Sunday, November 20, 2005

Sunday in Del Ray: Los Tios Grill

Los Tios Grill is a small but colorful restaurant on Mount Vernon Avenue in the Del Ray section of Alexandria. We went Sunday with our friends D&D who recently moved in just down the street. For those who haven't been, Del Ray's main drag is populated with shops, independent restaurants and more with commercial sections divided by the occasional stretch of houses. It was a gorgeous day for a walk so we left D&Ds and enjoyed a cool stroll to Los Tios.

Those who know me and some who have read it here know that I truly love good Mexican and Tex-Mex food. I love everything from the basics to the more complex and unique foods and flavors of our neighbors to the south. For me, today was all about the basics.

I did not really have expectations of my lunch at Los Tios. D&D had been told it was good though they have spent more time enjoying Taqueria Poblano, not too far down the street. The menu of Tex-Mex and Salvadoran cuisine, has many of my favorites including the standard round of fajita, enchilada, burrito, and chimichanga options. I wanted to try many dishes but settled on the chicken fajitas, mainly because I think they are a good measure of how a restaurant handles a potentially bland, and usually very simple dish.

But before the main course, the table opted for the guacamole appetizer ($4.95) and the Tamal de Elote ($2.25) along with the complimentary chips and salsa. I love some good chips and I find they truly set the tone for the rest of the meal. I have rarely had good food at a place that doesn't know how to work the chips and salsa. The chips were light but substantial enough to hold a goodly amount of salsa. They were served warm and fresh with a standard, but delicious red salsa with tasty bits of onion and just enough cilantro and heat to satisfy my pretty picky tastebuds.

The guacamole appetizer was a hit for four guacamole lovers. Served in a fried mini flour tortilla cup and surrounded by triangles of fried flour tortillas, it was a well-mixed balance of creamy and chunky. The Tamal de Elote was a comforting sweet corn appetizer served with sour cream. Think a slightly more dry creamed corn served in the shape of a medium-sized tamale. Always a treat when done right and worth the very reasonable $2.25.

The chicken fajitas arrived on their sizzling platter with a stack of fresh tortillas and spoonfuls of rice, beans, guacamole, and sour cream. Grilled chicken rested on a bed of onions and peppers that tasted of garlic, a hint of soy possibly and lime juice. The chicken itself was delicious, full of flavor, and expertly grilled. The accompanying tortillas were soft and pliant and had a good hand-feel. All-in-all, I was very pleased and enjoyed slathering each serving with their tasty salsa.

It was perceptive of the server, who did a great job throughout the meal, to bring us a special hot sauce that was as delicious as it was powerfully hot. A mix of citrus, jalapeno, habanero, and cilantro, it provided one hell of a punch but was not too painful considering its potential.

The server and other employees at Los Tios Grill were warm and welcoming and this was not lost on us. It's great to feel like your business is valued and that people enjoy your enjoying their restaurant.

We will be back!


Dancer in DC said...

We'll definitely have to try that out! We really like to go to Cheesetique in Delray.

ScottE. said...

I was going to leave the same comment as Dancer here. Del Ray does seem like a nice little area. Hopefully it's getting enough local business but doesn't get overtaken by everyone looking for a nice trendy place to hang. Will certainly have to try this place out. And Cheesetique is a yummy little place. They supplied me with my sea salt that I love!!!

W said...

You're description of Los Tios is totally right on. I'm very skeptical about most restaurants but I thoroughly enjoyed Los Tios. As you mention starting with the chips and salsa! The sangria was delicious and the beef and chicken tacos al carbon were fresh and perfectly seasoned. The quality of the beef and chicken were outstanding. We will definitely drive back to Los Tios from Arlington!

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