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New D.C. Mexican Cafe Chicatana Puts Flying Ants All More than the Menu

Mexican restaurants in D.C. have served their share of grasshopper tacos and worm salt-rimmed cocktails in excess of the yrs, but there is a new edible insect in town. Chicatana, which opened north of Columbia Heights in April, usually takes its identify from a traveling ant indigenous to the Mexican condition of Oaxaca. At the new cafe on 14th Avenue NW, chef Marcelino Zamudio roasts the ants entire ahead of positioning them atop gorditas, sprinkled more than ceviche, perched on cocktails, or burrowed into bunuelo doughnuts for dessert.

Chicatana vast majority proprietor Emily Vasquez states the ants are a pre-Hispanic foodstuff and have usually been organized in property kitchens in Mexico. More lately, renowned Mexico Town cafe Pujol has utilised the bugs as a topping for a perform on elote, or street corn. Masienda, a purveyor that has helped make Mexican heirloom corn extensively readily available in the U.S., sells the ants on-line in 4-ounce or just one pound luggage. The ants invest most of their lives underground, leaving their nests at the time a year throughout a interval of weighty rainfall. Once they are harvested, they’re normally utilized for anything from salsa to mole, tacos, and cocktail accoutrements.

Vasquez, a D.C.-area native and the daughter of two chefs, required to open up a cafe that served standard street tacos in a great-dining setting. Zamudio, who hails from Mexico and has labored at local Latin American dining establishments like Michael Schlow’s Tico and José Andrés’s Oyamel, insisted on serving ants at Chicatana.

A mural from D.C. road artist Jah A single depicts a Mesoamerican shaman throughout from the Aztec god Quetzalcóatl.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

In addition to the ants, Zamudio and Vasquez added yet another crucial import: a tailor made-designed trompo, or vertical spit, for roasting layers of spiced pork and pineapple that go into al pastor tacos. Buyers can also tuck into rooster splashed in an earthy mole that folds in guajillo and ancho chiles alongside with chocolate, tortillas, and other substances. Finger-sized molotes, produced from fried sweet plantains, arrive in a cobalt-black ceramic bowl and vanish in two bites. The molotes sit in a chichilo mole, a single of the seven moles of Oaxaca. Zamudio’s version is acidic and a lot less intensely spiced than his foundation mole, giving it a lighter taste. Mexican cheese crumbles and dazzling microgreens complete the dish.

Beverage director Hector Flora, an additional Tico alum and a husband or wife in the procedure, calls Guerrero, Mexico, dwelling. He would make his personal syrups for a pomegranate margarita and a tamarind-forward Chicatana sour (mezcal, chocolate bitters, egg white, lime) garnished with a entire ant. The restaurant also pours Mexican Coke and Topo Chico.

A vertical spit at Chicatana is stacked with layers of saucy pork sandwiched between chunks of pineapple

Diners at Chicatana have a see of a personalized trompo that roasts pork for al pastor tacos
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Plantain molotes topped with requeson (fresh cheese) come in a light, acidic chichilo mole

Plantain molotes topped with requeson (fresh cheese) come in a gentle, acidic chichilo mole
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Chicatana originally aimed to open in early 2020, but the proprietors delayed for more than a year because of the pandemic. With a tight area that matches only a couple two-tops subsequent to the bar and open kitchen area, the cafe stuck to outdoor dining and to-go services till places to eat could entirely reopen indoor dining, in late May possibly.

The cafe not long ago released a brunch menu that options micheladas in tamarind or predicted tomato flavors, chilaquiles, and a dry beef machaca with salsa macha, eggs, and beans. A weekday delighted hour (Monday by Friday, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.) features $8 molotes, tacos from $2.50 to $4, $4 beers, and $8 margaritas.

Chicatana (3917 14th Road NW) provides to a neighborhood that previously boasts an outstanding focus of conventional Mexican restaurants, which include fellow newcomer DC Corazon across the street, and Taqueria Habanero, Mezcalero, and Anafre a couple blocks absent.

A black aunt sits on an orange flower floating on the top of a frothy Chicatana Sour cocktail

An ant serves as a garnish on a Chicatana Bitter cocktail
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.