Mi Vecindad

Some people believe you have to endure the task of reservations and expensive menus to enjoy the finest Latin American food D.C. has to offer, but stop by Mi Vecindad, and you’ll know that just isn’t the case.

Mi Vecindad, which means “my neighborhood,” is a casual, family friendly restaurant located in a quieter section of Pennsylvania Avenue, just a few blocks down from the Eastern Market metro (heading away from the Capitol).

Brightly colored walls adorned with festive sombreros and painted murals of celebrations provide a comfortable atmosphere for lunch or dinner. The main dining room includes cozy booths along the interior wall, larger tables toward the center of the room and window tables for two, perfect for dates.

If you’re dining alone or having drinks with a colleague, then pull up a stool at the bar just beyond the dining area. The bar is finely stocked with an array of various liquors, including, of course, tequila.

The service at Mi Vecindad is a refreshing change of pace from the businesslike nature of many Washington restaurants. The host seating us was a boy, about eight years old, whom my dining companion affectionately described as “adorable.”

The high quality of the service didn’t end with a friendly smile by the young host, as a bowl of warm tortilla chips and salsa with glasses of water arrived at the table almost as soon as we did. The salsa was a fresh, homemade blend of largely diced tomatoes and onions that came with a little spicy kick.

After enjoying the chips, the waiter promptly arrived to take the order and refill waters, a trend of the quality service which occurred throughout the meal as the waiters made rounds with pitchers of ice cold water to ensure that no one saw the bottom of their glasses.

A refill of chips and salsa came with the appetizers. Mi Vecindad offers a decent selection of appetizers ranging in price and style of food.

From the modestly priced pork and cheese pupusas to the more inclusive sampler “Fiesta Mexicana” featuring a smaller portion of several appetizer choices, the appetizer menu provides a variety of tasty stepping-stones to begin your journey to the flavors of Latin America.

The “Taquitos Dorados,” one of the appetizer selections, comes with your choice of chicken or beef. The soft, but crispy rolls of fried dough were stuffed with beef shredded in thin, string-like strips. The appropriate portion of these tasty starters came with fresh guacamole, lettuce, sour cream and a slightly spicy, pico de gallo.

Like most of the toppings included with the dishes, the fresh pico de gallo was unique to the restaurant. And unlike other places, Mi Vecindad does not serve their pico de gallo as a soupy mess. The texture was drier, but the combination of the ingredients provided a natural juiciness.

After the first plates were cleared, the service does not falter as the entries are delivered on the appetizer’s heels. At no point during the meal did the question “Where is our food?” come up.

The burrito de carne or beef burrito looks more like an enchilada as it stretches almost the diameter of the plate and is flanked with a variety of toppings and sides including a sweet tasting, soft yellow rice, pinto beans in a sort of paste-like substance and of course plenty of guacamole, pico de gallo and sour cream.

For those looking for a lighter meal that is still tasty and satisfying, try the grilled chicken tacos. Although the portions are as generous as other meals, the tacos are easily transferred to a carryout box for future enjoyment. With all the usual amenities, the tacos come filled with tender chunks of perfectly grilled white-meat chicken.

If you’re hungry for a filling and fun meal that comes with a sizzle, order the beef and chicken fajitas. The chicken and beef, which is stripes of steak meat, is served sautéed with onions and comes with flour tortillas for a make-your-own treat.

With fast and friendly service, a comfortable atmosphere and delicious food in generous portions, Mi Vecindad is ideal for a casual meal with friends and family, drinks and appetizers with a co-worker or just an enjoyable lunch for one.