The culinary team at Richard Sandoval’s El Centro recently took a foodie field trip to Guadalajara, Mexico, immersing themselves in the culture and cuisine of the region. The end result is the debut of the new Destination Guadalajara menu, available at both El Centro locations in the District.

Regional Executive Chef Graham Bartlett has crafted the new dishes, playing on some of the ingredients, flavors and concepts the team found on the trip. Influences range from late-night street food vendors to fine restaurants and some of the region’s celebrated chefs.

A number of new appetizers and small plates are available. One highlight here is the heirloom tomato salad, served with avocado, cilantro, a charred tomato vinaigrette, and goat cheese “croutons”, which are breaded, fried little balls of goat cheese which provide a unique twist to this vibrant, fresh dish. You’ll also find a shrimp cocktail bowl consisting of carefully citrus poached shrimp, a tangy buffalo cocktail sauce, avocado, cilantro, red onion, and a grilled green chili pepper; and braised beef cheek taquitos, served in crispy fried, rolled tortillas, and topped with cotija cheese, a black been puree, cream fresca and a chile morita salsa.

Don’t miss the empanadas de platano, sweet plantain turnovers topped with queso fresco, crema fresca, almonds and a plum mole sauce. This may be the winning dish from the entire new lineup, and apparently was also the most difficult to master after the team saw it in action firsthand during their travels, and tweaked the concept to match the menu here.

There’s also a series of new tacos added to El Centro rotation. These include a lamb “skirt steak” taco, actually consisting of sliced lamb belly, served with salsa verde; pork chicharron tacos with guacamole, pickled onion and legit-hot habanero salsa, a personal favorite; and a vegetarian taco which won’t have you missing a meat filling at all, heartily stuffed with crispy cheese, mushrooms, squash and grilled scallion, served with a salsa roja.

Specialty featured cocktails to pair with your Destination Guadalajara dishes include the Spina, with pineapple and serrano infused blanco tequila, agave nectar, fresh lime, and a spicy chili pepper rim, and the watermelon infused margarita, a light and refreshing choice.

The Destination Guadalajara menu will be available through the end of September, and dishes are marked with an asterisk on the regular menu. There are also additional choices beyond those mentioned here are available for lunch and dinner. Expect another Mexican destination lineup to arrive this fall.