Living the Good Life at Buena Vida

Who doesn’t love tacos and tequila? The answer: no one. But not all Mexican food is created equal. While there has been a big boom in the space, Buena Vida has made it’s own distinct mark. Located in Clarendon just across the street from beloved Ambar, Buena Vida is the brain child of restaurateur Ivan Iricanin (Ambar, TTT Restaurant, BABA) and Chef Gerardo Vázquez Lugo.

The food is traditional and authentic. You won’t find super heavy dishes that leave you ready for bed. In fact, there is no flour used in any savory dish as seeds are ground and incorporated as needed.  All items are made from scratch including organic corn tortillas from masa made on premises, house-made sauces and made-to-order salsas.


You know it’s going to be a great meal when the chips are amazing. I know they are always addicting even when they are out of a bag but these guys are next level. The salsa they were paired with was delightful with just enough kick to keep it interesting but still mild enough for heat conscious eaters. The guacamole was light, airy, and super fresh.

The cocktail program is loaded with interesting takes on the classic margarita, the negroni, and the Old Fashioned while also putting forth some fun new creations such as the La Mexicana, made with oaxacan rum, soursop puree, lemon, agave nectar, and pomengrate seeds.

The tropical ceviche is a must have. Tasty tuna in lime juice and pineapple topped off with chia seeds is light, delicious, and perfect for the warmer weather.

Next up, dry soup. I know, I know, what on earth is dry soup? It’s a Mexican dish made with fried vermicelli in a guajillo and chili chipotle sauce. Essentially those little noodles you are used to eating in soup but now they are fried and tossed in delicious sauce and cheese. Yes please! It comes across as more of a Mexican tomato sauce than a spicy chile sauce. It’s toppped of with cheese and avocado. It is unexpected and fun! Certainly not something I knew I needed in my life.

We also sampled the chile relleno which was one of my favorite dishes of the night. It wasn’t doused in cheese and heavy. Instead it was rather light and in a delicious tomato gravy, so you really had the opportunity to appreciate the texture of the chile itself.

Left to right: beans, birria tatemeda, and chile relleno

Main Course

The birria tatemeda is a slow cooked lamb with dry chiles and spices. You can put the meat on a tortilla with beans and rice for a taco, but I personally enjoyed the lamb on it’s own. It is super tender and moist.

Birria Tatemeda

Another favorite of mine from the evening was the acapulco-style fish grilled in lime juice on an open flame. I know it sounds simple but something about a beautiful piece of fish cooked perfectly and paired with juicy mango slaw is just heaven to me. I highly recommend it.


I’m not a big dessert person but let me implore you to save some room for the chocolate mole tart. Guys, I don’t even like chocolate and I couldn’t put my spoon down. The tart is made with ancho chile, almond, and chocolate and is like a brownie on steroids with that nice crisp edge and then a ooey gooey middle, makes for the perfect bite.

Last but certainly not least, the bunuelos yucatan are a fried Mexican donut with honey drizzle and stuffed with creme anglaise Drooling yet?

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