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Fuego Cocina y Tequileria Now Open in Clarendon

by ARLnow.com October 4, 2012 at 12:35 pm 23,713 75 Comments

Fuego Cocina y Tequileria (2800 Clarendon Blvd), a new contemporary, casual Mexican restaurant, opened its doors in Clarendon last night (Wednesday).

The opening comes less than five months following the closure of the space’s previous occupant, Market Tavern, which replaced the former Harry’s Tap Room. Much of the expansive space looks as it did as Market Tavern — the bar area, the lighting, the staircase and the upstairs dining area are all largely the same, though with more mirrors, white paint and white furnishings to brighten up the one-time steakhouse.

The menu — created by Chef Alfredo Solis, a native of Mexico — is anchored by a selection of small, soft corn tacos with various fillings, from pork to shrimp to chorizo to beef tongue, priced at $7 for two. Those hoping for burritos will have to go down the street to Baja Fresh; they’re not to be found on the menu.

The list of appetizers includes Dos Equis beer steamed mussels, duck flautas, crabmeat quesadillas and a tilapia-based ceviche.

House specialty entrees include carne asada (grilled skirt steak, nopales salad, spring onions) for $23, carnitas (copper pot slow fried pork, housemade corn tortillas) for $17, huachinango a la Veracruzana (pan seared red snapper, tomato, green olives, capers, jalapenos) for $22 and puerco pibil (grilled pork tenderloin, sour orange, achiote, spicy pickled red onions) for $18.

Many of the dishes live up up to the eatery’s translated name — “fire kitchen.”

“Fuego Cocina y Tequileria will be a temple of traditional Mexican cuisine serving in-your-face-food with authentic, robust, not-for-the-faint-of-heart flavors and textures,” said the restaurant’s press release.

The restaurant can seat up to 150 people inside for dinner, 16 people on the patio (April 1st  through October 31st) and 30 people at the downstairs bar — also known as the tequileria. The tequileria stocks more than 100 varieties of tequila, for sipping or use in mixed drinks. Among the mixed drinks are frozen margaritas, which are served especially tart. There’s also a variety of beers on tap, including Shiner, Dos Equis, Modelo, Starr Hill and  DC Brau.

Fuego’s happy hour runs from 4:00 to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. on weekends.

The bar opens at 3:00 p.m. on weekdays, while dinner is offered starting at 5:00 p.m. On weekends, Fuego opens at 5:00 p.m., except for brunch, which runs from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Closing times vary.

The restaurant is owned by Passion Food Hospitality  whose other D.C. area restaurants are: DC Coast, Acadiana, Ceiba, Passionfish, District Commons, and Burger Tap and Shake.

See the full press release for the opening of Fuego, after the jump.

Fuego Cocina y Tequileria, literally meaning “fire kitchen and tequila bar,” is the Passion Food Hospitality partners’ – Chef Jeff Tunks, Gus DiMillo, and David Wizenberg’s – newest restaurant venture, opening this fall in the vibrant Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia. Fuego Cocina y Tequileria will be a temple of traditional Mexican cuisine serving in-your-face-food with authentic, robust, not-for-the-faint-of-heart flavors and textures.

Guests will welcome the casual setting that feels as if they’ve stumbled across an old cantina in Mexico City that’s been revived with a modern edge. Like the artisanal cuisine of Mexico, Fuego’s décor further embodies the tradition of hand-craftsmanship. Embossed leathers evoke the floral prints of Old-world Mexico, with inlays of distressed wood and antique mirrors. Woven textiles and splashes of hot colors draw influence from Aztec culture, and jagged tile patterns create movement over the surface of the walls.

The two-level space is anchored by a newly built 50-foot bar that wraps around the main level; three focal walls are shelved with both old and new glass bottles, showcasing a full array of cocktails, and over 100 tequilas as well as signature margaritas. Brushed metal barstools belly-up to a zodiac man-made stone bar that is designed to replicate the wear-and-tear of a well-loved, much-frequented watering hole. Dangling pendants illuminate the rustic lounge seating, and an outdoor patio creates a fresh air happy-hour haven.

A cascading staircase of varied muted colors guides restaurant-goers to the dining level, which focuses on elevated recipes inspired by cooks you would find in Mexican mercados and homes. Upon ascent, a bronze, linear fireplace set within a focal wall of corten rustic metal first captures one’s attention, until the lively bursts of fire from the open kitchen grab the eye. Through gaps in the white and caramel colored banquettes, guests catch glimpses of the organized commotion that consumes the kitchen of every great restaurant. Small coves create semi-private dining, and a glass-lined liquor room showcases the array of top-shelf tequilas and other spirits. Pendant lights illuminate the tabletops, as guests enjoy the explosion of bold, clear flavors from this spirited country.

Passion Food Hospitality’s unassuming chef and co-proprietor, Jeff Tunks, keeps his menu finely tuned to the earthiness and complexity of Mexican fare with the dedicated assistance and collaboration of Fuego’s chef de cuisine, Alfredo Solis, who has been with Passion Food Hospitality-managed restaurants for more than ten years. A native of Mexico City, Solis draws naturally on his heritage and experience, and most of Fuego’s dishes pay homage to his Mexican roots, in an easy-to-please cooking style that does not cut corners in its preparation. Authentic handiwork and first-rate ingredients will shine.

Antojitos, Mexican cold and hot plates to share will dominate the menu. Eating here is going to be a serious palate pleaser with dishes like the quesadilla enlivened with fresh herbs and spices; corn tamales oozing with the earthiness of freshly shucked maize; Seafood Taquitos eloquently attuned to the sweet and subtle flavor of the crustacean; Tostados, Tortas, Empanades, Tamales and Ceviches sparkling with Chiles Amarillos— all so good you could eat them everyday. Indeed, the menu, bolstered by daily specials and signature items such as Carne Asada and Braised Duck with Black Mole will entice guests to return again and again. Unmatched house-specialty tacos will feature variations such as Chipotle Shrimp, Smoky Portabella with Cotija Cheese and Spit-roasted Pork with Pineapple. Unfussy innovation and sophistication come with Fuego’s desserts. Like a true Mexican restaurant, Fuego will offer a Flan and Sopapillas. The crepes and other sweet selections bow to Tunks’ impulse to end your meal with a modern twist and fusion of cultures. The entire menu will tempt diners to indulge in the boisterous fiesta of offerings deftly balanced in the exotic and the familiar, the simple and the complex.

Among the dazzling array of over 100 tequilas on Fuego’s list, a number of select labels offered are ‘sipping tequilas.’ All handcrafted with great care, expertise, and rarified equipment and ingredients, these pours signify a special occasion, when it’s time to indulge in one of the world’s best. Among them are: AsomBroso Extra Anejo Tequila; El Tesoro de Don Felipe Paradiso Anejo Tequila; Leyenda del Milagro Romance; Gran Patron Burdeos Anejo; Herradura Seleccion Suprema Extra Anejo; Hacienda del Cristero Blanco; Don Julio Real Extra; and Casa Dragones.

Fuego Cocina y Tequileria will offer an extensive weekend brunch menu to include Huevos Rancheros, Chaliaquiles and other Mexican breakfast favorites. The restaurant will be open 7 days a week with daily happy hour specials; varied lunch and dinner hours that make convenient dining for families, as well as for couples and the nightlife crowd; and the approachable prices customary at each of the restaurants operated and managed by Passion Food Hospitality.

  • B22201

    What happened to the awning? It was there one day as I thought to myself “at least they made a new awning unlike that Market Tavern place who just slapped theirs over the Harry’s one”. . . then it was gone.

  • ArLater

    Let the usual ArlNow premature, judging off nothing negative comments begin!

    • JamesE

      overpriced, pretentious, tacky decorations, typical clarendouche bar. Did I cover everything?

      • Captain_Obvious

        almost…no smoking too.

        • arlmimprov

          It’s 2012. Who the f*ck smokes anymore?

          • JamesE

            new here?

          • internet tourettes
          • internet tourettes

            that post should have said: “Golf Clap”

          • Beemer

            We all do, bro. And just remember: that ball cap’s worn backwards, or not at all.

            Gotta go check my fantasy picks…

  • Captain_Obvious

    Yes, more tequila !

  • Drunk_IrishChick

    Will they have Hot Doormen?

    • karzai

      You should post your email so that we can tell you when we run into hot doormen you might like.

    • What ??

      No, only assorted cold appetizers……

  • @shutupfatty

    No Drunk_IrishChick. The doormen will be Mexican.

  • Tabs

    arlnow, have you seen the new sign at the place around the corner from the cinema and drafthouse?

    Casa Mexicana or something.

    • Yes, we’ll do an article on that tomorrow.

    • Sherriff Gonna Getcha

      yeah Arlnow – there are also signs up by Green Turtle in Ballston for some italian sounding restaurant.

      • R. Griffon

        A 4:00 start time is an interesting choice, but there are no shortage of people in offices in the B-R corridor that can easily be there by 5:30 in any case. Which would truly make it a happy HOUR.

        • R. Griffon

          D’oh! Supposed to be posted to CW’s below. Stupid fine motor skills…

  • CW

    I’m genuinely excited for it, but a little bummed by the weekday happy hour time. This isn’t a business district; people have to get back here first…give us at least until 7!!!

    • JamesE

      6:30 is terrible, 8 pm happy hour is the best

      • Taco

        I went today, and HH actually ends at 6:00, not 6:30.

    • JohnB2

      Agreed. 6:30 is such a random time too. I vote for 8.

      • CW

        That said, if their happy hour is anything close to what those guys do at Ceiba in terms of price and offerings (especially for food), look out. I’ll be there every weekend…

  • John K.

    I feel douchier for having read through the press release. I predict great initial success for this place given the price point and apparent market positioning. I’ll stick to El Chilango.

    • JamesE

      “Embossed Corinthian leathers evoke the floral prints of Old-world Mexico”

      -Ricardo Montalbon

  • A.G. Skint

    I tend to avoid places that take something (that should be) as good as crabmeat and shove it in a quesadilla.

  • signage

    So what’s the deal with the signage out front? Are they going to clean up the facade or just plop a new sign on the front and leave all of the open drill holes and dirt on the facade like Leek American Bistro did?

    • Clarendon

      I’d like to see them rip all that styrofoam EIFS garbage off and reclad with some quality stone, masonry or tile. But, I guess I eat there either way – sounds good and the margarita looks nice!

      • South Awwlington

        The owners take great pride in their restaurants and are actively involved in the communities in which they operate. I am certain they will clean up the exterior.

        Check out Acadiana sometime for an example of one of their successes.

      • Fillmore

        The new awning was briefly attached to the front and is currently being stored in the loading dock next to the restaurant. Not sure what happened there. I hope this place will succeed. I see they kept the cheap aluminum chairs in the bar area that made Market Tavern look so tacky. Maybe they’re holding off on improving the appointments until traffic and receipts hit a certain level.

        • Sherriff Gonna Getcha

          yea that confuses me, this group has a lot of $$ and plenty of great restaurants…. maybe they just like the chairs?

      • CW

        Is exterior appearance locked into the Market Common site plan or some other binding document type thing?

    • Hattie McDaniel

      I saw a work crew messing with an electric sign that attaches to the building so that it is visible as one comes down Clarendon. But then they left without putting it up, so who knows what the deal is.

      • RCW

        I was walking by a week ago when they were hanging the sign and they actually dropped it on to the street. Needs some fixing up I’d Imagine

        • Clarendon

          Maybe they thought the styrofoam was real stone and were trying to put it up with masonry anchor bolts. 🙂

  • drax

    The lighting and the lighting are the same. (See if you can spot the error).

  • Mr. Quackers

    Did I just read that duck farts are on the menu?

    • malaka

      yes and black moles!

  • Virginia Square

    Is there anywhere in Arlington to get decent Aroz con Pollos? I used to be able to get awesome food at Alamo Grill in Gtown but that was years ago.

    • novapeeved

      You actually liked Alamo Grill? It closed for a reason….

    • CW

      I bet Caribbean grill has some sort of pretty good approximation of it.

      • Arlwhenver

        I thought they closed.

        • CW

          I think you’re thinking of Caribbean Breeze, now A-hole Bar and Grill. Caribbean Grill is up on Lee Highway at George Mason.

          • Arlwhenver

            My bad. Thanks.

    • bobbytiger

      You obviously don’t cook much, do you?

  • Mr. Quackers

    Hi ho, Quackers here again, all up in ur thread.

    Is it true they sacrificed a chicken (quesadilla) in the space to remove the curse?

    • South Awwlington

      Funny you mention it…chickens have met their demise lately down by Four Mile Run in what appears to be a religious ritual. Hopefully ACPD step up the patrolling down there.

      Can’t wait for the backyard hens to be stolen and sacrificed.

      • Quoth the Raven

        How do you know it was a ritual? Maybe the chickens had it coming.

      • John K.

        Hmm… your statement intrigues me. Links or further discussion? I haven’t noticed the usual late fall odor change any.

        • South Awwlington

          True Story….walking my dog along the stream last Saturday morning…another dog walker approaches and ask if I live in the area. I say yes. He shows me a box full of bird excrement and a bottle with the label “Evil Be Gone” and the picture of a rooster on it. He then informed me if I didn’t inform the PoPo, he would. I gladly obliged.

          Said box was found on “large rocks” in Four Mile Run around the 800 block of S Arlington Mill.

          I didn’t think too much of it at the time but later consulted a neighbor who is retired from ACPD. He clued me in and also advised that he found decapitated chickens along the water before and this was nothing new.

          Granted, I didn’t SEE the act but I did see the evidence afterwards. Allegedly, It goes on in the cover of night. I will be down there, with the Rottie waiting for them next time. 😉

          • SouthPikeGuy

            Didn’t they find a dead goat (or partial remains) there a few years ago?

          • Santería

            No that was just someone’s Rottwieler that we caught snooping around.

          • South Awwlington

            The next time your having fun mutilating animals in someone else’s neighborhood, could you at least clean up after yourself?


          • John K.

            Thanks. A lot goes on back there at night (and, frankly, during the day as well), so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I just don’t know any locals that would go for the chicken sacrifice fun. Other types of brujeria, sure, but not that. Hmmm…

  • Colonial Village

    Will it open for lunch at some point?

  • Hollywood

    Are there frozen margaritas??

  • Hollywood

    nevermind i see it.

  • South Awwlington

    Was the Soft Opening a Friends and Family, invite only event? Usually it is and it is intended to help the staff work out the kinks.

  • malaka

    All of their other restaurants are excellent, so thanks….but I will definitely be giving it a try.

  • CW

    I can just see it at the Passion Food staff meeting: “Ok, Joe, you’re a pretentious, fake, rude, a**. Therefore, we’ve selected you to go oversee the new Arlington location. We think you’re a perfect fit.”

  • Serbian Lifeguard

    I hope Clarendon Skank plans on going.

    • Justin Russo

      Pool’s closed. Go home.

  • NoVapologist

    Way too many hyphens in the first paragraph of the press release. It is not widely known, but over-hyphenation is inversely correlated with restaurant quality.

  • John Fontain

    That press release sounds like it was written by the same person who writes the “featured home” article in the Sun Gazette.

    “The entire menu will tempt diners to indulge in the boisterous fiesta of offerings deftly balanced in the exotic and the familiar, the simple and the complex.”

    “the home manages to fit into the historic provenance of the Cherrydale community while setting its own mark of elegance and creativity. Impressive from the exterior, the highlights truly await those of us welcomed inside to explore.”

  • Karen

    “Seafood Taquitos eloquently attuned to the sweet and subtle flavor of the crustacean” ???? Taquitos are deep fried. This place is soooo gonna ruin Mexican food. ughh.. let the pretense begin.

    • Juanita de Talmas

      RE: ruination. I think Mexicali Blues beat them to it

  • B22201

    It’s kind of lame that they only sell Dos Equis. Tres Equis is the new IT beer. The son of the most interesting man in the World seems like a better fit for Clarendon.

  • Deadite

    Steep prices on the booze. Damn.


    Fresh Fried Tortilla Chips

    two housemade salsas first round es gratis/second round $2.00


    overpriced place for gringos.

  • Don’t waste your money

    Went there last night and every part of the experience was awful. Who ends happy hour at 6 pm? Isn’t that when most people get out of work??

    The food was mediocre at best.. Chips were sparse and overpriced. Frozen margaritas came out watery. While our waiter was nice, he was terrible- brought out soup with no spoon, took 10 minutes to go get one..

    Save your money and head to Uncle Julio’s- you can’t beat their bottomless chips, margaritas and prices.

    I give this place til March… I think that space is just cursed- there will never be a successful food place there!

  • Took my wife and daughter last night.
    1) the waitstaff brought the free chips and salsa at the same time as our meal. at that point, who wanted them? nobody.
    2) were seated for about 10 minutes before anyone came to give us a menu.
    3) drinks took about 10 minutes to arrive.
    4) when the food arrived, they failed to explain to my daughter about the 3 sauces on her taco plate. and my daughter dipped one of her tacos into the hottest of the 3 sauces, habenero. would have been funny had it been with some guy pals, but for a 14 year old, it was an unpleasant experience. regardless, she said the tacos were good.
    5) i ordered the trout but I guess i didn’t read the item well as it was fried. and all i could taste was the oil. i was unable to eat more than 3-4 bites.
    6) the sides: refried beans and yuca were good. the yuca sauce was like eating mayonnaise alone and was pretty disgusting. the plantains came out with a drizzle of sour cream but they were ripe and sweet and good. I’m a salvadoran food aficionado and I love lots of sour cream with the plantains.
    7) my wife had a beef dish. and although it had a great flavor, for $23 the quality of the meat should have been much better. you really had to chew the meat.
    8) shared a bowl of rice pudding for dessert which had vodka infused dried cherries which were tasted unappetizing and couldn’t eat them. the rice pudding was mostly undercooked but edible.
    9) waitress was very pleasant. but many times dishes were served without eating utensils so we had to highjack another waiter to bring them.
    10) manager came by several times to ask how things were. seemed nice enough. asked why i hadn’t eaten my trout and I told him. he asked if i would like something else. but since we had already finished the meal, his question didn’t make a lot of sense. he should have offered a comp entree for a second visit. not very smart in that sense.
    11) we would only go back for tacos if that.
    12) overpriced for mexican food. $92 including tip for 3 of us which included 2 entrees, 2 tacos and 1 additional side, 2 mixed drinks and one tea.

  • Jessie

    I went there on opening night, told there was going to be a 30 minute wait. I waited it out, and after 30 minutes, I asked how much longer it was going to be. The hostess said it would be another 30 minutes. Decided screw that, went to Cava instead.

    It really sucked to have 30 minutes of my night disappear. A least tell us an hour if it’s going to be an hour.

  • Greg

    Was going to check it out tonight but willl probably pass after reading reviews.


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