Pupuseria Las Delicias

Pupuseria Las Delicias, better known to my husband’s pasty-white coworkers by the moniker “Meat Truck,” is a simple food station located along Route 1 near Laurel. It’s out of the way, and definitely not DC. You’ll exit 95 and think “Where am I?” Then you’ll make the turn onto Route 1 and get the sneaking suspicion that you’re about to become food for a gang of hill people. When you see a Quality Inn motel that you’re positive hasn’t washed their comforters in 20 years and you’ve lost all hope of ever seeing your family again, you’ve arrived. Park your car in the Quality Inn parking lot, glance around suspiciously to make sure that nobody recognizes you here, and climb the hill to Meat Truck.

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If you need proof of Meat Truck’s authenticity, nothing speaks louder than their recent downgrade from smoke-laden outdoor grill to single-wide trailer, courtesy of the health department which, if I’m not mistaken, complained that Meat Truck was producing too much air pollution. No matter, though; you can still smell their cooking from a mile down the road, and at any given moment there are at least a dozen Salvadoran workers lined up to get a taste of that sweet sweet meat.

They’ve got pupusas, they’ve got tacos, they’ve got mango, they’ve got tamarindo. But if you really want to know what Meat Truck is all about, get the Plato Mixto and thank me later.

I was lucky enough to sample four delicious meats: the carne asada, short rib, pork rib, and chicken. The plate also includes a couple of thick Salvadoran tortillas, yellow rice, smoky pinto beans, pico de gallo, and a baggie of pickled veggies. I don’t know where else it is possible to feed two people for $13. Of the meats, the chicken is juicy and fabulous and the short rib falls off the bone and melts in your mouth like butter. Like all the others, the pork ribs had a nice crispy bark on the outside, and were juicy but slightly too gristly. The pickled vegetables are a delicious tangy accompaniment.

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Word to the wise: unless you’re training for some kind of ridiculous rib-eating competition, I recommend bringing a buddy and splitting a platter. They are intense.

Price: $7 per person unless you are a fat fuck who needs to eat four meats by yourself. Then it costs $13 plus your dignity.

Bottom line: If you like well-done Central American-style meats and you don’t like spending money, look no further!

El [Nuevo] Rinconcito II

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.20170930_204649

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.

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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.