golden State’s healthier take on Mexican food, highlighting fish and veggies.

Example: Not a lot of good examples in D.C. Maybe Surfside.


Any stylish Mexican restaurant that has margaritas on tap, house-made sodas, Edison light bulbs, a DJ booth, or a rooftop bar. It’s just as much about the scene as the salsa.

Example: El Centro D.F., Bandolero


Like Hip-Mex, but with more spectacle-wearing hipsters.

Example: El Chucho


Fast casual spot where people are in a hurry and more concerned about reading their iPhones than the menu.

Example: Chipotle, Lime Fresh Mexican Grill


A Mexican restaurant that vexes restaurant critics.

Example: Bandolero

Photo of Mexican food via Shutterstock