Taco Bamba Opens in Shirlington
The tenth location of Victor Albisu's cheffy taqueria empire features new menu items, patio seating and a full bar.
Let’s just say chef Victor Albisu is ten for ten.
Taco Bamba, the wildly popular taqueria chain he launched ten years ago in a Falls Church strip mall, is opening its tenth location—this time in the Village at Shirlington.
Occupying the former Taco + Pina space, the 2,100-square-foot eatery will open its doors on June 29 with a full bar, patio seating, edgy art and a tempting roster of tacos, tortas, quesadillas, nachos, empanadas and craft cocktails.
In keeping with Bamba tradition, the newest taqueria will serve traditional favorites (think carnitas, carne asada and Baja fish) as well as a handful of unique creations that are exclusive to the Shirlington location. Signature “nuestras” include the Pork al Pao-Pao, stuffed with soy-lemongrass pork, chili-peanut spread, cilantro-basil-mint slaw and coconut crema; the Juan Bambo, which pairs black pit-beef barbacoa with corn coleslaw; and Blackfeesh, a riff on fish tacos featuring tajin-black-tempura grouper dressed with squid-ink aioli, slaw and avocado.
Extra hungry visitors may be tempted to tackle the El Guapo, which essentially packs an entire sizzling fajita platter—steak, chicken, shrimp, peppers, onion and guacamole—into a quesadilla. Also designed for large appetites is the Jeffrey, a foot-long crispy spring roll filled with carne asada, pork al pastor, chorizo, chihuahua cheese, peppers, onions and serrano salsa verde.
Beverage director Amin Seddiq’s bar program is just as experimental, with an emphasis on agave-based spirits. Try the Breakfast at Ricardos, a stiff blend of Montelobos mezcal, Ron Zacapa 23 rum, habanero-spiced coconut and roasted pineapple juice. Or the Red’s Son Take 2, which blends El Silencio mezcal with a house-made strawberry Fresno shrub.
Not so keen on booze with a smoky flavor profile? Go for The Stinger, a combo of Beefeater gin, grapefruit liqueur and habanero honey.
“Taco Bamba celebrates its milestone 10-year-anniversary in June while opening our tenth location in Shirlington,” Albisu said in a release. (For those keeping track, the chain’s Chinatown location in D.C., which closed during the pandemic, is back in business.) “Ten years and 10 locations later, staring down our most ambitious year of growth yet, I’m filled with gratitude for our Taco Bamba family, our guests, and for the opportunity to bring a second location to Arlington. The area has such a vibrant dining scene, we look forward to challenging ourselves to provide something new and unexpected to an audience that is already familiar with what we do.”
Designed by architecture firm Project 308, the 2,100-square-foot Shirlington eatery also serves up local art with a sense of humor. A wall mural by artist Selene Mendez depicts the restaurant’s rooster mascot in a cartoon battle with a crow—a cheeky nod to the feathered flocks that recently plagued the shopping district with bird droppings (and the inspiration behind a signature taco called Bird’sHit). Another wall mural, by artist Alexa Indriolo, presents a silhouette of a rooster ready for battle.
Albisu, named 2015 “Chef of the Year” by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, was also nominated for the James Beard Foundation “Best Chef Mid-Atlantic” award in 2016 and 2020. Taco Bamba isn’t stopping at ten. It has forthcoming locations planned in D.C., Richmond, Nashville and Raleigh, North Carolina.
Taco Bamba Shirlington is located at 4041 Campbell Ave., Arlington. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Stop by on weekdays for happy hour from 3-6 p.m. The restaurant serves free coffee daily with any purchase until mid-afternoon. The first fifty guests to order at the register on opening day will receive a complimentary travel mug.