Whenever a new restaurant opens in my neighborhood, I always try to eat there as soon as I can and write a review of it here on TERP. I'm pretty determined to make sure there is no place in my neighborhood that I haven't tried.
Sadly, I have left a few stones unturned. Most of the restaurants I try are places where SPP and I go for dinner dates. Beyond the more elegant dinner places though are a wealth of hole-in-the-wall joints in my very diverse neighborhood that serve up down-home ethnic fare. I have tried very few of them. There is a reason for that of course. Most of these places are lunch-focused and I'm never home at lunch time.
I decided to remedy that in the past two weeks. I have had large blocks of time off and plenty of time to try my neighborhood offerings. I decided to eat at a new place every day.
My first stop was Super Pan, a Guatelmalan bakery. Walk into this place and you smell the cookies and sweet breads and homemade rolls that reside in a case in the back. But this place isn't just about the breads. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner consisting of sandwiches and platters and Latin specialities. You can have a burger, or you can have beans and eggs on a roll. It's tries to appeal to a broad audience.
I decided to try a platter for my first time out. My choice was the Adobado. It was a thin pork chop in a spicy sauce. It was very tasty. It also came with two papusas. I've never had those before. Those little pancakes are DENSE. You won't be hungry after eating them. I wrapped up bits of pork in them, although I'm not sure that was what I was supposed to do.
The sides were the weak point here. The black beans were too salty and the rice was mixed with what looked like frozen mixed vegetables. I have nothing against frozen mixed vegetables except for the fact that these contained peas.
Still for $7.50, this was not a bad deal - flawed sides and all.
My next stop was Veracruz. This is a tiny little lunch counter with a larger, airy dining area in the back for those who choose to eat in. The steam table looked quite interesting in an Anthony Bourdain sort of way. There were several specials of the day advertised, but my Spanish is horrible and I wasn't sure what they all were.
I decided to take the classic route and try some tacos. I went for my most favorite taco varieties: carnitas and chorizo.
These were so overstuffed that they needed extra tortillas to hold all of that filling. They were topped with a mixture of cilantro, lettuce, and chopped onion and garnished with radish and lime wedges. Both tacos were delcious and flavorful. They really satisfied you for $3 a pop!
Next on the agenda was O'Neill's Country Store. I'm sure you're asking yourself right now how something called O'Neill's Country Store would be a place for tasty Latin fare, but this ordinary looking stationery store has a secret. Go to the back and you will find Berta's Kitchen, a Salvadoran food counter.
Berta's has no real menus. There is a handwritten menu on the wall, mostly containing breakfast items (they do a big breakfast papusa business). Above the counter are photos of some of the specialties. I decided to order the one that looked the best to me. I went with tostadas de pollo.
There were unlike any other tostadas I have ever seen. The perfectly crisp tortillas were topped with what must be a spicy bean puree`. On top of that was a coleslaw-like shredded topping. The grilled chicken went on next and then the whole thing was topped with a fried egg.
It was a very interesting lunch for $6. Next time I'll try the papusas and see how they compare to the ones at Super Pan.
My final stop was a Juarez. It's more of a restauranty place than the others with actual table service. It's less hole-in-the-wall and more small family restaurant. It's not as big or as fancy as the typical Tex-Mex places in town though. I decided to eat in rather than take out, so I took an interior photo.
I decided to do my favorite thing again and went for a carnitas platter. What I ended up eating was sort of similar to Veracruz, but with more sides.
The meat, although not terribly lean (for those who care about such things) was melt-in-your-mouth tender. The refried beans were probably the best I ever had. I even asked the server, "What did you put in these beans to make them taste so good?" I had pico de gallo and hot sauce to sprinkle on top and fold into my tortillas. I washed it down with pineapple Jarritos for $15.50 and I was full the rest of the day.
If the crowd that shows up at an ethnic restaurant is indicative of its authenticity, then I will have to say these places are pretty authentic because in every place I went into, I was the only person not speaking Spanish.
I'm glad I had this little food adventure. The next time I am home for lunch, I am going to have a tough time deciding where I'm going to eat. I hope everyone else in the neighborhood is exploring these places as well. I encourage anyone reading this to explore their own neighborhoods and see what great food finds are available.