Alero becomes El Tio Tex-Mex Grill in Columbia Heights

3345 14th Street, NW

Alero first opened up in the former Rumberos space in the Tivoli on 14th Street north of Park back in 2010. Now the space has become El Tio Tex-Mex Grill. According to El Tio’s website they also have three Virginia locations. You can see their lunch menu here and dinner menu here. Anyone try them out yet? Hopefully a third time for Latin/Tex-Mex here is a charm.

14th Street looking south towards Park Road

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  • Definitive ranking of the Alero locations:
    1) Dupont Circle — consistently best food and margaritas
    2) Cleveland Park — most charm, coolest patio and bar
    3) Columbia Heights — nothing great but nothing bad either
    4) U Street — annoying scene and pointlessly loud

  • DC kinda sh*t the bed when developing CoHi. The Target is convenient (when stocked), but it’s nothing but chains and crappy stores. There are a few decent ones, but over all I avoid. It’s no wonder nothing can stick around. The most exciting part of CoHi is the 11th St corridor.

    • To each his own I guess. I think Columbia Heights is great, and I love living there. I mostly like it b.c. it’s not just full of trendy restaurants and bars and expensive stores. All daily items I need are within walking distance. OK – So I do drive to Dupont Circle to pick up bagels……almost all.

      • +1
        I regularly (and unapologetically) shop at Target and Bed, Bath, Beyond, and find the selection of shopping in CH really convenient. CH works for me.

      • You really drive from CH to Dupont? That is a 25min. walk or 10min. bike ride. I bet I could bike there in less time than it takes you to find a parking spot.

        • justinbc

          Maybe s/he’s handicapped?

        • Congrats…

        • I have to agree that Dupont is absolute hell to drive to. If I had a choice between driving to Dupont or walking I’d choose walking, and I live in SE Capitol Hill!

        • Haha. And there is #6 of 11 topics that will make your blood boil on this blog. The Prince really nailed it. I mean, we were talking about Columbia Heights being a great neighborhood and very quickly got diverted to bikes. Honestly.

          For what it’s worth, I sometimes go to Bethesda Bagels around 8AM or so on weekends. I usually find a space right out front and make it back, roundtrip, in 25 mins. So driving works for me. At that time in the morning, I am a lazy bastard and often just don’t feel like riding a bike. I know this makes me a terrible person. I am very happy that you enjoy biking though…..that’s super.

          • I know, it’s pretty funny: If you have a car in DC and use it for anything other than taking your idiot friends out to a winery in Virginia, you should automatically be stoned to death. I live even closer to Dupont than Columbia Heights, and I find myself doing the same thing. If you’re picking up a dozen bagels, or even going to the Farmer’s Market on Sunday right when it opens, it’s never too hard to find a parking spot. Am I driving down there at 11pm on a Saturday night? Hell no! But there are times when it’s perfectly reasonable for certain tasks.

    • All of the sudden, I am hearing everyone use the expression “sh*t the bed”. Did a notice of a new vulgarity get posted somewhere that I missed?

    • I mean, DCUSA was specifically designed to be a mall. Which is why you have chain stores. So they did an excellent job developing it, because they got exactly what they wanted and, for everyone I know that lives there, it’s extremely convenient. And I think Columbia Heights actually has fantastic local restaurants and bars. Especially when you compare it to Pentagon City, the other Metro neighborhood designed around a mall.

    • If you can walk for 10 or 20 minutes you have access to hundreds of good stores and restaurants. Stop being a whiny brat.

  • Are they keeping the sweet art on the walls?

  • Back on topic…El Tio gets good reviews at all of it’s other restaurants, so I’ll definitely be checking it out. I’ve never been impressed with Alero, so it’s really no loss to me.

  • When it comes to Mexican restaurants in DC I have yet to find a good one in DC. Suggestions??

    • Depends what you are looking for. If you’re talking a full service actual Mexican cuisine restaurant, good luck with that. What you’ll find in DC are actually Tex Mex or Salvadorean restaurants.

      Lotta taquerias in DC these days tho. My favorite is Distrito Federal.

    • justinbc

      That’s because they’re either 1) run by Salvadoreans, which is still good food, but a slight divergence from traditional Mexican, or 2) attempting to be “high end” (see: El Centro DF, MXDC, Oyamel, Diego, etc, although I do really like El Centro’s tequileria dining room), and finally 3) the garbage sold to people who like the idea of Mexican, like Lauriol Plaza, Rosa Mexicana, etc. There are a few good options I’ve found: Casa Oaxaca for that specific regions specialties (mole), and Taqueria Juquilita in Columbia Heights (although I guess there are still concerns to it’s legality to operate as a “restaurant”). Tacos El Chilango does a pretty good straight up street style taco on V St too.

      • I really don’t understand people who are total snobs about Mexican food. Come on, wtf, people. Of all the ridiculous things to be snobbish about. It’s so tedious how people in DC find ways to be snobs about ab-so-lu-te-ly everything. Alero is good everywhere. Cactus Cantina in NW is good. El Centro on 14th is good. I’m sure the Georgetown location is good. Oyamel in Chinatown is good. Oaxaca and Mixtec in AdMo are good. Haydees and Don Juan in Mt. Pleasant are good. Lauriol Plaza in Dupont? The food is perfectly good! I know a lot of annoying people go there, but the food is fine. You can barely walk down the street without smacking into Mexican food that’s perfectly good. Get over yourselves, people.

        • Take a deep breath, buddy. You sound as if you are having a really, reall bad Monday.

          • A bad day? What a funny perspective. I’m the guy who loves his city and is grateful to live in the lap of luxury. To me, the miserable people are the ones who kvetch all the time while living in conditions that 99 percent of people in human history would (rightly) consider unimaginably decadent.

        • justinbc

          If it’s all good to you, are there any you don’t like? People judge things on a relative scale, whether it’s Mexican food, dishwashers, apartments, or sports sedans. This is not a new phenomenon and I don’t see any reason why Mexican food should be excluded, especially when the specific question is posed to a group.

          • Rosas and Tortilla Coast are wack.

          • What’s wrong with Rosa? I haven’t been there in years but recall it being pretty good.

          • Is the Jay from 9:59 the same person as Jay from 10:19? The Jay from 10:19 is being a “total snob” about Rosas and Tortilla Coast.

          • There’s at least one other person at popville who posts as Jay but those are both me. The thing is that saying one restaurant sucks and another doesn’t isn’t snobbery. Some restaurants suck. It’s snobbery when you’re like “oh, this isn’t real Mexican food, blah blah blah, when I studied abroad in Mexico City junior year i took a weekend trip to Veracruz and blah blah blah technically a lot of salvadoran influences blah blah there’s fajitas on the menu so none of the dishes count as anything but TexMex blah blah blah.” It’s not snobbish to admit some restaurants aren’t very good, but when you think *darn near everything in DC* is inedible or inauthentic then yes, I’m comfortable with the inference that you’re probably a Mexican food snob.

          • justinbc

            There a big difference between snobbery and accuracy.

        • Haydees in Mt. P has excellent margaritas, but it’s the food is crap shoot (pun intended). I’ve had delicious food there, and I’ve had friends whose guts were torn up after eating at Haydees.

        • You haven’t had good Mexican food if you think Lauriol Plaza is “perfectly good.” But why even bother paying for Lauriol Plaza, when Taco Bell has meat, cheese, and tortilla just the same as anyone!

        • The issue here is what you are calling Mexican food, actually is not. Everything you listed are all Tex Mex.

        • The only place that is pretty good to me is Tacos El Chilango.

          Why is Mexican food not worthy of “snobbery”? There are various cuisines in that nation. With the above exception, none are really well-done here. The nation’s capital can do better and is expensive as hell. One fantastic Mexican restaurant isn’t too much to ask.

      • I’m guilty of going to Lauriol, but the only thing I order are the fajitas. Also, I really like there salsa…

    • I like Taqueria Distrito Federal at 14th and Oak just north of Thai Tanic.

      • +1. Their goat burritos are great! And it’s BYOB.

        • No it actually isn’t. The staff doesn’t usually care, but it is illegal to drink alcohol there. Learned from experience. Owner rushed over and asked us to hide our beers because cops were nearby.

    • Mexican food on the whole in DC is terrible. If you are from the east coast, it’s what you are used to. Tex-Mex is not Mexican food. Jay, you need to go to California. It’s where all us Mexican snobs are hiding.

      • Absolutely. DC has a lot to love, but the local “Mexican” food is generally awful. Oaxaca makes great mole and Mi Cocina is legitimate Tex Mex, but the rest of the Mexican food I’ve had here has been woeful.

  • I’ve been to El Tio out in Falls Church (?) and it’s delicious! I think it will be a much better additional than that Alero that was there. I try to love Alero and all… but El Tio is good.

  • Went to Alero Columbia Heights for the first time a few weeks ago….found a shard of glass in my taco. De-lish!

  • I have never been a fan of Alero. Hopefully El Tio is better.

  • The question is…do they have margaritas? I don’t see drinks on the menu….

  • I think the real problem in DC is there’s a lack of actual Tex-Mex cooks. You’ve got Salvadorians selling there style and people automatically assume that since it’s south of the boarder it’s Mexican. We need real Mexicans from south/southwest Texas or at least some transplant Texan cooks that can slow cook or grill some beef and chicken to perfection, whip up a badass batch of ranch house beans and rice, and make a perfect margaritas.

    *Side note, try the Texas nachos at Top Spanish on Georgia Ave, they’re pretty damn good

  • Guess their market research shows that Columbia Heights could really use another taco joint??

    Seriously, how are there still so many glaring culinary gaps in our bustling urban neighborhood? The fact that this is not being immediately converted to a sushi place is incredibly confusing.

    • Clearly you did not get the memo: Anything north of Florida Avenue is TexMex…..anything south of Florida Avenus is required by law to be small plate Italian.

    • what do you mean? there’s bbq, burgers, latin american, asian, uhh I’m sure there’s probably african near by what else are you looking for? do you need a traditional italian place or hungarian or what? specifically, what do you need that’s within a 10 min walk?

    • Z Burger used to be a sushi place and it didn’t last long so…

    • I wish Taj of India (in G’town) would open a CoHi location.

  • SusanRH

    Did Alero ever close down? It always seemed busy when I went

  • Their website is giving me a Pollo Campero vibe, which in turn gives me a Gus Fring vibe.

  • Speaking of Mexican food I gave the 3 Salsas Tacos place on 14th a try. It was great. Kind of had the feeling of Amsterdam Falafel (but for tacos).

    What the stretch of 14th between DC USA and Spring street desperately needs is a gym. Something with crossfit would be a license to print money. People need an alternative to Washington Sports Club. Not sure if a gym would fit in what used to be the Getaway.

  • i really like the chipotle in rhode isl row. and it is across the street from anger management class so very convenient

  • Hopefully, EL Tio will have better artwork (in addition to better food). The crap on the walls in there now is atrocious.

  • i used to eat at the El Tio in Falls Church VA all the time when I lived out there. I’ve missed it and I’m psyched that this one is opening near me. It’s not El Centro, but it’s good, basic, Mexican food. And the one in Falls Church had cheap, hugh-ass margaritas.

  • Everyone can say how great the DC USA area of CoHi is, but then why is there so much restaurant turnover?

  • I wonder what they did with all the erotic artwork from the walls…

  • Doesn’t look promising. I thought this was the best Alero for food. This looks like food court fare.

  • The only affordable and authentic Mexican place that matters is Mama Chuy on Georgia Ave and Fairmont.

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