Young and Hungry

Dish of the Week: Tacos at La Placita in Hyattsville


The jukebox is thumping at Taqueria La Placita, this humble Hyattsville operation with the rusting-metal mariachi frogs perched on the roof.  The song is Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," whose bass line is almost rattling the wood tables, where Latino families have gathered on a Saturday afternoon to socialize and sample some of the best tacos in the metro area.  It feels like I've just crashed a party.

Somehow over the din, we manage to place our order at the counter: two al pastor tacos, two cecina, one lengua, one chorizo, and one barbacoa. Each taco comes wrapped in two griddled tortillas that are slightly puffy and altogether bursting with corn flavor. The price is right: Most of the tacos are $2 each. 

Our lunch is a study in meat flavors and textures. The chorizo is spicy, crumbly, and loaded with cumin. The lengua is soft and somewhat livery. The barbacoa is stringy and gelatinous and deeply rich. The al pastor, which comes topped with chunks of pineapple, is sweet and savory, if slightly under-seasoned.

But the real treat is the cecina, these thick squares of chewy beef (probably flank or skirt meat) that are generously salted and stuffed into tortillas with diced onions and chopped cilantro (and other garnishes, depending on your preference, including radish slices, cucumber rounds, and lime juice). The meat may be tougher than I'd prefer, but its flavors are intense, no doubt due to the salting process. It's like beef squared.

Taqueria La Placita, 5020 Edmonston Rd, Hyattsville, (301) 277-4477

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  • Dean Gold

    Tim! Tim!! Tim!!!
    You missed all the best part is parts tacos....
    Cabeza is dank head meat, a thick stew of shreds just a little greasy.

    Buche is, I think, Snout and a little like tongue only fattier. There is cheek and ear as well and each is a different take on fat, suavely soft connective tissue & gelatinous bits and meat.

    Finally my favorite right now is the ribs: costillas whichare actually rib tips with crunchy if just edible bots of cartilidge.

    All are made better with a slathering of the pickled fresh chiles & onions, a bit of both green and red salsa as well. Add a $2 Jarritos Tamarindo for its cooling and fat cutting bite and you can have a meal of meals for less than $10. Add a pastry from Flor de Canellas next door and its food coma time for $12!

    This is a regular early morning stop on my way to buy mop heads and plastic wrap at Restaurant Depot in Capitol Heights.

  • Tim Carman

    Why did I know you'd write in on this one, Dean? :)

    Yes, you're right. I still have many more to sample on the long menu of tacos here. But one can eat only so many at one setting!

    As for Jarritos, I'm a limon drinker. We did stop at Flor de Canellas, but made the mistake of buying a hulking chocolate sprinkled doughnut, which I found very bland.

  • Cisneros

    This post and photo made my day. Then I saw the next one with the exterior and interior shots. Too awesome. This place looks like it rules. I'm going.

  • Dean Gold

    This is really the only LA caliber Mexican I have found so far. It would stack up against many a toco truck in the seamier parts of East Hollywood and Echo Park theat were close to home in the old days.

    I knew I was on to something when I ran into one of my kitchen crew with his soccer buddies sitting at a table in a near comatose condition downing about 4 tacos each. And a huge pile of extra tortillas! Too bad there is no beer & tequila, but then I would never leave.

    Oh I forgot the best part.... The onions and Nopales plate for $4.00. Just enough for two hungry or three normal folk to slather on the tacos. The Noplaes add a veggie sliminess to the greasy richness of tripe, tongue, various head parts etc and the onions are either simmered or steamed over meaty broth.

    Try the cream filled donut or the dry but tasty cinnamon sugar coated round thing next time. Mexican pastries are not at all rich or moist.

  • Cisneros

    Nopales too?? I'm so there.

  • Dean Gold

    With a nice char on them!!! I may have to go tomorrow now!

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