Major changes are in the works for chef Victor Albisu and the Penn Quarter space that houses his South American grill, Del Campo. The Latin restaurant, his first, will close on Saturday, March 24 after nearly five years. Taking its place are two concepts from the restaurateur: an all-day DC location of his popular taqueria, Taco Bamba, and Poca Madre, a new high-end Mexican restaurant.
“It’s not goodbye, it’s a ‘see you soon’ kind of thing,” says Albisu, who’s actively looking for a new space in DC for Del Campo. “It was never meant to be a white tablecloth, 200-seat behemoth. It needs to be a bit more rustic. It has to have a bit more of that South American grit to it.”
Albisu revamped the sprawling 6,000 square-foot space last year, trading linens and downtown steakhouse prices for a more modern look and menu of share plates alongside pricey meats. It wasn’t until he tested out a lunchtime pop-up version of Taco Bamba in Del Campo’s bar that he saw the potential for duel concepts in one space. Pair that with a culinary research trip to Mexico City, and a new plan was born.
“When you go to Mexico City, there’s the street food that you feast on all day long, and then there are high-end restaurants you go to at night,” says Albisu. “That mid-level doesn’t exist as much, and that’s what struck me.”
Designer Maggie O’Neill of Swatchroom, the aesthetic talent behind a string of DC bars and restaurants (Morris, Sakerum) has been tasked with creating two distinct spaces with separate entrances and patios. Taco Bamba, opening the week of April 2, will inhabit the front bar and dining room. Like the three existing Northern Virginia locations, the fast-casual taqueria will serve morning to night with breakfast items, sopes, torta sandwiches, and a mix of classic street tacos and new-wave creations that nod to the neighborhood (think a Chinatown kung pao shrimp taco). The bar will pour Mexican and local beers, margaritas, and cocktails.