First Look: Espita Mezcaleria Opens in Shaw

Flavors of Southern Mexico are highlighted through moles and tacos
March 8, 2016
by Rina Rapuano

The long-awaited Espita Mezcaleria opens tonight in Shaw, bringing mezcal flights, handmade tortillas, moles and the flavors of Southern Mexico to one of the city's hottest dining neighborhoods. Master mezcalier Josh Phillips and his wife, Kelly, own the spot and have tapped Alexis Samayoa — formerly of WD-50, La Esquina and El Vez in Manhattan — to serve as executive chef. Samayoa will explore the moles and tacos of Oaxaca along with offering a selection of ceviches, sides and salsas — such as one featuring pistachios and another spiked with mezcal.

Scroll through the images below to see what else you'll find the next time you're craving some smoke and heat in your glass and on the plate.

Hours: 5 PM–1 AM Sunday through Thursday; 5 PM–2 AM Friday and Saturday; lunch (11 AM–5 PM weekdays) and brunch (10 AM–5 PM Saturdays and Sundays) will be introduced down the line.

1250 Ninth St. NW; 202-621-9695

The space consists of a main dining room that seats 62 in front of large windows that offer views of Shaw as well as a bar area with a 16-seat bar plus 10 barstools facing Ninth Street Northwest. Come spring, patio seating will accommodate an additional 44 diners.

Beverage director Megan Barnes has curated a rotating list of mezcals that will be available in 1- or 2-ounce pours, a 6-ounce carafe for sharing, in flights and in cocktails. 

The stunning murals found throughout the space were created by Oaxacan street artist Yescka, who founded the Assembly of Revolutionary Artists of Oaxaca (ASARO).

Tacos like the al pastor, stuffed with pork, seared pineapple and salsa ranchero ($13–$19), come two or three to an order and feature handmade heirloom corn tortillas. Other taco options include grilled tilapia, skirt steak and maitake mushroom.

The mole negro ($24) gains its distinctive color from chile ash and flavorings from an herb called hoja santa, Mexican oregano and piloncillo, an unrefined sugar. Here, it's served over lamb neck and is one of seven styles of mole on the menu.

Ordering the pipian mole ($16) brings country-style pork ribs draped in a sauce of pepitas, roasted tomatillos and serrano peppers.

Ceviches include this beautiful plate of sea scallops ($17) topped with an avocado salsa, pickled jalapeño and cilantro.

The Mayahuel ($12) is offered up as the house margarita — but the bar swaps out tequila in favor of mezcal and lines the rim with sal de gusano, which is a traditional salt that features ground agave worms and chiles.

Mezcal is served in the traditional Mexican way — with a plate of orange slices and sal de gusano.

oaxacan cuisine