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My first thought walking into Surfside wasn’t exactly flattering: This place looks like Chipotle meets Folly Beach.
Not that there’s anything wrong with Chipotle — I actually like the place — but I came here to write about bar food. I’m sorry, but selling Coronas and margaritas doesn’t make Chipotle a bar anymore than it does this Glover Park taco stand. The small, six-stool bar tucked into the back corner at Surfside, however, is decidedly closer to my wheelhouse.
I decided to skip the front counter and just place an order with the bartender, thus avoiding the snaking line and making the place feel less like a fast food chain. At the bar, I was flanked on one side by a thin brunette drinking Budweisers and, on the other, by a recent graduate drinking straight from a pitcher of margaritas with a straw. Bar food indeed.
While enduring an onslaught of one-liners and offered tequila shots (which I took with a smile), I tore into fish tacos and contemplated how this fast-casual establishment was, in 2008, awarded two and a half stars by the Washington Post. That’s the same score Todd Gray’s Equinox received in the recently released Fall Dining Guide. Not too shabby for fish tacos and burritos.
My Maui Maui tacos were stuffed to the hilt with freshly grilled fish, a salsa of black beans, corn, and cilantro, and loose guacamole that I mopped from my plate. Rice and beans were a palatable but obvious filler. I preferred them spiked with the neon green El Yucateco sauce stationed at the bar.
Condiments should be Surfside’s next focus. Frankly, I prefer my hot sauces with a little less Blue No. 1 additive. My new friend the graduate, however, doesn’t seem to mind pre-packaged pepper purees. He’s halfway through a doused quesadilla that looks nicely charred. Watching him eye up the premium tequilas that line the wall, I’m suddenly all too glad my shot-taking days are behind me. Well, mostly behind me.