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Around lunchtime, Taqueria Nacional, a quaint corner eatery that’s somewhat hidden behind Johnny’s Half Shell on the ground floor of a glassy Senate-side office building, is a notorious zoológico, with legendary long lines extending far out the front door. But, at breakfast, the scene is a heckuva lot more pacifica. Barely a dozen Capitol Hill staffers sporting ID badges and pantsuits streamed in and out in the leisurely hour I visited one recent Monday morning, most of them ordering to-go. All four tiny wooden tables outside in the courtyard sat empty for much of the time. Nevermind the grande-sized cups of self-serve coffee: the vibrant mariachi music that hits you the second you enter is a sufficient-enough early morning pick-me-up.
It seemed a bit silly to order the so-called American breakfast platter of eggs and grits at a venue promising more authentic Mexican fare, albeit stuff derived from local gringo and James Beard Award-winning chef Ann Cashion. So I went with the breakfast tacos: a double layer of white corn tortillas, spread with a thin goo of melted cheese, topped with softly scrambled egg and, at my request (and additional charge), piled high with crumbled chorizo. The bits of spicy sausage are so abundant that they’re prone to tumble all over your table and lap, if you don’t cradle your taco with enough care.
For an added kick, sauce it up with one of three available salsas available at the pumps, ranging from medium to medium-hot. (It seems Cashion’s peeps aren’t much on extremes, at least when it comes to the condiments.) The traditional huevos rancheros are also a viable option, though, in my experience, the ample supply of refried beans and cheesy eggs provided on the platter far outweighed the modest tortilla allowance. Sólo dos?
Ay dios mio! A small selection of Mexican-style pastries is also available. My repeated requests for a little horchata were disappointingly declined. “Not ready yet,” the cashier kept saying. Even an hour later my thirst for milky cinnamon refreshment went unquenched. Thankfully, the fresh pineapple juice, served slightly sweet but not too sugary, proved a suitable alternative. ¡Salud!
Taqueria Nacional, 400 North Capitol St. NW, (202) 737-7070