Taqueria Habanero, a Washington, D.C. Mexican restaurant specializing in tacos and quesadillas, is bringing its second location to College Park this fall.
The new restaurant will be located at 8145 Baltimore Ave, in the Campus Village Shoppes across from The Varsity apartments. Construction began in August and should be completed by November, said Yicela Alvarado, the restaurant owners’ daughter who handles restaurant communications for her Spanish-speaking parents.
The restaurant will seat 60 people and offers tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas and other authentic, lesser known Mexican dishes, such as huarache and chicken with mole poblano, Alvarado said.
Taqueria Habanero brands itself as “99% Mexican. Authentic pueblan style cooking” and is owned by Mirna Alvarado and Dio Montero, a couple from Puebla, a Mexican city where mole poblano is a specialty.
To the owners, authentic Mexican cuisine means handmade corn tortillas, instead of factory made ones, Alvarado said. They opened their first restaurant in 2014 after Montero noticed the lack of authentic Mexican restaurants on upper 14th street in Northwest Washington. He found a small nail salon space was for lease, and used his savings to convert the space into a restaurant, Alvarado said.
“We do consider ourselves a Mexican restaurant, but we’re not in Mexico so it can’t be considered 100 percent Mexican cooking because we’re in the U.S., so that one percent incorporates everything we kinda do differently because we’re not in Mexico,” Alvarado said.
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Anika Zamurd, a junior biochemistry major, was excited at the prospect of more local options for authentic Mexican food, which she loves.
“I’m not a big fan of Chipotle, I feel like it doesn’t really have that much flavor,” Zamurd said. “I’m pretty excited about it, I really want to try it out. I love Mexican food so much.”
The owners’ family lives in Beltsville and wanted to open a location close to home. Their three daughters are all college students or recent graduates and suggested opening a restaurant in a college town to bring in good business, Alvarado said. Many of the restaurants’ D.C. customers are Maryland residents and expressed excitement when the family announced a Maryland location opening soon, Alvarado added.
“I thought it was a really good idea to have it here,” Alvarado said. “College students really go for Taco Tuesday and they’ll love a good brunch on Sundays.”
Food will be made in-house and will mirror the D.C. location’s menu. The College Park restaurant will also offer a new weekend brunch menu and a Taco Tuesday special, Alvarado said. Prices for food range from $2 to $25 dollars, with a meal usually costing between $10 to $20 Alvarado said.
Sarah Fagan, a sophomore operations management and business analytics major, is a vegetarian and said she is excited for the new taqueria, which offers several meatless options, such as mushroom tacos.
“I feel really excited,” Fagan said. “I don’t eat meat and I try to avoid dairy if I can, but I’m hoping the new Mexican restaurant can offer me some options. I’m really looking to expand my palate.”
The College Park location will also bring back papas con mole, a french fry dish with savory sauce and cheese that was discontinued three to four months after the first restaurant opened because the D.C. location’s kitchen was too small to serve all the orders. The College Park kitchen will be bigger, she added.
“It’s a really big seller,” Alvarado said.
The new restaurant is replacing a space formerly occupied by Dragon Hookah lounge, Alvarado said. The family is also in the process of opening another location in Northwest D.C. toward Columbia Heights, which will be a bar offering tapas — small snacks or appetizers — instead of a full restaurant.
The new restaurant would be convenient for sophomore Grace Chubb, who goes home on weekends to eat Mexican food, since the College Park area does not offer many full-service Mexican restaurants.
“Enchiladas are one of my favorite foods in the whole world. I want to eat one right now,” said Chubb, an English major. “I’m so excited.”