Best: Lauriol Plaza
1835 18th St. NW, (202) 387-0035
2nd Best: Chili’s
11428 Rockville Pike, Rockville, (301) 881-8588
Lauriol Plaza—despite those who claim it’s a Mexican restaurant—is a Tex-Mex joint. An expensive, fancy, Tex-Mex restaurant with savory lamb fajitas, mediocre queso, and prissy-but-potent margaritas. And for this overeater’s money, Lauriol Plaza ranks as the best Tex-Mex in the D.C. area. Here’s the trick with picking a prince in this category: Lamer is better. Tex-Mex is Mexican food tuned to sloppy, portion-crazed American palates. That means we want to see and taste only a small slice of the Mexican menu—preferably the part of it that mirrors the expediency and flavor-to-calorie ratio of a McDonald’s meal—and we want it served with copious amounts of blended salsa, sour cream (for which we shouldn’t have to pay extra), salty guacamole (that never turns brown, no matter how long you leave it uncovered), even saltier cuts of dry breast meat and mystery steak (as opposed to flank steak), medium-sharp cheddar cheese, and flour tortillas (because corn tortillas are so Third World). In short, the ideal second-best Tex-Mex place is the Chili’s in Rockville. Both because that’s what we deserve, and because it is reliably so-so-bordering-amazing every single time.