Epita owners open all-day Mexican taco and seafood restaurant DC



Las Gemelas, a twin Mexican restaurant concept to La Cosecha. Photograph by Leah Judson.

If you can’t escape the Mexican coast (or anywhere) this spring, the team’s latest restaurant behind Espita Mezcaleria and Ghostburger may be the closest thing. The two-in-one Mexican restaurant, Las Gemelas, which means ‘twin girls’ in Spanish, diffuses a beach vibe with a double set of concepts throughout the day: a ‘quickly chic’ taqueria with a take-out window and a Full service seafood restaurant ideal for daily brunch or evening margaritas. La taqueria will open on March 15 at La Cosecha, the Latin food hall near Union Market, followed a week later by the sit-down restaurant.

Tropical cocktails and fresh juices will be served to stay or go. Photograph by Leah Judson.

When Covid struck almost a year ago, Espita owner Josh Phillips and his wife / business partner Kelly Phillips were in the Mexican seaside village of Troncones, looking for food and drink for the restaurant. And unlike many companies born during the pandemic, Las Gemelas is not deviating much from what they originally envisioned.

“We wanted the kind of place we went to when we were on vacation or in the evening: breakfast tacos in the morning, ceviche and cocktails. Beach-y eatș — very light, very clean, ”says Kelly Phillips.

Las Gemelas partner Rogelio Martinez cooks a pickled pastor for tacos. Photograph by Leah Judson.

For this new venture, the couple brought in two business partners who have worked at Espita since opening restaurant Oaxaca in Shaw five years ago. Tortillera Yesenia Neri-Diaz, from Guerrero, will continue to run an extensive tortilla program. The group imports Oaxcan corn ground and nixtamalized on site for fresh and ultra-tasty tortillas. For the morning to night volume of the taqueria, Neri-Diaz will have the help of a Lenin Tortilladora machine that can produce 2,100 fluffy masa tortillas per hour. Rogelio Martinez, who worked as a butcher in Mexico City before joining Espita, originated meat dishes such as pork and pineapple al pastor, barbacoa lamb shoulder, chicken adobo, tongue and braised beef cheek with salsa verde and house greens. chorizo.

La taqueria serves Mexican specialties from breakfast to dinner. Photograph by Leah Judson.

The Taqueria Las Gemelas menu starts daily at 7:30 am for early risers with $ 2 of local Counter Culture coffee and three styles of egg tacos, including crispy potatoes and cheese or carnitas and jalapeños. pickled. There are also homemade sweets and a bowl of chia-yogurt. Josh Phillips, who lives in the NoMa neighborhood, says there isn’t “a huge breakfast scene during the week,” but he’s seen an increase in the morning crowds as more and more people work from home in the booming residential neighborhood.

Partner Yesenia Neri-Diaz grinds Oaxacan corn which is nixtamalised and made into fresh tortillas. Photograph by Leah Judson.

In addition to tacos, an all-day menu offers quesadillas, tlayudas – like a Mexican pizza masa filled with beans, cheese, pickled onions, and meats – and side dishes like homemade fries and salsas or tomato rice. Although there is a patio to linger in, drinks here are made to go, like the mezcal margaritas on tap, canned beer and wine, or the “chagronis,” a riff on a Negroni slush. with tequila and chamoy, a pickled fruit condiment. Fans of frozen foods can also find their happiness with homemade soft drinks – best eaten as a swirl of dulce de leche and milk chocolate topped with a sweet and savory combination of mole negro and crispy tortilla pieces.

Las Gemelas Mexicana Cocina is built around a U-shaped bar. Photograph by Leah Judson.

The taqueria will also have a market built into the store with items like homemade tortillas – tacos or larger sizes of quesadillas – three styles of moles, salsas and more. The tortillas will come with a QR code that links to a video featuring Neri-Diaz shows how to prepare masa towers at home.

The non-identical twin sister Las Gemelas Cocina Mexicana is located a short walk from La Cosecha and occupies a central space near the market entrance with a U-shaped bar, indoor tables and a window open to a large patio (capacity will depend on current Covid restrictions). Brunch takes place daily from 9 a.m. to noon with the kind of food you might dream of before heading to the beach: masa waffles with fruit and chipotle butter, chilaquiles, and several fancy toasts (the group’s current favorite. : carrot-turmeric hummus with marinated carrots and smoked cashew nuts). In addition to fresh juices, look for a specialized draft coffee system that dispenses both hot and cold local nitro brews. Being an Espita production, the bar will serve many mezcal cocktails in addition to Mexican and South American wines to accompany seafood dishes such as salmon crudo tostadas, tuna aguachile or steamed mussels. in chipotle broth.

Dishes at the seafood restaurant include mussels in chipotle broth. Photograph by Leah Judson.

Similar to Espita, which switched to a contactless QR code ordering system at the start of the pandemic, customers in Las Gemelas can view menus, order and pay for items by scanning a GoTab code with their mobile devices. Servers will continue to greet customers and interact with tables who have questions about food and drink, particularly at Cocina Mexicana.

“The goal is to remove the transactional nature of restaurant meals and focus on hospitality,” says Josh Phillips. “It has come to a point where the role of the server is no longer the mechanics of taking orders or paying. “

Mezcal cocktails at the restaurant complement a casual ensemble of draft margaritas and frozen taqueria. Photograph by Leah Judson.

Las Gemelas will not be the only new restaurant for the Espita team. Josh Phillips says he’s currently researching multiple physical locations for Ghostburger, their popular hamburger and cheese steak ghost kitchen that opened in Espita in August. The original isn’t a real appearance: “It’s not going away, it’s now part of who we are,” Phillips says.

Las Gemelas. 1280 Fourth Street, NE; 202-866-0550.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the restaurant and bar scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and the Master of Fine Arts program at Columbia University in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in New York and St. John, in the US Virgin Islands.

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