Falls Church residents have plenty of restaurants to consider for the celebration of Cinco de Mayo next Thursday. That’s the anniversary of the 1862 Battle of Puebla in Mexico when 2,000 Mexican troops defeated 6,000 French soldiers in a David v. Goliath moment which shook the world.
Shaking up Falls Church is the growing number of Mexican, South American, Latin American, Tex Mex and Greek Mexican restaurants which are growing by tacos and burritos in the Little City.
Three new and almost new restaurants have opened only a short distance from most local addresses, all with economical menus, all ready for some fun and some with specials for May 5.
Wild Tacoz and La Tingeria almost face each other at the corner of South Washington Street and West Westmoreland/Summerfield, while over at the “new” Birch & Broad Shopping Center on West Broad Street, there’s a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Taco Rock.
Wild Tacoz (with a “z” to distinguish it from a Texas chain, please) opened up just before covid hit, and word-of-mouth has increased its sales over time just like neighbors talking to neighbors have done for La Tingeria and Taco Rock.
To enter Wild Tacoz and smell the tantalizing aromas and walk out without an order is practically impossible.
The eatery prides itself on customer choices: “Everything is cooked to order,” Teddy Koumarianos, the owner/manager/head chef said in an interview at the Wild while preparing to-go orders which kept arriving via a ding-a-ling notice that Uber was coming for pickup.
Koumarianos buys fresh from local Amish farms.
He explained: “Here customers make it their own way. They tell us what they want, whether it’s salads, tacos, or one of our signature creations” like a Mexican pizza or a “tobrcc” of tofu, onions, broccoli, rice, cauliflower and corn which his daughter cooked up that appeals to their many vegetarian customers.
A Greek burrito ($9.95) is another “signature creation” and since I’m just wild about feta, a key ingredient, I ordered it with the combination of rice and tzatziki (a yogurt mixture), tomatoes, cucumbers, Romaine lettuce, parsley, and Greek olives. With robust nutrition and a healthy interior, the 12-inch dish was big and appetizing, lasting me 3.5 meals and never seeming stale. (Stored under refrigeration, of course.)
Wild Tacoz has got “wacky sides,” too, including one of my favs, zucchini, squash and tomatoes ($4.95). Perfectly cooked and tasty, I, a faux vegetarian, call it “a faux dessert.”
Across the street, La Tingeria is enjoying huge publicity. Only the medialess could have escaped the press flurry and hubbub about its now famous chicken tinga which the restaurant began selling a while back from a food truck.
David Peña, the chief operator, is grateful now for being laid off long ago at a restaurant where he poured “my heart and soul. I’m never working for anyone else again,” he laughs. “It worked out for the best and helped push me to this,” a start in his own business.
At the former restaurant he would make a family meal of chicken tinga for the staff and, one day, he paused and smiled, an employee asked him when he was going to open up “tingeria. A name I never forgot.”
To eat something besides the famous chicken dish, I ordered the chicken hal-pasto traditionally served with tiny chunks of pineapple, the sweetness which added a dessert-like taste to the delicious tortilla. I also had a sopa corn flour tortilla lightly fried, accompanied by any halal (“permissible” to Muslims) meat, complete with a tangy bean spread, lettuce, cilantro, onions and more ($5).
Nothing was mediocre; the restaurant lives up to its reputation.
As soon as he can hire more employees, Peña plans to open up six or seven days a week. He’s already had to turn down several catering orders because he doesn’t have enough staff.
Over at Taco Rock last Saturday afternoon, it was anything but a “soft opening” which Chef Manny Hernández said was the plan. Constant customers arrived to sit in or out, or at the “in and out” bar and enjoy one of 13 margarita choices. (How about a blueberry, blackberry or jalapeño margarita to go with your blue corn tortilla?)
Since I’m a seafood lover, I could not pass up the shrimp ceviche ($12), which came with with six, fat perfectly cooked shrimps (almost doubling the quantity I expected) marinated in citrus, and mixed with diced carrots, cucumbers, red onion slices, avocado, cilantro and teaser sweet potato pieces, their taste almost absent.
I appreciated the tanginess, crunchiness and the shrimp’s low calorie count.
To extend my enjoyment at Taco Rock and ensure I had enough food to last me three days without eating anything else, I also had a crunchy, fried empanada with chicken ($5) and a delightful fried avocado taco ($4.50) with corn salsa, pico de gallo, cilantro, and sour cream.
For Cinco de Mayo, Taco Rock will have taco specials and sell margaritas for $6 all day. It will team up with Falls Church police and offer free “sober rides” home (up to a $15 limit). La Tingeria will have taco specials, too, but the labor crunch means no holiday specials at Wild Tacoz.
Wherever your taste buds take you to celebrate, it’s only a walk home for Falls Church. No need to drive on a day which is not Mexican Independence Day that some merrymakers may claim after celebrating with, maybe, more than one or two margaritas.
Wild Tacoz, 7167 South Washington St., Falls Church 22046, 703-639-0199, Wildtacoz.com. Open Monday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.
La Tingeria, 626 South Washington St., Falls Church 22046, firstname.lastname@example.org. Open Thursday, 12 – 4 p.m.; Friday – Sunday, 12:00 – 8:00 p.m. No phone or website, but they are coming!
Taco Rock, 1116 West Broad St., Falls Church 22046, 703-760-3141, thetacorock. com. Open Sunday – Thursday, 11 a.m. -10 p.m.; Friday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.