DC fam: I found a dope Mexican spot on U street! I repeat, a good one, not a Chili’s lookalike!
Tico, the joint that has my heart wrapped in Oaxaca cheese and deep fried to flaky perfection, is a Mexican fusion restaurant: classics with a modern twist. If you’re looking for traditional MX cuisine, stay tuned because we will not rest until we find a place in the DC area — but in the meantime, enjoy this delicious detour.
I stopped in with a friend on a Friday night. The place was packed. I highly suggest you reserve a table and make sure to arrive on time. Given the location of Tico, traffic/parking is tough - they will give your table away. I personally experienced this, but the staff was very friendly and we had the coolest bar tender that made sure we had drinks during the wait.
Tico has an industrial, Mexican street art look. Just like most places in DC, it's very strong on mood lighting (personally developing a love/hate for that in this city). For a slammed evening, we found that it still wasn’t too loud and could enjoy each other’s company without having to scream at each other.
I’m a sucker for cocktails, so was a little let down when I saw only margaritas available as their mixed drinks (in addition to their beer, wine and spirits). Who hurt me? I’ve been traumatized by the aforementioned Chili’s lookalikes. But Tico won me over; it’s been awhile since I’ve tasted such a smooth marg. My friend and I ordered a classic marg and their signature Hibiscus marg. The latter had a sullied floral taste that mixed with a muted tequila flavor (AKA I did not feel like I was drinking a Fat Tuesday’s frozen special stuffed with flowers).
To my surprise, I realized upon being seated that my guest had a rather restricted diet: practicing lent + shellfish allergy. I, of course, panicked and feared that either my friend would go hungry (I hadn’t checked the menu beforehand) or I wouldn’t be able to order everything I wanted with the safety of peer pressuring my guest to join my gluttony.
Thankfully, Tico had plenty of veggie options. For that, I give them a three on the health-o-meter, but not a full five as they don’t hold back on complementing their cleaner plates with traditional MX add-ons, i.e. obey the Oaxaca cheese.
Through our sitting, we ordered a mix of plates: quick run-through of each below + some sexy food porn.
Tico Guacamole - more on the lime side (which I think makes this guacamole really stand out). Make sure to ask for extra tortilla chips!
Crispy Manchego Cheese - fanciest, most-adult mozzarella sticks (the answer to your prayers). The spicy pomegranate-honey sauce was also bomb
Pork Belly Sliders - had just the right ratio of actual pork vs. belly
Roasted Cauliflower- our bar tender suggested this plate; it did not disappoint! Think elote or equites, but with cauliflower. It was our favorite dish!
Braised Duck - I can’t say no to duck. These tacos were pretty yummy, but do think they were slightly dry. Drench them in lime and you’re set.
Chorizo Rissotto - it was impossible not to order. This plate tasted like good home-cooking. The dish you need after a long, trying day.
This place is wonderful! Truly cannot wait to come back and show it off to newcomers. Oaxaca cheese for president!