“Huh. That’s new,” Chow, Baby said while gazing out of the windows of Pitt Grill last week. New to Chow, Baby, anyway.
Marquez Restaurant (928 N. Collins St., Arlington), across the parking lot from Pitt Grill, looks like it’s been there for years. Chow, Baby, too, has been around for years, but some of the words writ on the windows were unfamiliar: Mondongo? Licuados? Pupuseria? Wait. Pupusas are those Salvadoran street-food delights: cushy corn tortillas stuffed with queso and maybe pork or beans or chicken, grilled to bubbling. Had Chow, Baby stumbled on another purveyor of its current-favorite cuisine?
It had. Of course, like the other “Salvadoran” restaurants Chow, Baby has visited, the dishes and atmosphere are mostly Mexican – down to the 7 p.m. showing of the telenovela La Fea más Bella (Lety has a new retainer, making her uglier than ever) – with its Salvadoran connection showing mostly via a couple of travel posters on the wall and a few items on a corner of the menu. At Marquez, as at other places, the best buy is the combo plate, or platillo tipico ($8.99): a big, juicy chicken tamal, chunks of yucca fried with pork, a grilled sweet plantain with sour cream, and a cheese pupusa, with a side of slaw-like pickled cabbage relish. All these are also sold à la carte (pupusas $1.25 and well worth it). Chow, Baby learned the hard way that mondongo ($5.99) is tripe soup, similar to menudo; a sweeter discovery was that licuados means “mixed-to-order shakes,” in Chow, Baby’s case papaya ($2.50).
The house and national specialty is the mariscada salvadoreña ($11.95), a seafood stew jam-packed with a big ol’ crab claw, lots of shrimp, a hunk of very nice white fish, and bits of octopus, squid, and cuttlefish. Chow, Baby is required to deduct a few points for the once-frozen seafood and the odd addition of fake-crab pieces, but adds them back for the milky, buttery broth that tasted of the ocean. Maravilloso.
Hope Springs from Couch Springs
For once, Chow, Baby picked a good time to come down with an appetite-sapping spring cold from hell: at the end of the fiscal month, when it can’t afford to eat anyway. But there are always a few quarters to be found in the couch cushions, enough for a nice throat-soothing bowl of pho tai ($3.50) at Hope Coffee Shop (5022 E. Belknap St.). Yes, that’s the actual name of the place, even though the sign on the building reads “HOP” – the “E” fell off so many years ago, you can’t even tell where it used to be. Presumably at the end.
Even all stuffed up, Chow, Baby could smell the cilantro filling the small, peacefully dim dining area. Regrettably, the tranquil Vietnamese music wafting from the kitchen was nearly drowned out by the cooks’ sing-song giggling, doubtless at Chow, Baby’s Rudolph-like nose. The marvelously rich beef-noodle soup took some of the red out, but what really helped was the sinus-clearing spicy peanut sauce accompanying the “special roll” (shrimp spring rolls, $2). Hope has a small menu of soups, noodle and rice dishes, and “Hope’s special sandwiches” – delicious beef stew or shredded pork on French bread, dressed with cucumber, carrot, and cilantro. They’re not huge, but at $2 they’re perfect for the broke and not-too-hungry crowd. Under the car seats – there’s another good quarter-finding spot.
Contact Chow, Baby at firstname.lastname@example.org.