Taco Bamba, the local chain of Mexican street food shops where chef Victor Albisu explores the outer reaches his imagination, opens its fifth Northern Virginia location for lunch and dinner today in Ballston (4000 Wilson Boulevard, Suite C).
Like every Taco Bamba, the new location brings on a bunch of new items that integrate influences from the surrounding area. At his first Arlington restaurant, Albisu has peppered references to the county’s rich history of international venues with a lineup of nuestros (our) tacos full of Peruvian chicken, chipotle pork vindaloo, shawarma spiced zucchini, and chorizo larb.
El Pollo Rico, arguably the top pollo a la brasa shop in the D.C. area, gets a nod with the El Rico Pollo taco, which adds green chile puree, aji amarillo aioli, salsa criolla, and crispy potato to “Peruvian-ish” chicken. A One Night in Bangkok taco incorporates Thai flavors with seared shrimp and chorizo larb, mint, basil, chiles, and crispy onions. Vegetarians will gravitate toward the Salim Abu Aziz El Khoury, which comes with visually striking smear of burnt eggplant on a pita topped with shawarma-spiced zucchini, grilled halloumi cheese, sumac onion, and parsley. Sales from a Tony Khoury Shawarma taco (steak, ancho mayo, chipotle yogurt, cucumber pico de gallo, mint) will go to World Central Kitchen, which is feeding the relief effort in Beirut.
Other innovative additions at Taco Bamba Ballston include the Jeffrey, a fried spring roll bursting with Mexican meats (carne asada, pork al pastor, chorizo) as well as Chihuahua cheese, peppers, onions, and serrano salsa verde. There’s a crispy eggplant quesadilla called the Wario Lopez, a spicy fried chicken torta with pickled chiles called the Big Red, and a serving of nacho fries (Wu-Fries) mixed with tofu, chorizo, and pickled chiles.
On the cocktail side, Taco Bamba’s new store sells a handful of margaritas, including varieties based in wood-fired pineapple; blood orange and pomegranate; spicy guava; and watermelon. There’s also a rum-based honeydew melon punch.
The Ballston location has a small patio and an entrance on N. Quincy Street. Customers can survey the full menu here, and order takeout or delivery online here. The brand’s D.C. location, and adjoining Mexican fine dining restaurant Poca Madre, remain indefinitely closed. Locations in Falls Church, Vienna, Springfield, and Fairfax are open.
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Taco Bamba offers superior taco deliciousness in four Northern Virginia locations, and another spot in DC. The popular Mexican chain was created by Chef Victor Albisu, who has a long history of successful restaurants in the Washington DC region.
We’re always on the lookout for the best places to get tasty tacos in Northern Virginia, and Taco Bamba hits the spot.
Chef Albisu opened his original Falls Church taco takeout spot in the same strip mall as his mother’s Latin grocery. His taqueria menu elevates the standards, and adds more exotic options to the usual taco list.
We have sampled a mix of tacos on our visits to the Falls Church and Vienna locations. Every dish we have tried packs tons of flavor.
The Arabe (upper left in pic), with grilled chicken, ancho mayo, cucumber pico, and chipotle yogurt is really good, and we see a lot of them coming off the line for other diners. The Arabe comes on a thicker tortilla, making it especially filling.
The squid ink aioli in the Black Pearl (middle) added a nice contrast to the fried tilapia, but we found this the least interesting of the tacos we tried. Our favorite was the Camaron a la Diabla (bottom) with spicy shrimp and poblano sauce.
Our friend found the Spicy Shroom (upper right) almost too spicy, which sounds just right to us. She also enjoyed the Pulpo, with grilled octopus, grilled guac, and chili d’arbol- sesame sauce.
Taco Bamba Locations
The original Bamba is a bare bones, takeout-oriented spot in Falls Church. A newer location in Vienna offers more indoor seating, a small bar, and an outdoor patio. The Fairfax outlet is located in a strip mall near the George Mason campus. And a fourth NoVA restaurant is close to the Springfield Town Center. Taco Bamba menus vary by location, so it is worth sampling them all. You’ll find menus for each location on the Taco Bamba website.
Find more great restaurants in our guide 25 Tasty Options for Northern Virginia Outdoor Dining.
The interior of Taco Bamba Falls Church is bright but bare, with stools along the walls but no table seating. Many diners grab take-out orders, while others vie for stools or standing room along the wall counters. There are a few outdoor tables that would be a good option on a nice day. The Fairfax Bamba has a similar tight space with seating along the wall.
Head to Springfield or Vienna to enjoy your tacos in a larger space, with more seating and the same fantastic flavors.
Are you a fish taco lover? Check out the McCool Travel guide to Amazing Fish Tacos in the USA. Please share your taco tips in the comments below.
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This article was published in 2014 and updated in 2019.
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