Yet Another DC Area Mexican Food Post: Orale Taqueria
For the next two weeks I am taking classes at Fort Belvoir which usually is a pain because I have to drive from Arlington to the class. But there is always a silver lining when I go out to that part of Alexandria: the best, the #1 seed, the most authentic, the best selection, simply the greatest taqueria in the DC metro area. As I've posted before, I hold El Charrito Caminante in high regard, but Orale is really my true love when I need a taste of Southern California (don't be confused, it is not Baja style, but it is damn good Mexican/Salvadorean). Orale has possibly the worst location of any business in the region. Not only is it in a run down portion of Route 1 in Alexandria, it is in a run down shopping center with nothing but a Food Lion, Wendy's and uniform store in it. These are the only stores most people are aware of, mostly because they have signage. Orale does not. In fact Orale is nearly invisible from the road, tucked into a breezeway with zero signage. And that's how you know it's good. I really can only credit the food for allowing this place to stay open for the last 2 years. I even finally got the camera on my phone to work (crappily) and snapped a picture of the interior of the place. That pic pretty much shows it all, its a counter where they make your food from scratch right behind the glass, and there are about 8 tables scattered.
Now I do not have any thing resembling a gifted taste bud, a taste for the exquisite, etc., but I know what I like. And I've eaten at probably 30-40 various Mexican/Salvadorean places across the nation. Orale is the only place that I can say is as good as my favorite place in Southern California. They have a huge variety of tortas, tacos and burritos on their menu, along with yuca and pupusas. They have a list of about 8-10 meats you can put in to any of the dishes. These range from carne asada, carnitas and chicken to tripe, head, chorizo and barbacoa. The barbacoa is a clear standout. I know a lot of people like Chipotle (including me to a degree), but Orale's barbacoa blows away Chipotle. It is heaven. The barbacoa looks pretty much pulled pork Memphis style, but it's taste is amazing (and beef). Hints of all kinds of spices to go along with the heartiness. It goes great in the burrito or torta. The carnitas I had today were outstanding as well. And the chorizo? Let's just say I'll stick with San Vicente. I've also tried the carne asada before, finding it delicious as well. But just as goat tacos are El Charrito's specialty, the barbacoa is what I'll be continually going back to Orale for. Tomorrow I'll be trying more of the torta family (after today's taco day).
Seriously, this place is worth the drive for any unique and delicious food seekers willing to take a chance. Granted, it requires a commitment to drive out to the Fort Belvoir area for this, but wow. It is a drive that I have made no questions asked when that craving hits me. I did a search on Chowhound, the self-professed site for those that will hit up burrito trucks at soccer games for the best food or try the dinkiest place in a strip mall, and they have zero mention of this gem. I just realized in the off chance that anyone actually tries driving out to Orale, that they will probably get confused and lost and never find it. Here is the address:
8762 Richmond Hwy, Alexandria, 22309
You seriously have to park on the side of the strip mall by the dumpsters, and go down the breezeway to find the place; but well worth it. Trust me. I love it. I'd probably marry it if I could.
This should wrap up my pseudo-food reviews/preachings for now. Unless people want me to start posting reviews of the 15 or so Mexican places I've tried in the area in the quest to find a SoCal worthy place. Or not. Then back to inane stories about going out and getting fratty and hating work.