- Leah Virbitsky
If you’re local to the Arlington, VA area, you are aware of how quickly the restaurant business is ever-changing. There are constant turnovers and you never know who’s going out of business next. One restaurant that has remained a staple in Arlington for over 20 years and knows what they’re doing is Mexicali Blues.
Upon walking into the restaurant, we were immediately greeted by their friendly staff. The space is broken up into a large bar area with high table-top seating, and the other half being a large open dining area. The owner of Mexicali Blues mentioned that a few years ago, the bar area used to be an ice cream shop. Once the ice cream shop closed, Mexicali Blues acquired the space, which allowed for major expansion of their entire restaurant. Not only is it a great indoor space, but they also have a vast amount of outdoor seating, perfect for the spring & fall weather. One thing we loved about the space is the colorful walls and beautifully decorated murals throughout. Art and culture play a huge factor in the Mexicali Blues history. Each table have a handmade knitted fabric laminated into the middle of the table with artwork from El Salvador.
The Mexicali Blues cuisine is mostly Mexican based with a hint of Salvadorian influence. All guests are given complimentary chips and salsa to start with, which we believe is a perk because it’s not always common anymore at Mexican restaurants. The salsa was the perfect consistency with just the right amount of kick, served with tasty corn tortilla chips. I also asked for a small side of guacamole, because I can’t visit a Mexican restaurant without ordering guacamole to start with.
One thing that the owner pointed out is that everything is done in-house so items like their homemade tortillas, homemade salsa, homemade lime juice, etc. are all fresh and authentic. I’ve had a lot of margaritas, and I was completely sold on this margarita from just one sip in!! You could tell the quality of the lime juice, compared to something that is normally much sweeter or artificial. They also have a limited selection of Mexican beers, so Blake opted for a Corona.
The waiter first served us a portion of Yuca con Chicharron (pictured below) to start served with fried pork, marinated cabbage and salsa. We could not get enough of this yuca , let me tell you. It melted in my mouth upon diving into the first bite.
We then indulged in the most light and refreshing Ensalada Fresca which is a combination of fresh tomato, carrot, avocado, onion and cucumber in a lemon citrus vinaigrette. It was not only healthy, but also a delicious dinner option for someone who isn’t looking to have a heavy meal. We then sampled one of the Shrimp enchiladas (pictured below), filled with sautéed shrimp and garlic, topped with an incredibly flavorful cream sauce. It was delicious!
Next up, we opted for a plate of the specialty tacos (pictured below). The Taco con Poblano had a dollop of marinated char-grilled steak served with grilled poblano peppers & topped with a drizzle of our house-made poblano salsa, pica crema and cilantro. The Taco con Carnitas were my personal favorite-- guajillo marinated pork, char-grilled and topped with fresh pineapple salsa. The Taco con Mole consisted of marinated char-grilled chicken breast layered with pica crema & topped with rico mole salsa and chimole. This was Blake's favorite because it was packed with so much flavor, however it was very spicy! The last taco we tasted was the Taco con Mantequilla, Lima and Jalapeno! These babies are filled with marinated char-grilled shrimp, topped with house-made butter, lime and jalapeno compound and fresh grilled corn & black beans. Amazing!
Last but not least, the staff insisted we try one of their Salvadorian specialties, a pupusa (pictured below). If you have never had a pupusa before, put it on your bucket list. There are several different versions of a pupusa, but we were served the Revuelta, which is a handmade corn tortilla stuffed with pork and cheese, served with marinated cabbage. So very delicious, but since it’s heavy, you should definitely split with someone else! This was Blake's favorite dish that we tried by far!
Mexicali Blues is not only reasonably priced in terms quality portions, but also, they have an awesome weekly happy hour from 5-7PM that you do not want to miss! They also have an awesome outdoor seating area located right in the heart of Clarendon, just steps from the metro! So leave work early tonight and head over for a delicious margarita! We promise you won’t be disappointed.
To view their menu, or learn more about Mexicali Blues, check out their website.