Cabalito: An interview with aspiring Salvadoran restaurant owner, Randy Rodriguez

Randy-Rodriguez

I receive at least one request per week from random strangers to support their Kickstarter campaigns but recently I was contacted by a guy named Randy Rodriguez who said he wanted to open a Salvadoran restaurant. For obvious reasons this interested me much more than any other Kickstarter campaign sent to me before, so I got to chatting with Randy, and I ended up deciding to not only give his Kickstarter a shoutout, but because I found his personal story interesting as a Salvadoran American born in L.A., raised in Vermont, and now living in New York, I interviewed him as well. Meet Randy, and his project – a Salvadoran restaurant in Lower Manhattan called “Cabalito.”

Interview with Randy Rodriguez of “Cabalito”

Latinaish: Tell us a bit about your family. Your parents were born and raised in El Salvador, right? Did your mother and tías cook much Salvadoran food when you were growing up?

Randy: Yes, both my parents were born and raised in El Salvador. I am 100% My mom came in her late teenage years and my dad when he was around 13 years old. My parents both have very interesting stories coming to the U.S., (which is a whole other story!) Neither my mom or dad know how to make pupusas but a few of my tías know how to do it up. My grandma makes a mean panes con pavo (which will be on the menu.) My mom can also make the plato típico, but for the most part, I ate most Salvadorian food at the best restaurants in L.A.

Latinaish: You mentioned to me that when you were about 10 years old, your family picked up and moved to Vermont. Why did your parents move there? Was it difficult to adjust? Were there unique challenges as a Salvadoran American growing up in an area of the country that doesn’t have a strong Salvadoran or Latino community?

Randy: Yes, I was around 10 years old when my parents moved to Vermont. They wanted us to have a better childhood. Living in a peaceful countryside was the plan. The L.A. neighborhood I was living in was getting dangerous. They did research and heard that Vermont was one of the best places to raise a family. My dad told us that if he was going to move he would do a big move. So we went for a big change, west coast to east coast.

I think it was a very difficult adjustment. I have an older brother and a younger sister. We had to make new friends and start over which can be hard at that age. I look back now and I don’t know how we did it! I went from being just another latino to the only kid in my school with color! I stood out like a sore thumb. I was different. The kids in my school were nice. I didn’t have any problems which I am thankful for. It was more about how uneducated they were about my culture. They didn’t know anything about Latin American food, dance, culture, or language. They thought I was Mexican! Not because they were mean but because they didn’t know better.

Latinaish: Now this question is definitely out of personal curiosity as a mother raising 2 Salvadoran American sons who are bilingual, but not quite as fluently bilingual as I had hoped. You learned Spanish as an adult – Did your parents attempt to raise you bilingually or did they speak to you in English? Did you grow up with Spanish around you (when your parents spoke to each other or on the phone, or the TV programs they watched)?

Randy: I heard the language a lot when I was young in California. Once I moved to Vermont I stopped hearing it. There was no Spanish television shows, music, or anything around like that. My parents did not make the effort to make us learn. I think it was mainly because my brother and sister didn’t really want to learn. They tried but never fully committed. I think it was hard for my parents because they came to the USA very young. My dad has told me he feels more comfortable in English. They told us that if we wanted to learn it we would have to take the initiative. That’s exactly what I did. Obviously my Spanish is not perfect and I am still learning but I am doing the best I can because I realize it’s important as an adult to be bilingual.

Latinaish: At some point you moved to NYC and began working at Mexican restaurants, right? What was that like? Was a career in the restaurant business something you’d always wanted or something you fell into?

Randy: I moved to NYC in 2010 and I simply needed to find a job. The only job I could find was at an Indian restaurant. It was terrible – it didn’t pay well – but I needed the money. The restaurant was next door to a Mexican place. I met the manager and he eventually called me in to start working. I was happy to be working there. It paid well and I needed to make friends. I worked my way up to be the general manager. That’s when I really grew to love the industry. I started to work a lot and I felt I was running the place myself. I eventually told the staff to stop speaking to me in English. I learned a lot of Spanish from my friends there. I believed in the place and put my time and energy into it. They eventually opened a new location and they wanted to hire someone else with more experience to take my job. I realize now that I was young and someone with more experience could run the place better. I left and started to work at a wine bar and the owner there inspired me to open my own place. That’s when I wrote my business plan.

To answer the question simply. I fell into the business with no regrets.

Latinaish: When was it that you decided you wanted to have your own restaurant? Why a Salvadoran restaurant?

Randy: At the Mexican restaurant my co-workers would tell me that I should open up my own taqueria since I know how to run one. I felt that there is a lot more competition in Mexican food. People have a strong opinion about Mexican food. So many types from tex mex, taco trucks, west coast Mexican, Chipotle, and the list goes on. I did not want to get involved. When I left and started working for a wine bar, the owner motivated me to do something big. A lot of self reflection and thought went into the idea for my own place. The fact that almost no one in NYC has had pupusas made all the pieces come together.

cabalito

Latinaish: How did you come up with the name “Cabalito”? Who designed that awesome bird logo? (I love it! It’s very Fernando Llort-esque.)

Randy: The original name was “El Colón” after the currency of El Salvador from 1892 to 2001. I wanted “El Colón” because it would represent how El Salvador is becoming more and more Americanized. I wanted people to know and remember how El Salvador use to be when it had it’s own currency and to embrace that. However, I did not want to glorify Cristóbal Colón. I also considered that people might mispronounce it and call it colon from human anatomy or colon from punctuation.

After days of brainstorming I was looking over all the slangs from El Salvador. I was also hanging about with a friend born in El Salvador and she was using the word “Cabal” a lot. I liked it. I felt that you could use it for many things. However, I did not click with it because cabal in English is a secret political clique or faction. I read an article with someone using “Cabalito.” That was it! It sounded more Spanish, more official, more on point. “Cabalito!”

My logo was designed by my roommate who is a very talented graphic designer. I showed him art work by Fernando Llort and told him how much I liked his birds. I obviously wanted the logo to be very clear on representing art work in El Salvador. He did some sketches and surprisingly that was the first one he drew of many. We didn’t need to play around with it. That was it! Cabal!

Latinaish: Are you hiring Salvadoran chefs or did you learn to make the food? What’s going to be on the menu?

Randy: I want to hire authentic chefs I can work with to create traditional dishes with a twist. I care a lot about being authentic, however, I want to evolve the traditional recipes to the New York tongue. I am very aware of people being more careful of what they put into their bodies. I want to adapt to the new way of eating without damaging the original recipes.

I have a lot of traditional dishes that I would like to put on the menu but for now I’ve limited it to a few that I think would be diverse enough and affordable. The menu I have ready for Kickstarter is not going to be exactly the same as the menu that will be used for the restaurant. I made a mock up menu to give people an idea of my vision and to understand the brand I want to create. I will later work with a chef to discuss my menu and his/her recipes that will work for the official menu.

Randy-Rodriguez-pupusas

Latinaish: Okay – the big moment! Sell us on contributing to your Kickstarter campaign. Why should we support this project?

Randy: I want people to know that this is my dream. I hope this becomes a story that people will read and feel inspired. I believe that if you can shape it in your mind you will find it in your life. The restaurant represents so much to me. It’s a reflection of myself. It’s more than amazing food. It’s culture, it’s music, it’s art, it’s style, it’s social, it’s Latin American, it’s flavor, it’s affordable, it’s friendship, it’s different, it’s – more importantly – for everyone to enjoy. I hope anyone who comes from little corners of the world will have the courage to share their culture if they want to. This restaurant is for all the hidden recipes all over the world that are not exposed to us because the people who open restaurants don’t typically know how to. The people who should open restaurants don’t have the money to. Unfortunately money is the only thing holding me back from sharing this cuisine with New York City. So anything helps or share this info with everyone! This restaurant is also for El Salvador – a small country with a big heart.

(Visit the Kickstarter campaign here!)

Latinaish: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions. Wishing you suerte!

Randy: Special thanks to you, Tracy. I wish you and your family the best. May you continue to give El Salvador a good name. It would be an honor to someday see you in NYC with your family at Cabalito.

You can follow Randy and his restaurant, Cabalito, on: Twitter, Facebook, and at CabalitoNYC.com.

“Chachos”

platanos

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Cuando fuimos al supermercado le pedí a Carlos buscarme algunos plátanos. Regresó un minuto después y dijo, “¡Mira! Son plátanos chachos!” Yo no sabía la pálabra “chacho” entonces Carlos me explicó. ¿Ver la foto? El plátano de la izquierda es un plátano normal. Los plátanos de la derecha están pegados y les puede llamar “chachos.” En El Salvador “chacho” significa algo doble. Uno puede usar la pálabra para referirse a cosas así como frutas y también se usa cuando los dados salen iguales. ¡Chachos!

¿Sabes otra definición de la palabra “chacho” en otro país? Comparte en los comentarios!

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

When we went to the grocery store I asked Carlos to find me some plantains. He returned a minute later and said, “Look! They’re plátanos chachos!” I didn’t know the word “chacho” so Carlos explained to me. See the photo? The plantain on the left is a normal plantain. The plantains on the right are stuck together and you can call them “chachos.” In El Salvador “chacho” means something that is double. One can use the word to refer to things like fruit and also when you roll double in dice. Chachos!

Do you know another definition of the word “chacho” from a different country? Share it in comments!

Central American Artifacts in D.C.

Did you know that the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. has a large bilingual (English/Spanish) exhibit called “Cerámica de los Ancestros: Central America’s Past Revealed“? It’s there until February 15, 2015 and features more than 160 objects from Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama – so check it out while you can if you live in the area. If not, here are a few highlights!

ceramica-de-los-ancestros

designs

Lempa River jar in the form of an armadillo, AD 900-1200, Near Palacios, Oratorio de Concepción, Cuscatlán, El Salvador

Lempa River jar in the form of an armadillo, AD 900-1200, Near Palacios, Oratorio de Concepción, Cuscatlán, El Salvador

Classic period Maya figure, AD 600-900, Usulután, El Salvador

Classic period Maya figure, AD 600-900, Usulután, El Salvador

Classic period Maya bowl, AD 250-600, San Agustín, Acasaguastlán, El Progreso, Guatemala

Classic period Maya bowl, AD 250-600, San Agustín, Acasaguastlán, El Progreso, Guatemala

Stamps from Costa Rica and Guatemala

Stamps from Costa Rica and Guatemala

Pre-Classic period Maya female figure, 200 BC-AD 1, San Jacinto, San Salvador, El Salvador

Pre-Classic period Maya female figure, 200 BC-AD 1, San Jacinto, San Salvador, El Salvador

Carlos said, "Hey, this one looks like me!" even though I told him that usually statues with hands on the hips are females.

Carlos said, “Hey, this one looks like me!” even though I told him that usually statues with hands on the hips are females.

Want more?

The National Museum of the American Indian website has more information related to the exhibit including photos, video, and even a really awesome printable coloring book for the niños!

Escribiendo Baladas

letra

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

El otro día, a las 4:30 de la mañana, no podía dormir. Mientras todavía estaba en la cama, cogí un cuaderno y una pluma de mi escritorio con la intención de escribir. Tuve en mente trabajar en mi manuscrito corriente pero cuando puse pluma a papel, una canción salió.

Cada día escucho música, y usualmente es Regional Mexicano. Me gusta la música de Gerardo Ortiz, El Bebeto, Roberto Tapia, La Arrolladora Banda el Limón, Voz de Mando, Banda el Recodo, y tantos otros, pero más que todos – ya saben – Mi cantante favorito es Espinoza Paz. Lo que algunas personas no saben es que Espinoza Paz es un compositor, no sólo para sí mismo, sino para muchos artistas que terminan teniendo un gran éxito con sus canciones. Realmente admiro su habilidad con las palabras.

De todos modos, no me sorprende mucho que todos estos años de escuchar la música Regional Mexicano finalmente resultó en escribir una canción. Qué pena que no sé como escribir la música para acompañar la letra.

He escrito poesía, pero creo que esta es mi primera canción en este género, (¡y en mi segunda lengua!) Espero que más canciones me vienen porque fue divertido escribirla. Sería increíble escuchar a alguien cantandola algún día, pero por ahora, aquí está.

PD – Gracias a Dios, esta canción no tiene nada que ver conmigo y con Carlos! Todo está bien con nosotros!

PERDONAR Y PERDONAR
por Tracy López

No es fácil,
perdonar y perdonar,
pero una vida sin ti,
no me puedo imaginar.

Me duele cuando me trates así,
Me rompes el corazón,
pero más me duele vivir,
con una mala decisión.

[CORO:

No me ruegues más,
Todavia te quiero,
Ya se me olvidó,
lo que pasó.

Ya sé que eres humano,
Y los humanos a veces se equivocan,
pero ya lloré suficientes lágrimas,
y siempre eres tú que las provocan.]

No es fácil,
perdonar y perdonar,
pero ni un día sin ti,
me puedo imaginar.

Me duele cuando me decepcionas,
me rompes el corazón,
pero más me duele existir,
con esta maldición.

-REPETIR CORO-

No es fácil,
perdonar y perdonar,
Seguir dejándote maltratarme,
no me puedo imaginar.

Me duele decirte adiós,
lo siento, mi corazón,
pero más me duele aguantar,
una mala decisión.

2nd CORO:

No me ruegues más,
Todavia te quiero,
pero no se me olvidó,
lo que pasó.

Ya sé que eres humano,
Y los humanos a veces se equivocan,
pero ya lloré suficientes lágrimas,
y siempre eres tú que las provocan.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

That other day at 4:30 in the morning, I couldn’t sleep. While still in bed, I grabbed a notebook and pen off my nearby desk with the intention of writing. I had in mind to work on my current manuscript but when I put pen to paper, out came a song.

Each day I listen to music, and usually it’s Regional Mexican. I like the music of Gerardo Ortiz, El Bebeto, Roberto Tapia, La Arrolladora Banda el Limón, Voz de Mando, Banda el Recodo, and so many other, but more than all of them – you already know – My favorite singer is Espinoza Paz. What some people don’t know is that Espinoza Paz is a composer, not only for himself, but for many artists who end up having great success with his songs. I really admire his ability with words.

Anyway, it doesn’t surprise me much that all these years of listening to Regional Mexican music finally resulted in writing a song. It’s just a shame that I can’t write music to accompany the lyrics.

I’ve written poetry, but I believe this is my first song in this genre, (and in my second language!) I hope more songs come to me because it was fun to write. It would be amazing to hear someone sing it someday, but for now, here it is.

PS – Thank God, this song has nothing to do with me and Carlos! Everything is good with us!

[Note: I translated the song to English below but I think it loses it's charm. If you read/understand Spanish, I recommend you scroll back to the original Spanish version above.]

FORGIVE AND FORGIVE
by Tracy López

It’s not easy,
to forgive and forgive,
but a life without you,
I can’t imagine.

It hurts me when you treat me this way,
You break my heart,
but it would hurt me more,
to live with a bad decision.

[CHORUS:

Don't keep begging me,
I already love you,
I've already forgotten,
what happened.

I know that you're human,
and humans make mistakes,
but I've cried enough tears,
and you're always the one that causes them.]

It’s not easy,
to forgive and forgive,
but even a day without you,
I can’t imagine.

It hurts me when you disappoint me,
You break my heart,
but it would hurt me more to exist,
with this curse.

-REPEAT CHORUS-

It isn’t easy,
to forgive and forgive,
Allowing you to keep mistreating me,
I can’t imagine.

It hurts me to tell you goodbye,
I’m sorry, my heart,
but it hurts me more to endure,
a bad decision.

2nd CHORUS:

Don’t keep begging me,
I already love you,
but I don’t forget,
what happened.

I know that you’re human,
and humans make mistakes,
but I’ve cried enough tears,
and you’re always the one that causes them.

Aprender hablar portugués es fácil pero peligroso

(Image source:  Adrien Sifre )

(Image source: Adrien Sifre )

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Gracias a la Copa del Mundo, Carlos está muy interesado en aprender hablar portugués. Como dije a Carlos, aprender hablar portugués cuando uno ya habla español es fácil porque hay muchos cognados, (o sea, palabras que se ven y suenan semejantes en ambas lenguas.)

Ejemplos: corazón es coração, mujer es mulher, muchas es muitas, buenos días mis amigos es bom dia meus amigos.

Fácil, ¿verdad?

Pero ojo con los “falsos amigos“, (palabras que parecen semejantes pero no lo son!) Por ejemplo:

PORTUGUÉS: aceite
ESPAÑOL: aceptado

PORTUGUÉS: ano
ESPAÑOL: año

PORTUGUÉS: azar
ESPAÑOL: mala suerte

PORTUGUÉS: bocadinho
ESPAÑOL: poquito, momentito

PORTUGUÉS: cena
ESPAÑOL: escena

PORTUGUÉS: gozar
ESPAÑOL: burlarse, tomar el pelo

PORTUGUÉS: osso
ESPAÑOL: hueso

PORTUGUÉS: pila
ESPAÑOL: pene

PORTUGUÉS: puto
ESPAÑOL: niño, crío

PORTUGUÉS: salsa
ESPAÑOL: perejil

PORTUGUÉS: todavia
ESPAÑOL: no obstante

PORTUGUÉS: trampa
ESPAÑOL: excremento

PORTUGUÉS: vassoura
ESPAÑOL: escoba

Para más consejos sobre aprender a hablar portugués, recomiendo este entrada y esta página en Wikipedia. ¡Buena suerte!

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Title: Learning to Speak Portuguese is Easy but Dangerous

Thanks to the World Cup, Carlos is really interested in learning to speak Portuguese. As I told Carlos, learning to speak Portuguese when one already speaks Spanish is easy because there are a lot of cognates, (words that look and sound similar in both languages.)

Examples: corazón is coração, mujer is mulher, muchas is muitas, buenos días mis amigos is bom dia meus amigos.

Easy, right?

But watch out for “false friends” (false cognates), which are words that look the same but aren’t the same at all! For example:

PORTUGUESE: aceite
[looks like "oil" in Spanish, but means "accepted"]

PORTUGUESE: ano
[looks like "anus" in Spanish, but means "year"]

PORTUGUESE: azar
[looks like "random" in Spanish, but means "bad luck"]

PORTUGUESE: bocadinho
[looks like "sandwich" or "snack" in Spanish, but means "a little bit" or "little moment"]

PORTUGUESE: cena
[looks like "dinner" in Spanish, but means "scene"]

PORTUGUESE: gozar
[looks like "to enjoy" in Spanish, but means "to make fun of"]

PORTUGUESE: osso
[looks like "bear" in Spanish, but means "bone"]

PORTUGUESE: pila
[looks like "pile" or "battery" in Spanish, but means "penis"]

PORTUGUESE: puto
[looks like "faggot" or "man whore" in Spanish, but means "child"]

PORTUGUESE: salsa
[looks like "sauce" in Spanish, but means "parsley"]

PORTUGUESE: todavia
[looks like "still" in Spanish, but means "nonetheless"]

PORTUGUESE: trampa
[looks like "trap" in Spanish, but means "excrement"]

PORTUGUESE: vassoura
[looks like "trash" in Spanish, but means "broom"]

For more advice on how to learn to speak Portuguese, I recommend this post and this Wikipedia page. Good luck!

A Sweet Game

BY TRACY LÓPEZ
(This was originally published on the now defunct CafeMagazine.com on June 14, 2010. Since this piece is no longer available online, I thought it would be fun to reprint it and take a look back at our familia during the 2010 World Cup.)

On Friday, my kids and I gathered around the television to watch the opening game of World Cup 2010, Mexico vs. South Africa.

I was rooting for Mexico, so naturally the kids were, too, (much to the annoyance of my Salvadoran mother-in-law who awakened to the entire household vested in green).

The kids really like fútbol but they have short attention spans, so to make it more exciting for them I promised candy at half-time – but this was not any ordinary candy. This was a mixed bag of “Dulces Mexicanos” from our local Latino market. Luckily my boys are pretty adventurous and were willing to give everything a try. Here is how they rated the Mexican candies, keeping in mind they’ve been raised on chocolate, butterscotch, jelly beans and other traditional U.S. candies. The candies are rated from one star (yucky-face inducing) to five stars (they’d eat the whole bag if I let them):

boycandy

Coconut “banderitas”: The tri-colored green, white and red Mexican flags were pretty to look at and tasted almost as good. Rating: ***

De La Rosa Dulce de Cacahuate: To be fair, I buy these all the time and am slightly addicted, so this candy is very familiar to the boys. They rated it highly and licked the crumbs from the wrapper. Rating: *****

Pica Pepino Relleno con Chile (lollipop): My younger son took one lick and rejected it. The older one took a few licks and ultimately agreed. I thought it was kind of interesting though. Rating: **

Duvalín Dulce Cremoso Sabor Avellana y Vainilla:
My husband really likes these, but the kids weren’t that impressed. Rating: **

Go Mango Enchilado: I think the boys were more put off by the way this one looked than the way it tasted. They barely gave it a nibble. To me it tasted like a slightly spicy fruit snack. Rating: *

Obleas con Cajeta: How can cajeta possibly not taste good? Yet, they didn’t like this one. Rating: *

Eskandalosos Paleta de Caramelo con Chile: I thought they would reject this one immediately but they loved it. They were fruity flavored with just enough spice to make them interesting. Rating: *****

Benyrindo: Deceptively shaped like a Coca-Cola bottle, everyone was fine with this candy until biting into it and releasing the tamarindo flavored juices. Maybe you have to be raised eating tamarind to appreciate these sorts of things? Rating: *

Pica Limón: One child rated this highly and the other rated it low, yet they both kept trying it and laughing. I think the fun of this one is watching people’s reactions after eating it. Rating: ***

In the end, Mexico and South Africa tied 1-1, bitter disappointment for fans on both sides who wanted to see their team win, but my boys’ memories of the game are not bitter; they are sweet like cacahuate, sour like limón and spicy like chile.

La Jarochita

la-jarochita

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Cada día en la radio, Carlos escucha un anuncio de un restaurante en Manassas, Virginia, que se llama “La Jarochita” y al escuchar el anuncio siempre le da hambre – Por esta razón, fuimos el fin de semana pasado con nuestros hijos a Manassas buscandolo.

El estacionamiento estaba grande – uno no tiene que buscar parqueo en la calle – y había camiones vendiendo comida mexicana, rodeados por gente comiendo, hablando y disfrutando de la cálida noche de verano. Fuera de las puertas de La Jarochita, una mujer estaba vendiendo raspados y otras cosas.

Al entrar en La Jarochita, es un poco confuso. Hay mesas con sillas por todos lados, a la izquierada hay un carnicero, a la derecha hay vitrinas llenas de pan dulce, un poco más adelante al derecho hay un mostrador por pedir comida, pero también se puede pedir comida en el mostrador de la izquierda, y hay un tercer mostrador en la parte trasera del restaurante. Carlos eligió la cajera al lado del trompo de la carne al pastor. Mientras él estaba pidiendo tacos, saque fotos y video.

trompo-al-pastor

Como puedes ver en el video, el hombre corta la carne para que caiga sobre la tortilla. Después que corta la carne, con un movimiento rápido del cuchillo, hace un pequeño corte en algo en la cima del trompo, (Yo pensé que era una papa.)

Carlos preguntó al hombre por qué hace este corte a la papa y le dijo “Es la gracia” y nada más. Pero cuando investigué en internet, aprendí que en México hay una piña encima del trompo, y para los tacos de carne al pastor, echan un pedacito de piña al taco.

Ahora no sé si era una papa o una piña que tuvieron encima del trompo en La Jarochita. ¿Tal vez lo hacen con una papa sólo por guardar la tradición de cortar algo después de hacer un taco? ¿O tal vez era una piña? (No vi si puso la papa/piña en el taco pero tal vez él estaba demasiado rapido.)

tapatio

Primero yo estaba sentada en frente del carnicero. Ni pienses en usar Tapatío en tus tacos si visitas a La Jarochita. Tienen un bar con salsas frescas, limones, cebollas, rábanos, y todo que puedes querer.

Luego, cambié mi asiento para tener una mejor vista del comedor. La Jarochita está bien decorada y había televisores por todos lados. Yo estaba mirando El Chavo Animado por unos minutos. Después que saque esta foto, entraba aún más gente – el restaurante estaba llenisíma de familias mexicanas, (sólo había otra gringa más que yo.) El ambiente tenía sentido de como estar en una plaza o mercado en México. Parecía que algunos clientes se conocían unos a otros, así que había un sentido de comunidad que era agradable.

jarrochita

Finalmente los tacos estaban listos!

tacos-la-jarrochita

Carlos ordenó tortas para nuestros hijos y ellos dijeron que estaban buenas. Los tacos estaban riquísimos! Los mejores y más auténticos que he comido. Había tacos de todo lo que puedes imaginar. Yo nunca había oído hablar de algunos tipos de tacos que tenian: Buche, Cabeza, Carnitas, Cecina, Cachete, Curritos, Lengua, Tripa, Masías, Ojo, Pastor, Sudadera, Trompa! … Yo comí dos de barbacoa y dos de carne asada – las porciones eran muy generosos y me llenó.

Definitivamente vamos a volver a La Jarochita.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Every day on the radio Carlos hears an ad for a restaurant in Manassas, Virginia, called “La Jarochita” and the ad always makes him hungry – That’s why we went last week with our boys to Manassas to look for it.

The parking lot was huge – you don’t have to find street parking – and there were food trucks selling Mexican food, surrounded by people eating, talking and enjoying the warm summer evening. Outside the doors of La Jarochita, a woman was selling raspados and other things.

Upon entering La Jarochita, it gets a little confusing. There are tables and chairs everywhere, to the far left there’s a butcher, to the right there’s display cases full of pan dulce, a little further in on the right there’s a counter for ordering food, but you can also order food at the counter on the left and there is a third counter in the back of the restaurant. Carlos chose the cash register next to the vertical rotisserie for tacos al pastor. While he was ordering tacos, I took pictures and video.

As you can see in the video, the man cuts the meat so it falls onto the tortilla. After the meat is cut, with a flick of the knife, he cuts a little something at the top, (I thought it was a potato.)

Carlos asked the man why he cuts a potato after making a taco and he said “Es la gracia” [I'm not exactly sure how to translate that to English!] and nothing else. But when I researched on the internet, I learned that in Mexico they put a pineapple at the top of the “trompo” [vertical rotisserie], and for tacos al pastor, they throw a bit of pineapple into the taco when it’s cut.

Now I’m not sure if it was a potato or a pineapple that was on top of the spit at La Jarochita. Maybe they do it with a potato only to keep the tradition of cutting something after making a taco? Or maybe it was a pineapple after all? (I didn’t see him put the potato/pineapple in the tacos he made, but maybe he was just too quick.)

First I was sitting with a view of the butcher case. Don’t even consider using Tapatío on your tacos if you visit La Jarochita. They have a self-serve bar with fresh salsas, limes, onions, radishes, and everything you might want.

Then I changed my seat to get a better view of the dining room. La Jarochita is nicely decorated and had TVs everywhere. I was watching El Chavo Animado for a few minutes. After I took this picture, even more people came in – the restaurant was full of Mexican families (there was only one other gringa), and I had a sense of being in a market or plaza in Mexico. It seemed that some customers knew each other, so there was a sense of community that was nice.

Finally the tacos were ready!

Carlos ordered tortas [Mexican-style sandwiches] for our boys and they said they were good. The tacos were delicious! The best and most authentic I’ve ever eaten. There were tacos of everything you can imagine. I had never heard of some of the kinds of tacos: Buche, Cabeza, Carnitas, Cecina, Cachete, Curritos, Lengua, Tripa, Masías, Ojo, Pastor, Sudadera, Trompa! I ate two carne asada tacos and two barbacoa tacos – the portions were very generous and filled me up.

We will definitely return to La Jarochita.