You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2008.

422 W. Wishkah St.
Aberdeen, WA 98520

Don’t get me wrong: I love Americanized Mexican and Latino cuisine. I grew up on nachos with fake cheese, pickled jalepenos and ground “meat.” As a youth, eating “Mexican” food meant that at least one item on my plate would be coated in cheddar cheese. Even after learning how delicious regional Mexican home cooking was, I still have the occasional hankering for sour cream and guacamole topped deep fried goodness that I grew up eating.


Pasteles with curtido

Nonetheless, as I got older I found some “authentic” restaurants. I’ve always loved to try new things, and the newness of something that I thought I knew made me want to try more and more. The flavors were unexpected. The lettuce and the tomato garnishes weren’t the only fresh ingredients involved in these meals. Overtime, my experience with eating good quality Mexican and Latino food impacted my cooking at home. I learned that the herbal note missing from some of my dishes was Mexican oregano. I learned to buy the darkest plantains I could find and to add epazote to make my black beans. Cajeta became our preferred ice cream topper. With access to well stocked tiendas, I became more than comfortable cooking Latino and Mexican cuisine. These foods became part of my family’s everyday meals.

Thus when I would drive in from SeaTac to visit my folks over the last year or so, my eye was caught by a little blue gem of a restaurant that I saw as I headed towards my folks’ place: La Salvedorena. I tried to figure out how my wife and I might surreptitiously sneak over for a bite during one of the visits, but that wasn’t in the cards.

After driving out here from Columbus and after we had unpacked enough, we wanted to dine out for the first time. We decided upon this restaurant. We ate. After a few days, we came back. And then again. I think it is proper that it is the first restaurant that I review here.

La Salvadorena is an unpretentious restaurant. The interior of the restaurant is a placid blue that compliments the exterior. Happily, the restaurant is not decorated with the cultural tourist in mind. There are a few wall hangings that teach visitors basic facts about El Salvador, but, like many really good ethnic restaurants, they do not exoticize their own culture for gastronomic tourists. Tables for larger parties are set against laced curtained windows. Tables for two are in the center of the room.

A menu board above the counter has the specials and some of the regular menu. The fold-out menus next to the register have the restaurant’s entire offerings. After looking at the menus at the counter, you order. My stumbling, bumbling attempts at Spanish have been met with patience and good humor, and they have never mixed up a single order we’ve placed.

Carne Asada Torta

Carne Asada Torta

I’m slightly obsessed with the tortas (sandwiches), which sell for $5.50 each. The bread used for the tortas is like a light ciabatta. It is toasted inside AND outside. That’s right, double toastiness, which is a big deal to me. The picture here is of a carne asada (chopped steak) torta. It comes with a creamy, salty sauce and fresh lettuce and tomato. The mixture of textures in these sandwiches is simply amazing. One would likely make a good lunch by itself, but I seem to always have room for at least one pupusa. Or two. Maybe three if I’m feeling gluttonous.

Pupusas are the specialty of the house and very reasonable: $1.50 per. Pupusas start as balls of corn dough that are filled and patted into a disk. After you order them, you can hear them being slapped flat fresh in the kitchen. That disk is then fried on a griddle until the outside darkens, but the interior stays moist.

All dishes are served with a semi-spicy green sauce and a bit-more-spicy red sauce. All pupusas are served with a house made spicy cabbage slaw called curtido (also in the pupusa picture). The curtido is fresh rather than fully pickled and is the perfect salty, pungent, crunchy counter to the creamy pupusas. It has a kick.

The pupusas come with a variety of fillings. Our favorite is revuelta (pork), but loroco, a plant native to El Salvador and Guatemala is a close second.

Traditionally, they are eaten by hand after some curtido and red sauce is placed on top of them. I ate mine with a fork. Sue me.

Pork and Bean&Cheese Pupusas

Revuelta (pork) pupusa on left, bean & C=cheese pupusa on right

The tamales ($1.50 each) are made in banana leaves, and the masa they use is seasoned–corn is still the prominent flavor, but the savory and spicy red seasonings added to the dough keep the tamales from ever being bland. The tamales de pollo are filled with big chunks of tender chicken and potatoes.

The pastels de carne (top picture) are crispy, fried pastries filled with the same chopped carne asada as the tortas ($5.50 for 5 with curtido). They meat is highly seasoned–it’s salty (in a good way) and garlicky. They come out rocket hot, so break the first couple in two and let them cool to avoid mouth cauterization.

I also recommend the Horchata. It is Salvadoran style, so it contains some cocoa and spices that Mexican style Horchata does not.

Yummy Horchata!

Horchata at La Salvadorena

They have some combination dinners that include rice, beans, tortillas and salad. Most of these are the usual suspects: fajitas, grilled chicken and beef, and spicy shrimp (a la Diabola). I have yet to try fish plate, grilled spare ribs or chicken enchiladas in mole, but that will change soon (expect a part two to this review).

I haven’t put up pictures of the tacos yet, but those are good as well $1.50 each, and they come with curtido as well. They come in four to five inch corn tortillas that are grilled until pliable and slightly crisped around the edges. The toppings mirror those available for the pupusas but also include tongue (served in small dice). They are always topped with fresh cilantro.

Nutshell: Go to La Salvadorena. The food is extremely good and a great value. The service is very, very good. The cooks take care to make sure everything leaving the kitchen tastes and looks good. Thus far, they have always been successful. I highly recommend this restaurant to locals and tourists alike.


This is an odd way to begin a Grays Harbor blog, but, given the content of the about page, I thought I could give a few compliments to the community that I moved from before dealing with the one that I’ve moved to. I hope it gives a bit of context for my reviews at this site as well.

Fall foliage on Kenny Ave.

Fall foliage on Kenny Ave.

Here are the top ten things I’ll miss about Columbus, OH:

10. German Village. A cobblestoned neighborhood with a ton of shops and eateries that is perfect for a meandering stroll. Though Schmidt’s is a local and tourist fave (and I admit their Bahama Mama sausages are mighty tasty) it does not define the entire scene here. The Old Mohawk is excellent, as is Juergen’s.

9. The Short North. Town’s with more cultural cred would drool to have as active of an art scene as exists here. It still seems to be the restaurant heart of Coulmbus, and my biggest regret is not eating at Rosendale’s before I left.

7. Columbus Metro Parks. I believe that there are 16 of them now, but my wife and I spent most of our time at Higbanks on the Dripping Rock Trail. Each one has its own charm, and all of them are worth at least one hike through.

Monarch at Prarie Oaks Metro Park

Monarch at Prarie Oaks Metro Park

6. The Columbus Zoo. We purchased a yearly membership for about $80 and were able to visit as many times we wanted each year. Regular admission for 2 adults is $20, so if you go 4 times in a year it pays for itself. We went that many times the first month. We miss the manatees and zoolights and, well, the whole shebang.

Baby gorilla with caretaker at Columbus Zoo

Baby gorilla with caretaker at Columbus Zoo

5. The many Asian markets. We were regulars at Columbus’s CAM, though that’s a bit redundant. Through alphabetical serendipity there are 3 “CAMs” in Ohio. The folks that run the Columbus Asian Market also run the Cleveland Asian Market and the Cincinnati Asian Market. We lived within 5 minutes of about a dozen east and south Asian grocers, many of which had hot and/or cold deli counters.

4. Rossi Burgers. The best known burger in town is available from Thurman’s, and if big is what you want, that’s the place to go. That link is to their myspace page, and you can see some pictures of the monster burger in the comments section. My personal favorite in town was from Rossi Bar & Kitchen. A good review of it can be found here. The fries with aioli are really good, but reading that review made me remember the superior fries at Nazareth in North Columbus. The Nazareth is also home to the best gyro in Columbus (and the best hot sauce). This is a big claim. I stand by that big claim.

3. The North Market. The best one stop specialty marketplace in Columbus. I always enjoyed doing my shopping there and eating lunch in the upper level. Lunch was never complete without eating at least a single scoop from. . .

2. . . . Jeni’s Ice Creams Though available at other locales now, the North Market is my favorite. I had a minor addiction to the “Thai Chili” and “Salty Caramel” when I lived there. Very yum.

1. Without a doubt my favorite place in Columbus was/is Thurn’s Specialty Meats. Everything there is good. They have the best braunschweiger, head cheese, souse and country pate I’ve ever had. They make everything in house and take great pride in their offerings. I loved the place so much that I regretted not telling them that I moved, so they wouldn’t take it personally. Here are a couple of reviews from visit one and visit two.

I’ve never seen a Thurn’s ad, so I don’t believe they pay for advertising. They do not need to. They’re open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and part of Saturday. It is not unusual for them to sell out of many products by Saturday (if not Friday). They are really that good. Lastly, learn your slicer measurements. They love it and, though they’ll give you a hard time, they’ll remember you.

November 2008