Arlington, and specifically Clarendon, has been hurting for good Mexican food for years. Up until now, the only option we had when craving Mexican was Mexicali Blues. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had decent evenings at Mexicali, but it was mostly due to the company NOT the restaurant itself. Everything from the food to the service was always mediocre at best. The only thing Mexicali has going for it is the $5 all-day-every-day margarita special. (By the way, a $5 margarita tastes like a $5 margarita.)
I thought we’d be be forced to endure shitty pseudo-Mexican food forever…until Fuego came along.
Don’t show up without a reservation. I tried (and failed) to go to Fuego the Saturday after it opened. With no reservation, I quickly got frustrated with the wait. Downstairs is first-come-first-serve and they don’t take your name and tell you when your table is ready. Instead you just stand there and wait for a table to open up. It’s chaos and when combined with my OCD and hunger, it almost threw me into a rage blackout. Upstairs is reservation only which just made me desperately want to sit up there among the elitists that are smart enough to plan ahead. Whatever. MAKE RESERVATIONS. Or show up at an off time and hope the bar isn’t packed. I returned a week later with a hot date and a 7:30 reservation. The upstairs portion of the restaurant is just made for dates. Everything is over-sized, from the tables to the booths, so you don’t feel like you’re crammed in next to a bunch of other twenty-somethings on dates. It’s contemporary, modern and swanky enough to make you forget you’re a block away from Whitlow’s.
Come prepared to drink an alarming amount of tequila. It’s a Mexican restaurant, obviously the focus is on tequila, but I’ve never seen such an extensive list in my life! They have over 100 tequilas! You can request flights of tequila for $13. Tequila tequila tequila EVERYWHERE. Margaritas range from $9-10 dollars. My date and I sampled four different types of margaritas and every single one of them was absolutely amazing. The server, Chris, was extremely helpful and chose drinks for us based on whether we wanted spicy, sweet or tart. They used to have a skinny margarita on the menu (pictured above) which they’ve since taken off because they obviously hate me. However, they made me one by request, and it was everything I’d hoped it would be. Five stars for the boozy portion of the evening.
Expect a strong desire to lick your plate clean. We started with the usual chips and salsa. Nothing special. The chips were greasy and weren’t salty enough. For a starter, we ordered the queso fundido with chorizo. The chorizo actually made it extremely greasy, but I don’t think they dish would’ve been appetizing without it. It was so incredible that we picked every last bit of cheese off the cast iron skillet. The tortillas are made in-house and are probably the best I’ve ever had. For entrees, we sampled the flautas de pato which was shredded duck confit, queso oaxaca, mole negro. Oh. My. God. I could’ve eaten a thousand of them. We also tried the camarones tacos which with grilled shrimp, jicama slaw. They were disappointing. I had to coat them in salsa so that I could shove them down my gullet and get back to the flautas. A solid four stars for the food portion, however, I feel like they’ll get their act together and it will be a five star dining experience before too long.
After dinner, we had no desire to leave and went downstairs to grab another round at the bar. I highly suggest coming and just eating in the downstairs bar if you are looking for a fun, casual evening. The bartenders were great. A massive thank you to Michelle for hooking me up with the skinny margarita of my dreams. I’ll absolutely return to Fuego time and time again to sample the rest of the menu while plowing through their tequila list. I have my fingers crossed that they’ll figure out the little quirks and finally kill the curse that haunts 2800 Clarendon Blvd.
- Suzie Robb