El Charrito Caminate

One of the funny things that can happen when you start blogging – whether really seriously or just in a very dilettantish sort of way like yours truly over in this corner of the interwebs – is after hundreds of posts about restaurants or sports or whatever, some places fall through the cracks.  It’s not like I had driven past these places without going or that it was not memorable.  It just happens that you write about what sounds good, and sometimes other things just go by the wayside.  Indeed it is not until one of my friends had brought up his rapturous love about a DIFFERENT taco place what I suddenly realized that somewhat criminally, I had neglected to sing the praises of the best taqueria I know in these here parts – El Charrito Caminate in border-Clarendon.

Located on Washington Boulevard just as it turns from quasi-highway to local Arlington, it is a really easy restaurant to miss.  It is located next to a Z-Pizza, which has a chic, trendy sort of look built to attract the sort of folks who get deserved derisive sneers as you see them walking into Mr. Days, thus making it look even more shabby.  It’s really just a storefront, as while there is a counter, it is essentially a take away place.  Oh yeah, they don’t take credit cards either.  But they do serve genuine Salvadorean food and tacos and tortas and platanos, and it is far and away the best taqueria in the area.  It’s also ridiculously cheap.

I am not a huge taco guy.  I mean I like the cuisine, but tortillas as an outside do not precisely move my needle.  That said, you definitely need to do corn tortillas if you need to live in a tortilla world (flour tortillas?  who does that!), and the tacos here fit the bill.  Also, a tolerance for stuff you might not understand fully can help.  I mean they offer goat and tongue as fillings along with the basic beef, pork, chicken, chorizo flavors.  They also prepare the tacos with a pico, cilantro filling as well as sauce on the side.  This is not one of those cases where you have a salsa bar or a ton of choices – you choose a meat, but the taco is the taco.  It’s really really good – whether with a tortilla or as a torta.  The chorizo is tremendous in particular, as well as the beef tongue – something I had never had before.  The food is light, spicy without being crazy and not laden with the tex-mex sort of trappings that turn things normal “Mexican food” into anvils in one’s stomach.

As a taqueria, it would be sufficiently lovely, but of course they do other things to.  They make pupusas, a bread stuffed with things – like cheese or loroco (cheese and herbs, I forget the specific flower that constitutes the herb) – and served with marinated cabbage (like a spicier kraut) which are excellent.  The fried plantains with crema – well the life partner totally demolishes those.  The scary thing is how much food we can put away for like $13.  It was amazing.  This is not my favorite place in the area, but there is no doubt that it is the best dollar for dollar dining value out there.

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