Alcapulco heads south

Originally Published 12/07/00

It seems a testament to our nation’s symbolism as a melting pot of cultures that the capital city would have a wide variety of first-class ethnic restaurants.

A plethora of excellent Thai, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Salvadorean restaurants can be found throughout the city. But those of us looking for a bite of Mexican food are often disappointed by the dearth of good Mexican eateries in the area.

From appearances, Acapulco, located across the street from the Woodley Park Metro station on the red line, seems to offer a glimmer of hope for those who crave home-style Mexican cooking at a low price.

However, Acapulco is more similar to a D.C tourist trap. Acapulco can not be criticized too harshly, because the restaurant did get some things right. Our appetizer of quesadillas tasted surprisingly fresh – a combination of what appeared to be freshly made tortillas with marinated chicken and vegetables. The inclusion of corn in this dish makes it innovative and worth trying.

The fajitas well prepared here – making one think to stick to dishes with grilled or stir-fried chicken. In the case of the fajitas, the chicken is mixed with a medley of peppers and onions and marinated in a sauce with a hint of citrus, which proves very refreshing. The plate comes with standard rice and beans and a plate of tortillas. A word of caution: the quantity of Fajitas given suggests it would be a good idea to come hungry or bring a friend.

The taste of Acapulco’s salsa was the first clue that not everything was going to go well. The salsa, bland and absent of any vegetables other than tomatoes, was more akin to the taste of a thin tomato sauce rather than a burst of flavor.

The Three Amigos Platter contains a taco, a tamale and an enchilada – three things that Mexican restaurants should know how to do well. The taco was filled with beef that had the consistency and appearance of something from a can, and roughly the same taste. The tamale appeared to be stuffed with chicken, but it was a bit hard to find. The mushy wrap of masa harina, an authentic Mexican corn flour, surrounding it obscured the tiny bit of chicken that you do get.

The enchilada was the closest thing to qualify as good Mexican food, although it tasted like it had been prepared a few hours earlier. At times, I almost wondered if the fajitas were from a different restaurant.

The other problem at Acapulco is its service. At first the staff of five or six people seems more than adequate to serve the sparsely decorated dining room – there is only room for about 20 tables. But even getting the check took some cajoling, and that was probably the quickest part of the evening.

Overall, Acapulco was disappointing – the quest for a good Mexican restaurant will go on. If you find yourself in Woodley Park and with a desire for Mexican food, the Cal-Mex establishment Chipotle Grill may be a better choice. For now, however, put out the call to any enterprising Mexican chef – D.C. needs you, and soon.

Acapulco is located at 2623 Connecticut Ave., near the Woodley Park Metro station. It is open Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m. -11 p.m. and Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.

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