Two weeks ago, my husband and I were taking a stroll through Columbia Heights and noticed that our old haunt, El Rinconcito II, had reopened after their tragic pupusa fire last year. We’ve been to a number of pupuserias that are closer to us, and also those that I’ve had recommended elsewhere and we’ve always gone back to our old stand-by. It became famous to us as a place we go when we want to spend more money on margaritas than we do on food (a situation we call “winning”). We had to go again, just to make sure it was the same place we knew and loved. I also invited a good friend and her fiance, because everyone loves pupusas. In anticipation of this momentous occasion, I spent the last two days singing “Rin-con-cito” instead of “Despacito.” It’s stuck in your head now, isn’t it? Just try and not come here now.
Step 1: Pitcher of margaritas! You can’t go wrong here. Although in the previous incarnation of El Rinconcito, I believe their margaritas were both cheaper and larger, it is hard to be angry about a $30 pitcher that serves four people. The drinks were strong, limey, and served quickly.
Step 2: Pupusas! We ordered one revueltos (pork and cheese, for the uninitiated) and one frijol y queso. What happened to their curtido?! Where was my salsa roja? The traditional best friends of pupusas everywhere were absent (salsa) or bland (in the case of the curtido), a fact I can’t overlook. Apart from this, the pupusas themselves were deliciously stuffed and hot off the comal.
Step 3: Entree! In lieu of one of my usuals, I mixed it up this time with the ropa vieja off their new “house specialties” menu. The meat was juicy and bathed in tomato goodness, the beans were smoky, the plantains had that crunchy-soft caramelization that I can never get at home, and the tortillas were moist, warm, and perfect for sopping up everything on my plate. Other dishes at the table included chicken enchiladas (one of my all-time favorites here, which went over well tonight too, with plentiful accompaniments), the fish tacos, and the pollo a la parrilla con huevo y chorizo. The fried egg on this was too hard-cooked, and the chicken was very cooked, in true Central American fashion, but it was still delicious.
Price: $20 per person
Bottom line: I can’t name a better pupuseria in DC proper, the service here can’t be beat, and their new, improved menu includes tons of Latin American specialties that aren’t so fried or carb-heavy. DC is rife with pupuserias; it’s basically our official state food. El Rinconcito is one of the greats.