Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pica Taco - Columbia Heights 2/1/2011

Pica Taco
1406 Florida Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20009

Pica Taco is a small taqueria tucked away on Florida Avenue, just a hop, skip, and drunken stumble away from the gentrification creep on 14th Street. The majority of the new development (the lux condos, the organic YES market, Busboys, etc.) is located on the eastern side of 14th while the western side contains the remains of what was once a skid row: dilapidated storefronts, carryouts, a food pantry, and of course, further down 14th near U, that monument to Marion Berry's Ozymadian ego, the DC Municipal Building. Pica Taco seems as if it sits squarely within this latter milieu, but considering the quality of the food inside, I feel it can certainly survive the wave of gentrification that's crashing upon the neighborhood.

The building is small, unassuming, and seems to be a former garage or carriage house. But for the small backlit sign and awning, it would be easy to miss. Primarily geared as a carryout, there are several small tables inside where you can sit down. After ordering, you can watch the kitchen staff prepare your food in the open kitchen and then watch as they bring it back to the counter, dress your dish with various sauces and toppings, and then place it in the pass for you to pick up. The friendly lady at the counter helpfully asked whether I wanted hot sauce, and after saying yes, she gave me a squeeze-bottle containing salsa verde (a spicy tomatillo sauce) that was clearly made in-house.

I ordered three tacos: a lengua (beef tongue), a barbacoa (braised, shredded beef), and a pastor (a shredded pork dish with spicy seasoning), wrapped in corn tortillas. Each was moist, tender, and flavorful. The barbacoa stole the show with its deep, savory, beefy flavor that only a well executed braise can pull off. While the lengua and pastor were both good, they tasted a little innocuous...not bland, but not quite as identifiably "porky" or "offalish" as I would like. But, they were still tasty and some might appreciate that they aren't too gamy in flavor. I was also slightly annoyed that I was given lemon, rather than lime, but that is just picking nits. I mainly used the salsa verde, anyway, which I actually wished was a little spicier and tangier, but it was still good and acted as a nice accompaniment to the tacos.

These reasonably priced tacos (about $2.25 each) are about as well prepared as any I have had in the DMV. Go. Now.

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