I have discovered a true gem in Columbia Heights, Taqueria Juquilita. This place is a hole-in-the-wall and is a fairly well kept secret of DC (at least before I opened my big mouth). It might be because this little neighborhood establishment is run out of a family house. You call the telephone number when you get to the building, I found the number on yelp, then someone drops a key down from the second story window so you can open the apartment building door. Once you’ve let yourself into the building and walked up the second story you’ll find the cozy apartment at the end of the hallway–just follow your nose.
When I walked into the apartment I was overwhelmed in the best of ways. Upon opening the door I heard giggles of a child (the owner’s grandchild) playing in the corner, smelled the wafting aromas of (grandma’s) homemade tortillas cooking in the kitchen and saw a big open table in the living room/dining room. The main room has been converted into a dining space on the weekends, the only time Taqueria Juquilita is open. One long communal table is set for maybe up to 12 people and a number of salsas are scattered around, all homemade of course. There is a tiny kitchen when you first walk in to the right that is completely open and faces the dining table. I liked this because you could see all the food being prepared, the tortillas getting pressed and I love that smell of food cooking just a few feet away and the sound of food sizzling in a hot pan on the stove.
I am a huge fan of salsa and there were plenty to choose from. There was a salsa verde, an avocado mild salsa (in the dark bowl at the front of the picture above), a smoky salsa, Habanero salsa (super spicy) and then there were actual Habanero and onion slices soaked in lime juice.
Before I even get the food, I have to talk about the drinks. There are Mexican beer options, original coca-cola in the glass bottles (small and large), fruit waters (agua fresco) which have actual fruit pulp in it and finally an interesting sweet rice drink called horchata that has a little cinnamon and nutmeg in it. All of the above sounded good so all of the above were ordered. The horchata is an especially good accompaniment to spicy food, just FYI.
Now I’ll get to the food, which was sooo good. When I came to DC, I was disappointed by the lack of authentic Mexican food but that was only because I didn’t know Columbia Heights as well as I should have. I’ll let you know right now that if you are looking for an authentic meal, you better hop on a metro towards Columbia Heights STAT and get to Juquilita’s. The food is flavorful, ingredients are fresh and the family that runs Juquilita’s is very nice and friendly (they all speak English too in case you don’t speak Spanish).
To start we had the roasted red pepper tamales, which are vegetarian but did have cheese in them.
Next time I would really like to try the mole tamales but on the afternoon that I went they were all out. These two tamales were awesome though. I die for a moist and flavorful tamale and too often I find the tamales I order are dry and crumbly. I was so delighted to find these tamales to be spot on in consistency and flavor.
Next we got three tacos: the beef tongue (lengua), pork belly (carnitas de puerco) and the marinated pork with peppers, onions and pineapple (al pastor).
The taco on the left is the lenguas and the taco on the right is the carnitas de puerco
They stuff these babies really full, no joke. Eating the tacos got a little messy but it was fun. There was a lot of the Habanero salsa on top of this taco.
looks perfectly harmless right?? NO, this stuff is STRONG. I know a lot of you are saying to yourself “I love spicy food, this won’t get my taste buds burning, nuh-uh not me.” If you think you can handle it, go ahead but don’t say I didn’t warn you. This spice sneaks up on you, builds up after a few minutes. A few bites of your food topped with this stuff might have you panting with your tongue hanging out like a puppy dog.
Here’s the al Pastor tacos. I loved the avocado mild salsa, I put it on everything I ate. It also had a soft, little kick of flavor.
The al Pastor tacos were a little runny compared to the other two but just as enjoyable.
I love tacos!
Now Taqueria Juquilita only accepts cash and there aren’t specific prices written out on how much each item costs. I have a close girlfriend who has gone for lunch here three times and each time she paid a different amount for her food. Best thing to do is be friendly and considerate, talk with your neighbors, talk to the family members and it never hurts to know a thing or two about soccer (which was playing on the TV in the corner of the room when I was there). There were tostadas and quesadillas also on the menu that I didn’t order but I’ve heard everything is tasty.
I can’t wait to go back, I am having serious cravings.