DC, we’ve got pretty slim pickings when it comes to good vegetarian Mexican food, even when we’re willing to pay upscale prices. Oyamel and El Centro DF both offer more creative cuisine, but our hankerings for classics like saucy enchiladas and meat-free refried beans ‘n’ rice send us to the oft-maligned Rosa Mexicano in Chinatown.
The famous $14 prepared-in-front-of-you guacamole is pretty much perfect. It’s worth indulging in, especially with a dash of accompanying tomatillo salsa. It’s served with soft tortillas and chips, which can be fried in a vegetarian-only fryer if you prefer (best to call in advance so they can prepare but they will accommodate walk-in requests as well).
Besides being delicious, guacamole wrapped in tortillas adds a little heft to the otherwise spare vegetarian menu: the three choices are roasted vegetable tacos, cheese enchiladas, and an off-the-menu quesadilla with huitlacoche fungus and mushrooms. On a recent visit we got our usual enchiladas and had a first taste of the quesadillas.
Rosa’s enchiladas, filled with melted Chihuahua cheese and smothered in flavorful roasted tomato sauce, are as satisfying as you’d expect.
And, accompanied by tasty brown cilantro rice and blended black beans (both vegetarian, which is actually pretty hard to find), the enchiladas offer the most bang for your buck.
The vegetable quesadilla, stuffed with Burns Farm huitlacoche, wild mushrooms, and Chihuahua cheese, is definitely worth sampling as well. Apparently it debuted at the original New York location, and as long as the kitchen has the ingredients on hand, the chef is happy to whip up an order. Ours were spiked with fresh mint, which provided a nice counterpoint to the creamy cheese and mushrooms.
Rosa Mexicano won’t blow your mind with originality, but it consistently ticks all the boxes of high quality, vegetarian-friendly standard fare: margaritas, guacamole, chips, rice, beans, and oozy cheese. And for those who can manage dessert (margaritas and chips always push sweets off the table on our visits), the theme of decadent comfort food continues with churros, flan, tres leches, and homemade ice cream.
575 7th St NW (at F Street)