ALEXANDRIA, VA – Walking into Alfredo Solis’ newest restaurant, Mezcalero, feels like being transported to Mexico, and rightly so, as the chef-driven eatery’s owners/operators are the real thing. The walls and fabric seats are brightly colored, Mexican music is playing and many diners are conversing in Spanish. The aroma of fresh Mexican cuisine fills this festive restaurant.
Alfredo Solis grew up in a poor family in Mexico City and immigrated to the U.S. alone when he was 18. He started as a dish washer and eventually was sought out as a sous chef. Having never gone to culinary school he was reassuringly encouraged, being told he had the heart of a cook and that was something that couldn’t be taught.
His sister Jessica, who Solis describes as really “tough” is the one who kept urging him to open their own place. She started selling Mexican food from her apartment and Solis would help her when he wasn’t busy cooking at his other jobs. They used all of the savings they had in Mexico to open their first restaurant, but it was the American Dream worth having. “So far we’re doing okay” he says.
Seven years ago, Alfredo and Jessica opened their first restaurant, El Sol, in Washington D.C. Later they launched a similar style restaurant Mezcalero, also in D.C. Right before the Covid shutdown, they opened Anafre in D.C., then in February 2020 the second El Sol, in Vienna, VA. Mezcalero in Alexandria opened July 4th, right in the middle of the pandemic.
More Than Rice and Beans
Mezcalero serves authentic Mexican fare. He observes “people don’t realize that yes, there’s rice and beans, but Mexican food has a lot of seafood,” says Solis. “Our ceviche is amazing. It’s made with crab meat and octopus. We manage our seafood very carefully. We buy everything fresh; we never buy anything frozen.”
According to Solis, most restaurants don’t make their own tortillas, because it’s a lot of work and expense. His restaurants’ tortillas are made fresh twice a day and Solis believes this effort makes a huge difference in their food.
“I love people, I want to keep working,” says Solis. Not only do Solis and his sister own and manage these restaurants, but you will find them in the kitchen in any one of them any day of the week.
My family recently enjoyed a delicious meal from Mezcalero. The carne asada, enchiladas and tacos were a hit. With almost 20 varieties of street tacos to choose from it will be fun to try new ones each visit.
I also loved their chile relleno, which is served with a side of black beans and Mexican rice. This blistered poblano pepper is filled with Oaxaca cheese, salsa, ranchero and sour cream. Another favorite was Mussels con Chorizo. The mussels are cooked in a delicious Tecate beer and chipotle sauce and served with bread for dipping. The Hibiscus Margarita with a chile salt-lined rim is both beautiful and tasty. My kids enjoyed the Strawberry and Mango agua frescas.
You can visit Alexandria’s Mezcalero, 8368 Richmond Hwy, Sundays through Thursdays 11 a.m.-9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m.- 10 p.m. There is plenty of outdoor seating, and safe dining inside as well as take out options.
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