El Centro, D.F. : About the Age

I am starting to feel self-conscious about my age in certain restaurants.    I felt this upon entering Graffiato recently where a young and boisterous crowd initially makes me want to turn and run. Although once we go upstairs the scene gets a little quieter and a little more age-balanced (and the food is worth the discomfort). Lincoln is another restaurant where the crowd skews young and I feel slightly out of place.  I am certainly not ready to limit my dining options to more refined dining establishments such as Obelisk, Proof, or Blue Duck Tavern where a fifty-something is more the norm, so I’ll have to learn to get over it.
This self-awareness is ever-present as my husband and I and two other couples enter the relatively new El Centro, D.F. on a Saturday night.  There is a swarm of twenty-somethings at the communal tables which line the front of the restaurant.  And they are making a lot of noise. My friends and I immediately glance at each other and comment that we may be too old for the place.  It definitely doesn’t help that one of my friends is sporting a cane, as she awaits an upcoming surgery.
We are leddownstairswhere the sound is not so deafening, which is a relief.  “Ah, a little diversity,” I think, as I scan the tables and notice we may no longer be the only people around who are eligible for AARP membership.
The downstairs of El Centro, D.F. is what I imagine a Mexican mausoleum to look like.  I say this in a good way.  It’s cold but not unappealing.  (I am not too old to appreciate a cool vibe when I see it).


El Centro, D.F. is a Richard Sandoval restaurant.  Sandoval owns 28 restaurants across the country, including Masa 14 which is just a few doors down. Like Masa 14, it is co-owned by Kaz Sushi Bistrochef Kaz Okochi.  El Centro, D.F. focuses strictly on Mexican food.  There are three floors:  a casual taqueria on the first floor (the noisy one), a Teqileria underground where there are over 200 Tequilas & Mezcals, and a rooftop with bars (we didn’t check this out- too hot outside).  We are headed to the theater after dinner, which means that we are forgoing the tequila drinks for shared glasses of wine. I know it’s lame, but a real sign of our age is that we all know we’ll fall asleep during the show if we drink.We begin with the guacamole, prepared table side.  There are no big explanations from the server on the preparation, but that’s fine. We’ve all been there, done that.  This guacamole is very good.  Chunky, lots of cilantro, the right amount of spice.  There is also the right amount of accompanying chips, which is not always a given.I order chicken enchiladas divorciadas, which is distinguished by two sauces:  tomatillo sauce and entomatada sauce.  The server has recommended this dish because I will have the benefit of two distinct sauces.
I have no idea why these enchiladas are divorced.  They get along quite well on the plate.  The flavors are robust and spot on in terms of the level of spice.  If I had to choose one sauce over the other, I couldn’t.  They are both quite nice. The accompanying rice and beans are good, if not distinctive.
El Centro, D.F. chicken enchiladas divorciadas

My husband is excited to try something new.  He has grilled nopal tacos with market vegetables, chayote,
queso fresco, and salsa roja.  Grilled nopal is cactus. He is hard-pressed to describe the flavor but he likes the texture and labels the dish “excellent.”

El Centro, D.F. grilled nopal tacos

My friends have baja tacos which is grilled market fish, mexican slaw, and chipotle aioli. There is some confusion over one of the orders which causes a delay.  But this is a small blip.  Otherwise, the service is competent.  The fish is cooked just right and the corn, tomatoes, onions, and avocado blend together in a classic Mexican way.

El Centro, D.F. baja tacos

Once we settled in to our table and the food we are  no longer cognizant of the age of the diners around us.  In fact, while it is certainly bustling in the downstairs Teqileria, we are able to concentrate on the food and the conversation.

The cooking at El Centro, D.F. is competent, the prices fair, and the service enthusiastic. If you are a fan of Mexican food, as I am, this is certainly worth a visit as a fine and fun option on the bustling 14th and U Street corridor. As I look to formulate a conclusion to this post, I come across this quote:

“Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese.”

Luis Buñuel(1900-1983)

I am going to try and remember this as I continue my journey through the DC restaurant scene.  I will try not to be too cheesy along the way.

El Centro D.F. , 1819 14th St. NW 

 My rating (on a 1-5 scale): 4.0

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