8 New Restaurants That Opened During the Pandemic

They're worth a visit, and our dining critic has a few suggestions about what to order.
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The “living room” at Taco + Pina (courtesy photo)

Taco + Pina

Graham Bartlett was planning to debut Taco + Pina in Shirlington in March of 2020, but a combination of Covid happenstance and destiny fittingly turned the Mexican cantina’s grand opening into a Cinco de Mayo event.

Bartlett, formerly corporate chef for Richard Sandoval Hospitality (whose worldwide empire includes El Centro in D.C. and La Sandia in Tysons), was more recently the chef at Street Guys Hospitality’s Buena Vida Mexican restaurant in Silver Spring. This was to be his first foray as an owner.

“I had been looking at spaces all over the DMV, but I live nearby [in Del Ray],” he says. “When I saw this space, I was blown away by the small-town feel and the energy.” Bartlett signed the lease in September 2019 and opened Taco + Pina eight months later.

Taco Pina Mural

A custom mural by Dambly Design at Taco + Pina

The restaurant has seating for 47 inside and 22 outside, its hot-pink awning and turquoise tables and umbrellas signaling a festive atmosphere. The interior design, courtesy of Architectural Design Studio in McLean, features hanging rattan chairs and a large mural by Del Ray-based Dambly Design, inspired by the comic books Bartlett read in Mexico when his professor father was on sabbatical in San Miguel de Allende. Captivated by mermaids, Bartlett commissioned an artist in Mexico to make the 70 whimsical mermaid sculptures that hang from the eatery’s ceiling.

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Shrimp nachos (courtesy photo)

The menu showcases tacos, nachos, tostadas, enchiladas and made-from-scratch margaritas—the signature quaff being a delightful slushy of roasted pineapple, blanco tequila, toasted Mexican spices, agave and fresh lime juice.

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A roasted pineapple margarita. Courtesy photo

Bartlett is keen on the nachos loaded with shrimp, chorizo, black beans, grilled corn and queso-poblano sauce. His favorite taco is essentially a deconstructed chili relleno, for which he pan-fries cheese into a crisp disk, lays half a roasted poblano pepper and two corn tortillas on it and flips the lot over to toast the tortillas. Tomato-chipotle sauce and bits of crunchy tempura batter complete the extravaganza.

Taco + Pina, 4041 Campbell Ave. (The Village at Shirlington), Arlington 

Categories: Food & Drink