Authentic Mexican Food is Still Hard to Find in D.C. Do Washingtonians Even Care?

Joahna Hernandez, former manager at Cafe Oaxaca in Adams Morgan, makes traditional Mexican tortillas from scratch. Almost no one in D.C. is doing this besides Hernandez—probably because it’s a shitload of work.

“You have to treat the corn with a lot of love to get it how you want it,” says Hernandez, who begins by boiling imported Mexican corn kernels in an alkaline solution before letting them sit overnight. Come morning the real slog begins: making the masa, or corn dough, that will be made into tortillas and then lightly fried. 

The tortilla might be the quickest way to separate the real from the fake in “authentic” Mexican restaurants, which are relatively scant in the District despite all the so-called “hip-Mex” spots opening lately. Which raises a few questions: What qualifies as authentic Mexican food? Is there so little in D.C. because there are so few Mexicans here, compared to, say, Salvadorans? Do District eaters even care?