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While I had our DC food itinerary carefully planned out, I left the drinking itinerary with our friend John. We were definitely in good hands as he led us from one trendy drinking hole to the next. One particular spot that stood out was El Rey (@ElRey_DC), a Taqueria and Mexican beer garden located on U Street.

This Mexican beer garden is brought to us by the Hilton brothers who also own the nearby American Ice Co, the Brixton and the Satellite Room to name a few.

El Rey

What makes the El Rey especially noteworthy is the fact that it’s made out of colourful shipping containers. The front of the space is indoors while the back features a large enclosed patio. While we were there to soak up some rays, El Rey is open year-round with a transparent retractable roof (think greenhouse) and heat lamps.

The interior

If you’re here on a sweltering day, you might want to grab a seat along the sides of the outdoor space which have a bit of shade. We were unfortunately stuck out in the direct sun but it wasn’t something a pitcher of margarita couldn’t fix.

The outdoor space

El Rey has a short menu featuring Mexican-inspired cocktails, sangria and beers. Food-wise, they have a selection of seven tacos to choose from, tamales, nachos and sides.

El Rey

After grabbing a table, we started off with a Margarita Pitcher – sauza blue silver, triple sec, lime juice & agave nectar ($28 pitcher/$8 glass). We got ours on the rocks but you also have the option of getting it frozen. This tart and refreshing margarita really hit the spot. But be careful, it’s dangerously delicious 😉

A Margarita pitcher

We ordered a couple tacos to tide us over until dinner and decided on the Al Pastor – roasted pork shoulder, pineapple, pickles & chipotle aioli ($3) and De Pescado – grilled fish jicama carrot slaw, tomatillo, avocado & chipotle aioli ($4). You can get any of their tacos on gluten free corn tortillas or flour tortillas.

The Al Pastor taco

I was pleasantly surprised by the tacos here. While I wouldn’t say they were earth-shattering, they were pretty tasty and I would’ve ordered a couple more if we weren’t going to the Red Hen shortly after.

De Pescado Tacos

In addition to the tacos, we also ordered the Nachos – jalapenos, beans ($7) which we added chicken to for an extra $2. For $9 all in, this was damn good value considering nacho platters in Toronto are generally upwards of $20.


Despite the shaky service, I had a fantastic time at El Rey. On a beautiful day, this is THE place to go – a great space, awesome margaritas and tasty bites!

At a glance:
• Taqueria and Mexican beer garden by the Hilton brothers (of American Ice Co, the Brixton, etc)
• Year-round outdoor space (with a transparent retractable roof and heat lamps)
• Love the space which is made out of shipping containers
• Food menu: tacos, tamales, nachos
• Drinks: Mexican-inspired cocktails and beer
• Fun space, awesome margaritas and tasty bites

Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 3.5 stars
• Service: 2 stars
• Atmosphere: 4.5 stars

El Rey on Urbanspoon

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