Tag Archives: plantains

Loco for Tortilla Cafe

I had a friend visiting me from out of town, and needed somewhere quick, cheap, and delicious to meet her for lunch. My roommate recommended Tortilla Cafe down by Eastern Market, and boy, am I glad she made that suggestion.

Tortilla Cafe offers authentic El Salvadorian and Mexican fare that you can tell is made with love. The cafe is a family operation, owned by Jose Canales and managed by his daughter, Catalina, who can be found working the register most days. Mr. Canales also owns Canales Deli, a meat purveyor inside Eastern Market.

My friend and I split a pupusa platter with plantains and black beans ($5.95) and a sweet corn tamale ($2.25). Service was friendly and warm, and our food was brought out quickly, piping hot. Pupusas are a popular El Salvadorian snack: thick corn tortillas filled with cheese and meats that are fried to perfection. Tortilla Cafe’s version is light and greaseless, with melted cheese and flavorful pork oozing out of each bite.

The side dishes were excellent as well. The pupusa platter comes with your choice of 2 sides (beans, rice, fries, fried yucca, plantains). We chose the plantains and black beans. I’m a sucker for plantains and I can wholeheartedly say the ones at Tortilla Cafe were first-rate. Crisped outer edges, soft in the middle, with that irresistible sweet and savory balance. The platter also comes with a complementary serving of curtido, a pickled cabbage slaw with peppery salsa drizzled on top. The dish paired nicely with the pupusas, adding a jolt of heat and tanginess.

The sweet corn tamale was reminiscent of summer. It tasted like biting into a freshly steamed ear of white corn. The maize had a firm bite–one of the signs of a solid tamale. Lesser versions can be mushy or grainy.

Perhaps the most astonishing part of the meal was the price–less than $10 for a filling and fantastic meal. Tortilla Cafe more than delivered on the quick, cheap, and delicious fronts.

More people (other than me) are starting to take notice of this hidden gem’s low prices and high-quality food. Tortilla Cafe was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, and the restaurant proudly displays a signed Guy Fieri poster on its wall. The episode hasn’t aired yet, so be sure to head down to Tortilla Cafe–before the legions of Triple D and Food Network fans do!

Tortilla Cafe

210 7th St. SE

Washington, DC 20003

(202) 547-5700

Tortilla Cafe on Urbanspoon


Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot at Sweet Mango Cafe

Saturday’s Caribbean Carnival parade in Petworth (which I mentioned here) can be described in one word: HOT. It was another day of record-breaking heat, but that didn’t stop crowds of eager parade goers from coming out and showing their support. The entirety of Georgia Ave. was lined with spectators old and young: families set up lawn chairs and ice chests, groups of teenagers tried to act cool out on their own, and kids ran around and cooled off with water balloon fights.

The temperature wasn’t the only part of the parade that was hot. Bright, colorful floats, punctuated by scantily clad, feather adorned female dancers, solicited some hollers from the crowd. Reggae music blasted from the most ginormous speakers I’ve ever seen, pulsating through the street.

I was (literally) a hot mess by the end of the parade, but couldn’t leave without trying Sweet Mango Cafe’s infamous jerk chicken. Conveniently located across from the Petworth metro, residents tell me it’s hard to walk by and not to be seduced by the potent scent of jerk chicken wafting out of Sweet Mango Cafe.

I ordered a medium-size white meat jerk chicken with rice and beans and cabbage ($7.99) and a side order of plaintains ($2.00). The chicken packed a ton of flavor into every bite, due in large part to the fiery jerk seasoning that coated the exterior (and left me licking my fingers for more). Aside from the spice, the chicken was tender and moist, with just the right amount of smoke from the grill. My only bone to pick (no pun intended) was the bones; some of the pieces were mostly bone and cartilage and not a lot of  meat.

The sides were also tasty. Rice and beans soaked up a lot of the chicken juices, which complemented the dish well. Cabbage was less than memorable, but the plantains–those were money.

The sweltering day ended with us collapsing on our couch, chugging down several glasses of water, and catching the end of the World Cup match. And to end this post, a video to sum up my feelings about the meal and that day in general:

Sweet Mango Cafe

3701 New Hampshire Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20010

(202) 726-2646

Take-out recommended

Sweet Mango Cafe on Urbanspoon