La Siesta just opened up in the former Arucola location, most recently occupied by one of the COVID victims, RNF. I happened to be at loose ends on its very first evening, and went for an early dinner.
I arrived, was seated promptly on the large deck out front, and was presented with a menu, a carafe of ice water, and chips and salsa.
The chips were nice and fresh, thin and with a good corn taste. The salsa was very good, flavorful without being too spicy for most folks. There’s a hotter sauce available — a Colorado sauce made from red chiles, and I imagine, based on the excellent service I got, that they’ll chop us some jalapeño if you ask. And, given the creeping menace of restaurants that charge extra for chips and salsa, kudos to La Siesta for offering them free.
I ordered a beer and studied the menu with an eye to tasting as broad a sense of the menu as I could. (Nancy was off playing mah jongg with some tile sharps from Bethesda, so I was dining alone.) At the server’s suggestion, I ordered a cup of chicken enchilada soup.
Nice. Nice indeed. I had a spoonful before taking that picture, so I messed up the presentation a bit: time and soup wait for no man. The soup was packed with chicken, three cheeses, lots of tortilla strips, and some tomato and jalapeño. This was a good, substantial soup, and it really hit the spot.
The menu includes lots of salads, quesadillas, and burritos — including vegetarian versions of each — but as the best way to explore the menu, I ordered three tacos, each with a different filling. I also asked for, and promptly received, an extra dish of salsa. That’s how I get my vegetables, and I like to add a bit to just about everything at Mexican restaurants. The tacos were, from right to left, Tacos Madrid, Carne Asada, and Pork Carnitas.
Tacos Madrid consist of a foundation of ground beef with mashed potato, a layer of cheeses, a layer of lettuce topped with avocado salsa, and a ribbon of the red chile sauce, all in a crisp tortilla shell. The spicy red chile and the cool avocado salsa paired well, for a good result.
The carne asada taco offered a good helping of well seasoned grilled meat, finely chopped onions, a sprinkling of cilantro, and a ribbon of the red chile sauce. The delicious meat had been marinated in lime and then folded into a pair of corn tortillas.
The pork carnitas taco was excellent, the best of all of the tacos The pork shoulder had been seasoned and slow cooked long enough to be pulled apart easily, and then mounded into a flour tortilla and topped with cotija cheese, onion, and cilantro. I could eat those all day.
I also ordered a couple of small sides, charro beans and guacamole.
(The guacamole also comes in a much larger serving as an appetizer.) The charro beans were mixed with onions and red chile, and were good. I perked them up, as I always do, with some salsa — some of each of the two salsas. The guacamole was good and prepared fresh. I added some to each of the tacos, and it was especially good with the carnitas.
All in all it was a very good meal. Perhaps I should add that it was a whole lot of food. I am, however, a highly trained overeater, and you should not try this without supervision. A bowl of that soup would be a meal, and what I ordered would be plenty for two people, and at a very good price. Mainly, though, the quality of the food is a big step up from other nearby Mexican options, so it really fills a gap in neighborhood dining options.
And La Siesta is a very pleasant place to eat. There’s lots of outdoor seating, now with a large retractable awning. You’ll see people you know. Stuart Ishimaru, a friend from my DOJ Civil Rights Division days, came by to place a carry out order, and he sat with me while he waited. We had a chance to catch up. We’ll all be catching up again with lots of friends now, and La Siesta will be a good place to do it.
Let me be clear: This is not cutting edge Latin American cuisine, the sort with lots of unusual ingredients. There are no grasshopper tacos (which are just okay at best) and, so far at least, no cicada tacos. And the dishes aren’t spiced to cauterize your palate. The food is very accessible with the emphasis on flavor rather than heat, so it’s fine for the whole family. The restaurant appears fully staffed — something that’s rare these days — and the service is fast, attentive, and pleasant, and my visit was problem free. That’s amazing for opening night of a new restaurant. All in all, La Siesta is a great addition to the neighborhood. You really should try it.
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