I’m really glad that the suburbs of DC, while occasionally bland and full of Red Lobster franchises, are generally diverse and small business-oriented. And when in Alexandria, prepare yourself for some top-notch food of many ethnic origins. We found ourselves today with my aunt and uncle, eating lunch at Pan American Bakery.
The menu is, if I’m being honest, large to a slightly intimidating degree. I was overwhelmed with grilled meat options when all I really wanted was a solid sandwich. We sprung for an appetizer of saltenas because you can’t leave this place without some kind of delicious pastry. Sweet, flaky crust? Check! Tender chicken and vegetable filling? Check! Hot Pocket-style ability to burn the roof of your mouth with liquid lava filling? Check! My recommendation: order this but let it cool off while you eat the rest of your food first.
Then I had the choripan and my husband ordered the sandwich de lechon. My aunt and uncle, through a mixture of oncoming illness and naivete, each ordered the sopa de mani. We were in for a treat. The choripan was great–slightly spicy chorizo on a soft-inside, crunchy-outside french roll. It was tasty but could have used more toppings or a delicious sauce. My husband’s sandwich de lechon was good, with soft, flavorful pork on a huge seeded loaf. The fresh breads really do make a nice touch here.
The soup arrived in a bowl that was approximately the size of an NFL player’s helmet. It was slightly peanutty and earthy with scattered pieces of beef, penne pasta, and shoestring potatoes throughout. Neither my aunt nor uncle finished their bowl.
Table service at Pan American leaves something to be desired, but that’s par for the course at a place that has plastic lawn chairs for seating. It may also be that they want their sit-down patrons to have as much time as possible to consider the costs and benefits of ordering dessert pastries out of their case. It was not in the cards for me today, but I highly encourage all people to go for it and follow your dreams.
Price: $10-15 per person.
Bottom line: Great lunch spot, good bang for your buck, and Peruvian/Bolivian specialties you can’t get everywhere.