Mole and Merengue

A rush of Latin beats propels fast service and rushed flavors.

A rush of Latin beats propels fast service and rushed flavors.

By Stefanie Gans / Photos by Kate Bohler

Mole draped on dark meat chicken.

The music is like an Energizer Bunny. We almost wiggle in our seat to the blaring horns and fanatically upbeat tempo. Conversation is rushed, sporadic, but spirited. We smile, shouting to each other.

Small plates—a fish taco, queso fundido, masa sopes with yolky egg—spin onto the table. We eat fast. I take a bite, you take a bite. The small taco with a crunchy fish stick inside is gone. More food arrives and we whiz it in. We can barely stop to sip on the pineapple margarita, sweetened with agave and housemade mixer.

Lowlit bar.

The artfully decorated space, dim and transportive, reflects the Mexican flavors, the Latin beat. And we can eat. But it’s hard to savor.

Alegria, the Vienna restaurant and neighboring space from the Bazin’s On Church crew, can’t create the calm needed to understand a meal.

Fish and mushroom tacos.

The cheese dip lacks depth, the chocolate and mole poblano caked on a chicken thigh doesn’t excite and the masa dough cakes (sopes) can’t focus, spilling black beans which refuse to coalesce with the running yolk. It’s a dish in parts, not whole.

The mushroom taco wins. Strips of roasted portabello snuggle with Mexican cheese, onions and pumpkin seeds for texturally-interesting, smoky, four-bite, $3.50 snack.

Some meatballs hint at an allure, with cojita cheese barely melted atop. But the porky bites can also arrive dry. In one batch, inconsistency ruled.

Dessert, a moist tres leches treading in its milks, rapidly arrives two minutes after the order. Do we blame the busy Friday night? Or the magnetic pull of the merengue?




Do not leave without eating the mushroom taco.

Small plates: $3.50-$15

Dinner daily

111 Church St. N, Vienna;


(February 2013)