El Tamarindo offers mouth-watering Salvadoran options
The special house burrito at el Tamarindo is billed as the largest south of the border. (photo by Alexandria Stewart)
My mouth started to water slightly this morning as a drove past el Tamarindo Mexican and Salvadoran Restaurant on High Point Road. I’ve been dying to check it out, and yesterday I finally did. I think it’s already time to go back.
This place has style. The typical staples are here, like soccer on TV and curtains the colors of the Salvadoran flag. But above the divider in the middle of the room, a stuffed animal rests in a hammock. And about halfway through our meal, someone plays a song on the jukebox that, between verses of spanish rap, declares, “Latinos united, will never be defeated!” The bass is so loud that the walls vibrate to the rhythm.
The restaurant is relatively empty considering it’s lunchtime, but we realize this may be because we missed the weekday lunch specials from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. that cost between $5 and $6. The chips and salsa were far from the best I’ve had, but that’s why they’re free and it’s not why I’m here.
While I wait for the absurd amount of food I ordered to arrive, I try to savor my large cup of horchata. The smooth rice and milk drink with vanilla and cinnamon tastes like the first days of summer. I’ve had horchata in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Philadelphia and San Francisco, but it hasn’t tasted this good since high school when I first partook in Dona Yda’s homemade pitchers of it in the mountains of el Salvador.
I’ve been to el Salvador twice, but it’s been two years since I’ve been and I find myself craving it. I feel duty-bound to order pupusas and expose other people to them whenever I have the option. I could try and describe these tortilla-esque dishes filled with cheese and sometimes meat, but at $1.75 each, it’s best to just buy a few and experiment. Tamarindo’s pupusas were deceivingly filling and heavy for their size, just like they should be.
Patrons can order a number of house specials, including el tipico with a pupusa, tamale, platanos with beans, yucca and pastelito for $12. I opted for the house special burrito, described as “the largest burrito south of the border.” Having indulged in a four-foot burrito once with a few friends I’d beg to differ, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
It was the type of burrito that comes smothered in cheese and with other toppings on the side, making silverware necessary. Villa del Mar down the road is still my top-ranked burrito option in town, but Tamarindo’s variety of Mexican and Salvadoran options even out the contest.
Somehow I managed to eat the beef burrito, the better part of two pupusas and still try my girlfriend’s order of chicken fajitas. We agreed the fajitas were relatively salty but both enjoyed them nonetheless. The sizzling and steaming dish of chicken and vegetables did not disappoint.
The service was great, with multiple servers checking on us throughout the meal. One waiter was a little unsure what I wanted when I inquired about the check until I restated myself in Spanish. If I were a regular I would have known to pay at the counter when I was ready.
While in Oaxaca, Mexico for a short visit a few years ago, tortas became my dish of choice. I am looking forward to trying the $8 Mexican-style sandwiches on my next Tamarindo trip, along with more than one round of horchata.
El Tamarindo Salvadorian & Mexican Food 2605 High Point Road.