El Catrachito is nestled between the Dominican hair salons, Central America bakeries, pho shops, and, yes, even a very shady looking adult bookstore in Wheaton, a place whose diversity is matched only by its depressive vibe. There aren’t many reasons to go to Wheaton unless you are interested in visiting its metro station, which features the longest escalators in the Western Hemisphere (This is actually true. They are 230 feet long in case you were wondering. You weren’t? Oh.) You would never notice El Catrachito from the street because it blends in so well with its sad surroundings, but it looks like what I imagine the coffee shop from Seinfeld would be if it existed in Tegucigalpa instead of Manhattan.
This is DC and we have about a thousand Salvadoran restaurants but this is the only place I’ve seen Honduran food. And, as I was made painfully aware a few weeks ago, there’s a reason why you don’t find many Guatemalan restaurants either. For the uninitiated, “El Catrachito” means “The Little Honduran,” and it’s surprisingly not even the only Honduran restaurant in Wheaton.
The inside has classic diner decor complete with the full-service counter and round stools fixed to the floor. It even has one of those old-fashioned candy machines where you have to carefully cup your hands over the exit to avoid dropping your five year-old M&Ms. If nothing else, this place was guaranteed to be a great dive.
Their menu is very extensive and I was pleased that it was almost entirely Honduran specialties. I ordered the Baleadas Catrachas (with beans, cheese, and sour cream), and my husband got Tajadas con Carne Asada, which I’d never had before. Sadly, El Catrachito doesn’t serve alcohol of any kind.
My baleadas were huge, freshly grilled, and stuffed with smoky, dripping refried beans. The tortillas were warm and soft, and they tasted even better with the hot sauce that the restaurant kindly provides. They were simple but delicious.
We didn’t know what to expect with the tajadas. Our only clue was the faded picture inside the menu. We ordered the carne asada thinking that the steak would be a good litmus test for the restaurant–chewy meat is a no-go. But upon its arrival, we knew it was the right move. Tajadas is basically Honduras’s answer to the garbage plate. It contains fried bananas topped with meat, cabbage slaw, and a mayo-based dressing. I don’t know who first had the idea to combine fruit, meat, and mayonnaise, but may god bless that person every day of his life. Nobody knows why, but everything about it works. And even better–El Catrachito passed the meat test because that carne asada was soft and scrumptious. My only complaint is that I couldn’t wash it all down with a margarita.
Price: $10 per person.
Bottom line: Honduran food gets no respect and it should. El Catrachito gets it right, and the price tag ain’t bad either. You may even learn some Honduran geography from their giant wall map!