On Lee Highway, just before Merrifield, surrounded by a parking lot filled with used cars, sits Taco Baja Bar & Restaurant. The small, hole-in-the-wall building is adjacent London Auto Services – hence the used cars – and, despite a bright orange and yellow paint job, is quite easy to overlook (PARKING TIP: there are four “exclusive” Taco Baja spots around the side of the building). The inside is a direct opposite of the loud and boisterous outside: covered up windows and an empty interior (at least during the day) consisting of a corner bar, a collection of tables and towering set of speakers make for a less-than-inviting entrance. But if you manage to stick around, you’ll be rewarded with a surprisingly tasty meal.
It’s nice to see complimentary chips and salsa but when the chips are out of a bag and the salsa has the consistency of chunky water, just pass on the free stuff and save room for the premium dishes. At five pages, the menu is large and a tad overwhelming, so it’s best to stick to the Salvadoran specialties. Pupusas are made fresh in-house available with queso, refried beans, chicharrón (a paste-like pork) or loroco (a Salvadoran vine flower), and at about two bucks a piece, they’re a great, cheap way to start off the meal. The top picks are the chicharrón and queso, the latter with tortillas so overstuffed, they give way to a gushing molten river of cheese the moment a fork hits them.
When it comes to protein, the intimidating menu is chock full of it. On the turf front, there’s chicken, beef and pork in all shapes and sizes and a seafood selection includes calamari, salmon, shrimp, mojarra, oysters and clams. We found the chicken choices to be both underwhelming and underseasoned but if you’re set on getting some poultry, the fajita combo is a solid choice. Brought to the table on a sizzling iron plate, the dish is piled high with a well-seasoned mix of chicken, steak, shrimp, onions, peppers and tomatoes. Shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, refried beans, rice and a rather skimpy portion of guac and sour cream come on the side, but don’t hesitate to ask for more, along with another tortilla or two. The heaping pile of meat needs more than the supplied condiments.
The surprise hits on the menu were the steak and beef tongue tacos. Served in an order of three, the toasted corn-tortilla wrapped tacos were topped with diced tomatoes, onions and fresh cilantro and served with a lime-and-cilantro sauce. The slightly crispy yet tender tongue was the tastiest of the two but the steak was a close second. Again, don’t bother with the bland chicken option.
With generous portion sizes, the prices at Baja Taco are rather affordable, with most meals running between 10 and 15 bucks, though given the atmosphere, it should probably be even cheaper. Plus, we don’t recommend sidling up to the bar here as $5 for a Miller Lite is a bit too steep.
And for the wannabe singers out there: after getting a taste of the music volume from a surprise jukebox request in the middle our meal, we can only assume this joint rocks its socks off during its Karaoke Nights. If deafening loud Latin music is your thing, then we highly recommend checking it out each Wednesday through Monday starting at 9 p.m.
Taco Baja Bar & Restaurant • 7716 Lee Highway, Falls Church • 703-205-0010