Dish of the Week: Chaia Tacos’ roasted butternut squash taco

Media Credit: Sabrina Godin | Photographer

Goat cheese and caramelized onions glaze the taco, making the dish an autumn standout at Chaia Tacos.

Chaia Tacos is a female-owned business that teams up with local farmers to whip up fresh vegetable dishes.

The restaurant began as a stand at D.C. farmers markets but has since established locations in Georgetown and Chinatown. Its original shop in Georgetown, open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., is located on a cobblestone alley at 3207 Grace St. NW.

Customers can enter the red brick building that houses the shop’s two floors through black-framed glass doors. The first floor is complete with white and cognac wood and a menu spelled out on wooden planks behind the cashier. You can retrieve your dish at a cafeteria-style assembly line next to the cash register.

There is minimal seating on the first floor, but you can walk upstairs and sit at a long rectangular table in the center of a room. The upstairs space is no larger than a bedroom, with frames, baskets and small potted plants sitting on shelves around the room. But the gable roof and windows open up the room with its high ceilings and natural light.

All tacos are served in compostable containers. Tacos are sold for $4 each, and customers can add on a fried or scrambled egg or cilantro-lime jalapeños for $1.50.

Chaia Tacos’ selection includes a braised mushroom taco, creamy kale and potato taco, citrus-roasted beet taco, smoky collard greens taco and roasted butternut squash taco. For vegan customers, dairy ingredients can be excluded upon request.

The cool air and orange foliage scattered along the sidewalk on my way to Georgetown inspired me to pick the roasted butternut squash taco. Served on corn tortillas made fresh for each order, the roasted butternut squash taco is smeared with goat cheese and topped with caramelized onion, chipotle yogurt and mint leaves.

The butternut squash is roasted tenderly but isn’t overly mushy, sprinkled with red pepper flakes for a touch of heat. The salty chipotle yogurt acted like a chipotle mayo, bringing a fatty richness that is paired well with the brightness of the mint.

You can mix and match tacos, but I stuck with three of the roasted butternut squash tacos and ordered a side of pickled cilantro-lime jalapeños ($1.50) to pack the heat. I enjoyed the addition but even without the jalapeños, the taco was well seasoned and had balanced flavors.

If you don’t think two or three tacos will satisfy your hunger, you can choose from sides like the green rice, black beans with jalapeños and crema, a quesadilla with salsa verde, chips and dip or carrot salad – all of which are $3.50. I chose a side of green rice ($3.50) with feta, herb pesto and pepitas.

Chaia Tacos also has drinks on tap like elderberry kombucha ($4) and local beers ($6) or off tap like hot teas ($3) and sangria ($6).

Chaia Tacos’s vegetarian menu encourages less meat consumption without sacrificing the quality of their food. Vegetarians, vegans and meat-eaters alike can enjoy satisfying tacos like the roasted butternut squash taco with the environmental benefits of a meat-free meal.

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