Lengua tacos from Taqueria Xochi
Lengua tacos from Taqueria Xochi Credit: Crystal Fernanders

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Taqueria Xochi is a woman-owned Mexican carry-out restaurant in Shaw. Owners Teresa Padilla and Geraldine Mendoza founded Taqueria Xochi after being furloughed early in the pandemic. Xochi started out in a commissary kitchen in Capitol Heights before its founders began running a pop-up concept in Little Beast in the summer of 2020. Padilla and mendoza then opened their first brick and mortar carry-out restaurant on 9th Street NW in October 2020.

Taqueria Xochi (pronounced “so-chee”) gets its name from Xochitecatl ruins near Padilla’s hometown of San Jose Teacalco, Mexico. Padilla worked for several years in Jose Andres’ ThinkFoodGroup restaurants, and after being displaced because of COVID-19, Padilla used the opportunity to chase her dream of introducing traditional Mexican cuisine to the D.C. area. She then partnered with Mendoza, the director of operations, and Taqueria Xochi was born. They plan to open a second location in Crystal City by the end of the year. 

This U Street spot is a bit of a hidden gem. While it’s in a popular area, a covered streatery from a neighboring restaurant blocks its view from the road. The bright pink and blue exposed brick will definitely catch your eye if you’re walking. A neon sign displays the restaurant name above the storefront. Its glass window displays its menu with a serape, a traditional Mexican blanket, draped behind it. Guests place and pick up orders at two windows. An employee-only entrance features the restaurant’s logo—a sketch of Padilla. 

Xochi’s menu is all about authenticity. The antojitos are their appetizers with classics like chips and salsa, guacamole, nachos, and cups of street corn. Cemitas are Puebla-style sandwiches with a choice of deep fried chicken or beef milanesa cutlet, Oaxaca cheese, avocado, yellow onions, refried beans, mayonnaise, and sliced tomatoes. Tortas are another sandwich option, assembled with shredded pork or birria, and various toppings to pair with each. A mild salsa verde made of tomatillos, and a smoky salsa morita made of dried chili peppers, are served on the side of all menu items.

Quesabirria tacos at Taqueria Xochi. Photo by Crystal Fernanders.

Xochi’s most popular menu item is their quesabirria, and was also my favorite. Birria is a braised meat dish that quickly gained popularity in the U.S. in the past few years. Cooks sear lamb or beef, and slowly simmer it in a broth seasoned with rehydrated dried chilies, vinegar, spices, onions, and garlic. The meat is then shredded and served in its braising liquid, known as consommé. 

Quesabirria won everyone’s hearts when it made its way to the U.S. The juicy shredded meat is added onto tortillas and topped with Chihuahua cheese. Cooks then fold the tortillas over and sear them on a griddle until the cheese is melted, making a birria quesadilla of sorts. A cup of consommé is served on the side for dipping the quesabirria, like a Mexican version of a French dip sandwich. If you’re a fan of that, it’s imperative that you try this one out! I’ve had my fair share of quesabirria, and Xochi’s is in my top 2. But they’re not at number 2!

You cannot go to a Mexican restaurant without ordering tacos. Xochi has nine to choose from, served three per order and topped with fresh cilantro, diced white onions, and lime wedges. Name your favorite taco filling, and they’ll have it. From carne asada to shredded chicken, and some vegetarian options like mushroom, cactus, or refried bean, there’s a taco option for every palate.

“Our lengua tacos are very underrated,” says Mendoza. Lengua is beef tongue, so it’s easy to understand why some diners might be initially skeptical. The beef tongue cooks low and slow for several hours until softened. The outer skin is peeled off, leaving a tender chunk of meat. The cooks then dice the meat into chunks, and sear it on a flat top grill before serving. Please do not be a punk by passing this one up. The beef tongue was very flavorful, nearly melting in my mouth. A squeeze of lime juice brightens the flavor a bit, but wasn’t needed. Yes, I would order this again and again. 

Mulitas are another popular dish on the menu. It reminded me of a miniature quesadilla made of a corn tortilla instead of flour. The fillings for these are similar to their taco options, with seven to choose from. I went with the chicken tinga mulita, which is cooked with tomatoes, onions, and chipotle for about an hour before it gets shredded. I inhaled this one. It was perfect on its own, but I loved it even more when spreading the salsa morita on every other bite. There are two mulitas in each serving—trust me, you’ll want to order twice as many. 

Xochi offers several beverages to wash down all that good food. There’s bottled Mexican sodas, like Coke, Sprite, and Jarritos. House-made agua frescas, a popular refreshing drink in Mexico, blend fruit with water and a bit of sugar. 

Mangonada from Taqueria Xochi. Photo by Crystal Fernanders.

Their mangonada is the epitome of a summer drink. Frozen mangoes are blended into a sippable sorbet, swirled with a bit of spiced chamoy sauce, and dusted with chili powder. Xochi fancies theirs up with a tamarind covered candy straw for drinking. Mango chunks, Mexican gummy candies, and a spicy mango lollipop top the drink. The sweetness of the mango paired with the spicy and tangy flavor from the chamoy will send your taste buds on a refreshing and fun roller coaster.

And of course, there’s dessert! The classic tres leches is a chilled sponge cake soaked in a sweetened milk mixture, served with sliced strawberries. Bunuelos de viento are crispy and airy pieces of fried dough dusted with cinnamon and sugar. The chocoflan is Xochi’s most popular dessert. A dense chocolate cake is stacked with a creamy vanilla egg custard and a thin layer of sweet caramel sauce. I loved how the cake was moist and not too chocolatey, and the sauce wasn’t overly sweet. The rich vanilla of the flan tied this all together. 

Chocoflan from Taqueria Xochi. Photo by Crystal Fernanders.

Xochi offers some menu items as party platters. Mix and match three or six proteins to make up to 30 tacos. Quesabirria platters are served in sets of 20 or 40. They have a Xochi Hour, their version of a happy hour, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays with a handful of their menu items sold at a discounted price. A condensed late night menu is available on Fridays and Saturdays after 11 p.m.

Taqueria Xochi is the takeout Mexican restaurant that needs to be added to everyone’s list. You really can’t beat traditional cuisine on the go!

Taqueria Xochi is open Sundays and Mondays from 4 p.m to 10 p.m., Tuesdays through Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m, and Fridays and Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Delivery is available through UberEats and DoorDash. Pickup orders can be placed online or in person. 

Taqueria Xochi, 924 U Street NW (202) 292-2859, taqueriaxochi.com