Culture

These 5 Restaurants Prove Latinos Have Left Their Mark On Washington D.C.

One of the most important things to plan for a trip, at least according to me, is where you are going to be eating. Sure, you can default to fast food or chain restaurants but you don’t really get the essence of a city that way. Instead, try seeking out smaller spots that are recommended to you by locals. They’ll point you to places you may have otherwise missed. That’s what I did for a recent trip to Washington D.C. and I was not disappointed. Here are some of the local-recommended restaurants I visited that are worth putting on your to-do list when you visit the nation’s capital.

1. Los Hermanos: Dominican

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Everyone in Washington D.C. will tell you the same thing: if you want good Latino food you have to go to Los Hermanos. It is no lie. The restaurant feels like being in mami’s kitchen and the food is just as great. I recommend the carne guisada with arroz con gandules and platanos maduros. You won’t be disappointed.

Good arroz con gandules can drive someone crazy, and these did.

2. Arepa Zone: Venezuelan

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The Venezuelan staple is alive and well in D.C. thanks to Arepa Zone. The restaurant has three locations. They have a permanent spot in Union Market but you can also find them posted up at the Georgetown University Farmers Market over the summer on Wednesdays, which is where we caught up with them. They also have a food truck to make their delicious food more accessible. I recommend the arepa pabellón. The mix of the shredded beef and platanos maduros is a delicious and worthwhile ride for your tastebuds.

Every bite is going to be a mouthful, guaranteed.

3. Mi Cuba Cafe: Cuban

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Mi Cuba Cafe is located next door to Los Hermanos if you are looking to mix the two Caribbean cuisines. The Cuban eatery boasts some of Cuba’s more recognizable dishes including lechon asado (pictured above). Pairing that up with some congri and tostones is really the only way to do the meal justice. As a Cuban-American from Florida, I will admit that it was better than I was expecting. Definitely on the recommendation list if you’re in D.C.

The tostones tho. ??

4. El Rinconcito: Mexican/Salvadoran

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El Rinconcito is a little slice of Central American heaven. The menu has several options. from Salvadoran tamales to chimichangas. There’s one dish all the employees recommend: the milanesa de pollo. The lightly breaded chicken filet is delicious as it is, no need to sauce or fuss. Just cut into that meat and enjoy. Topped with some platanos and a side of homemade tortillas, how can you say no?

Don’t be shy about digging right in.

5. Tortilla Cafe: Mexican/Salvadoran

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If you are visiting Capitol Hill and get a hankering for some Salvadoran food, make your way to Tortilla Cafe. The restaurant, which was recommended several times, is known for its pupusas. Get them with cheese or cheese and pork. Either way, you can’t go wrong. The food here is exceptional.

These pupusas are absolutely mouthwatering.

What did we miss? What is your favorite Latino food spot in Washington D.C.?


READ: 14 Latino Owned Businesses Who Are Disrupting The Food Industry

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Nopales, The OG Ancestral Food We’ve Been Eating Since Waaaay Before Plant Based Foods Became Trendy

Culture

Nopales, The OG Ancestral Food We’ve Been Eating Since Waaaay Before Plant Based Foods Became Trendy

I can literally talk food until my babas drip. Don’t judge. The comelón life chose me and I’m not mad at it. Because growing up Latino meant breakfast wasn’t always cereal, and dinner wasn’t always mac and cheese. I grew up con más sabor en mis platillos than most Americans. And, at the time, I didn’t even realize that many of the foods my family was trying to get me to eat were ancestral foods. From chocolate to cocoa and chia to nopalitos, I blame los ancestros for my obsession with food and all the glorious ingredients that have been passed down for generations.

My knees already feel weak, fam, because today I’m gonna be talking nopalitos. Ya me estoy chupando los dedos, thinking back to how I grew up with these babies always in the refri in that Nopalitos jar, ready to be thrown into a sauce or encima de una carne asada. It turns out this soul-feeding food is one of the OG ancestral foods that have been used by our people for thousands of years. Ahí les va un poco de historia:

The Mexica introduced the world to the “fruit of the Earth.”

In Náhuatl, the word for nopal translates to “fruit of the Earth.” I don’t know what the Náhuatl word for “bomb-delicioso” is, but in my opinion, that should also be the name for nopales. And the Aztecs must have felt this way too because one of the most famous cities in the Aztec Empire – Tenochtitlán, the empire’s religious center – was named “prickly pear on a rock.” Iconic.

According to legend, the city was built after an Azteca priest spotted an eagle perched on a nopal plant, carrying a snake in its mouth. The priest, obviously extremadamente blown away by this, ran back to his village just so he could gather everyone to check out this crazy eagle with a snake in its mouth. As they watched, the cactus beneath the eagle grew into an island – eventually becoming Tenochtitlán. I’ll give you 3 seconds to just process that. 1…2…3. Please take more time if you need it. The image of the eagle carrying a snake, its golden talons perched on a nopal growing from a rock, can now be found on the Mexican flag.

Today, we know that the Mexica were right to call nopales the plant of life.

In Mexico, it’s still common to place a handful of nopal flowers in a bath to help relax achy muscles. And nopales are becoming more popular than ever in beauty treatments to help fight aging. But, y’all are too beautiful to be needing them for that, so let’s talk about what’s important — eating them.

There are so many ways you can mix this iconic ingredient into your meals.

We should all be eating our green foods. Your tía, your abuela, your primo, everyone…except your ex. Your ex can eat basura. I said what I said. But, nopalitos are especially important. These tenacious desert plants can be eaten raw, sautéed, pickled, grilled – they’re even used as pizza toppings. Though for some people, nopales – with their spines and texture – can be intimidating. After cutting off the spines and edges, and cutting them into slices, they will bleed a clear slime. But boiling for 20 minutes will take care of that. Or make it even easier on yourself and avoid espinas by buying them all ready-to-go from the brand we all know and love, DOÑA MARIA® Nopalitos.

Check it out, I’m even gonna hook it up with that good-good, because if you’re looking for ways to enjoy your nopales, I got’chu with some starter links to recipes: Hibiscus and Nopal Tacos, Nopal Tostadas, Roasted Nopales con Mole, and Lentil Soup con Nopales.  One of my personal favorite ways to eat them is in a beautiful Cactus Salad, full of color and flavor. Trust. I rate these dishes 10 out of 10, guaranteed to make your babas drip, and when you eat this ensalada de nopalitos, you will remember even your ancestors were dripping babas over this waaay before it was cool to eat plant-based foods.

So let’s give the poderoso nopal the spotlight it deserves by adding it to our shopping lists more often.

Rich in history, mythology, and practical uses, the nopal’s enduring popularity is a testament to its versatility. It’s time to give this classic ingredient the respect it deserves and recognize just how chingon our ancestors are for making nopales fire before plantbase foods were even trending.

Next time you’re at the supermercado, do your ancestors proud and add nopales to your shopping cart by picking up a jar of DOÑA MARIA® Nopalitos. This easy-to-use food will definitely give you a major boost of pride in your roots. Viva los nopalitos bay-beh!

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The Croquettes In Cuba Are Literally Exploding In People’s Faces

Culture

The Croquettes In Cuba Are Literally Exploding In People’s Faces

It’s the case of the exploding croquettes.

We’ve all been at least halfway there. So eager to get our hands on a freshly fried croquette whose smell of jamón is just too tasty to pass up. We get a little too eager and then a little burned. But in the case of dozens of Cubans on the little island, circumstances are much more sinister. Cubans have complained about experiencing severe burns from croquettes for months. Photos posted to social media sites show people with severe burns all of their faces, on their eyes, hands, and torsos.

Cubans are pointing their fingers at Prodal, a state company based in Havana saying they’re the ones to blame.

In a recent report by NBC, the exploding croquettes are being described as “tragicomedy” of strange proportions on the Caribbean island that “imports 60 percent to 70 percent of its food, according to official figures, because national production can’t meet the needs of its 11 million inhabitants.”

Prodal is a state company based in Havana that is being blamed for the incidents which have been cited on social media. In response, the company posted instructions on how to fry the croquettes to avoid “violent” incidents on Twitter.

According to NBC, Prodal produced 20,000 tons of food last year, which was largely made up of sausages and croquettes. The products are sold in government stores. 

Cuba’s Ministry of Domestic Trade told NBC that it has yet to investigate the complaints, saying the complaints “must be presented formally,” not through social media.

“We are investigating an incident with croquettes, but not with those of that company,” an official told NBC.

The bizarre incidents highlight how little guarantee Cubans have of the quality of the food that they purchase from government establishments. It also underlines the little efforts the government does to ensure citizens are compensated for buying food that is defective.

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