Falls Church, VA There are few things I love more than going to a great hole in the wall Mexican restaurant. More often than not, they're the kind of simple street foods you'd find in whatever region of Mexico the chefs are from. When my friend Hunter recommended we try Taco Bamba, a hole in the wall, located in Falls Church, VA, 20 or so minutes outside of D.C., I was all in.
Since I don't live in D.C., I was not familiar with its owner, chef Victor Albisu, nor his other restaurant, Del Campo. Had I known who he was, I wouldn't have been surprised that this place doesn't look like the seedy taco joints I'm used to. No fluorescent lights, no beaten up and salsa covered menus. The bare bones (in a cool way) restaurant is almost 50% kitchen, so it has basically no seating at all. There's space for roughly 10 people to stand at bars jutting out of the walls and eat, plus some chairs outside, but no tables in sight. Be prepared to take this food to go.
The menu is split between tradition tacos and sopes, "nuestro" tacos that have a modern flair, tortas (a Mexican sandwich), and "tacnos", which are things that are not tacos. Get it?
Mi amigo ordered the [symple_highlight color="blue"]torta choriqueso[/symple_highlight], which would be amazing if you were hung over. Thick, soft, buttery bread is toasted then covered in guacamole, a mountain of spicy chorizo, pico de gallo and a chipotle mayo. Fatty and spicy. One of my favorite combos. I think it's pretty obvious this thing was freaking delicious. The bread to filling ratio is a little high for me, but you still manage to get the creaminess of the guac mayo and the crunch from the pork & pico.
It's one of those amazing sandwiches you order when you're alone and feel like going wild. When your girlfriend asks what you ate, you tell her you had three chicken tacos because you're trying to be healthy.
As good as the "tacos nuestros" looked, I opted to go for the tacos tradicionales. If you can get the classics down, I trust your twists will be good as well. I got a [symple_highlight color="blue"]carnitas[/symple_highlight] taco, a [symple_highlight color="blue"]Camaron Diabla[/symple_highlight], and an [symple_highlight color="blue"]al pastor[/symple_highlight] taco. My least favorite of the three was the carnitas. When the meat was put on my taco, a lot of the cooking liquid came with it, making my taco's stability falter. We all agreed it had a bit of sweetness too, perhaps from some kind of citrus in the braising liquid. I didn't mind that, but the others were not so enthused. Aside from being too wet for my liking, it just didn't pack as much flavor as the other two.
The spicy shrimp taco was my favorite. Bamba's shrimp were juicy and fresh with a good amount of spice. The heat was subdued by the jalapeño crema and what tasted like cilantro rice. All the flavors just made me wish I was sitting on a beach somewhere. These would be a repeat order for me, without a doubt.
My final taco, the Al Pastor, was smokey and sweet. The pork was heavily seasoned and, being cooked with pineapple, reminded me a lot of a Korean pork bulgogi. I approve of this taco.
I don't know if I'll ever be back at Taco Bamba, which is sad. There are still a lot of things on that menu I want to eat. In the meantime, I'll be at home in St. Louis trying to replicated that shrimp taco.
If you live in the area, you should go on my behalf and let me know what your favorites were. I'm particularly interested in the Pulpo and Spicy 'Shroom tacos.
2190 Pimmet Drive
Falls Church, VA