El Caporal 
This lunch game has had a lasting effect on how I see “Mexican food”. We both grew up in Richmond, but I spent three years in Austin, Texas and discovered great Tex-Mex. Subsequent moves to Maryland and back to Richmond left me a sad and contemptable Tex-Mex snob. (A Tequila snob too, but I’ll save that for 52cocktails.com).
Last year I called Mexico Restaurant, “a solid restaurant, and the yardstick by which I measure all other Richmond Mexican restaurants”. Since then, 52L has toured all the obvious Tex-Mex places in the West End but have also discovered pockets of wonderful cuisine that we think is authentic Mexican. This day took us back to the familiar space of chips & salsa and fajitas. It took us a while to get to El Caporal, despite frequent favorable mentions from friend of 52L, Falfa.
The location is Repurposed Long John Silvers #273, which we’ve seen before. The dining room was full and lively and the staff quick on their feet with a menu and our food. The decor and lighting sat somewhere between “cozy” and “dark”. We visited on a bright day and found the cave-like atmosphere a little offputting, but I can see how it would feel warm and welcoming on an overcast day.
As to be expected, we were started with chips & salsa and a white sauce. The chips were typical and the salsa good, but the sauce tasted like “ranch water”. We didn’t care for it at all. After that, though, the food was excellent. Adam ordered the Lunch Fajitas and I had the Lunch Carnitas. Adam enjoyed his fajitas and I found the pork to be perfect, succulent and delicious.
Perhaps we need to divide our Hall of Fame into “Tex-Mex” and “Mexican”, I’m not sure. We enjoyed El Caporal, but wouldn’t drive by Habaneros or Bodega Latina to get there. But perhaps that not fair. The best food we’ve had has been at lunch counter-style places. El Cap was a full restaurant with table service. And in that category, it’s as good as any place in the west End.