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El Pueblo, Burke Virginia


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I think El Pueblo has actually been open for a few months, but I just now got around to eating there. The restaurant bills itself as an Authentic Mexican and Spanish Restaurant and offers a range of specialties from both countries as well as a few standards from north of the border.

The first thing you should know is that this is not another clone of Anita's. It's not Tex-Mex, and it's not Southwestern. The food in this Burke Town Plaza spot more closely resembles the seasonings and contents I've had in Mexico away from the border, and in Spain. Yes, you can get the standard stuff, but it tastes like it does in Mexico. For example, I had a chicken tamale which was very similar to one I had long ago prepared by the wife of a Mexican farmer near Veracruz. The tapas are simple, and seasoned as you'd find them in Spain. There's a lot of garlic on the scallops with garlic sauce, as there should be. The dish is adorned with two rounds of toasted garlic bread which is useful for soaking up the leftover garlic sauce. The sauteed mushroom caps were also simply prepared and tasty. You should note that these are also not like the tapas at Jaleo, which, while wonderful, are more elaborate than these. The tapas at El Pueblo more resemble those I've had at some mid-level bars in Cadiz.

Sadly, there's no Spanish beer. But you can get what appears to be some nice pitchers of sangria, although I didn't actually have that.

I'm planning to return soon. This place bears further investigation.

WR

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Thanks for the report. I've been wanting to try this place. The owners also own Villa Bella in Burke, which is very good Italian, and Paradiso in Franconia. They are from Sicily - wonder where they learned to make good Mexican & Spanish food?

I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.

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Well, Sicily isn't all THAT far from Spain. Actually, it's a fairly short commuter flight. It probably explains why their Mexican food isn't TexMex, though.

And Villa Bella is one of the most authentic Italian restaurants around. I talked to the cook there, and he told me that they import the ingredients from Italy, which helps explain things. It's still not as good as the best places I've been to in Italy, but it's not bad.

WR

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Thanks for posting on this place--sounds like a find! Do they serve any moles?

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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  • 4 weeks later...

Last night I went to a Big Name restaurant in downtown Washington, and spent a small fortune on bland, overpriced, dumbed-down food for the masses (and the masses were there, too). Featured on the menu: the single worst tuna carpaccio I have ever eaten, indistinguishable from cured ham.

Contrast that with my carryout lunch today at El Pueblo, costing me all of ten dollars, the same price as that inedible tuna carpaccio. "Fish tacos" don't sound all that exciting, but these were stuffed with chunks of fried tilapia and mango. Served with first-rate guacamole, good rice and beans, and a real attempt at Pico de Gallo.

El Pueblo actually has a website. Make sure to view the hilarious introduction.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Last night I went to a Big Name restaurant in downtown Washington, and spent a small fortune on bland, overpriced, dumbed-down food for the masses (and the masses were there, too). Featured on the menu: the single worst tuna carpaccio I have ever eaten, indistinguishable from cured ham.

Contrast that with my carryout lunch today at El Pueblo, costing me all of ten dollars, the same price as that inedible tuna carpaccio. "Fish tacos" don't sound all that exciting, but these were stuffed with chunks of fried tilapia and mango. Served with first-rate guacamole, good rice and beans, and a real attempt at Pico de Gallo.

El Pueblo actually has a website. Make sure to view the hilarious introduction.

Cheers,

Rocks.

If Don Rocks recommends a place, you know it's got to be good. I live in Burke and have yet to make it to El Pueblo - maybe this weekend.

Rocks: The Swiss Bakery in the same shopping center has great pretzel rolls. Also, have you tried Villa Bella yet? (See above Basilgirl comments)

I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.

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Good to hear the positive comments. I live in Springfield and I have seen the place but never tried it out. Looks like I know where I will be having lunch tomorrow!

Maybe I will see you there Basilgirl.

Wearing jeans to the best restaurants in town.
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  • 2 weeks later...
Thanks for posting on this place--sounds like a find! Do they serve any moles?

I don't recall any moles on the menu, but I haven't been back there for a while due to my publisher having assigned me to a 2-week gig in Honolulu. I'm back now, so I'll go by again.

WR

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Rocks - does the Big Name restaurant serve ventworm??

:raz:

:unsure: No, but I know what he's talking about, and I can assure you there are vents on the ceiling above the bar... and that atop the bar there are usually bowls of nuts. They aren't worm nuts, but worms like these nuts.

...

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Rocks - does the Big Name restaurant serve ventworm??

:raz:

Nope, but it also doesn't serve whole fresh rockfish that's even close to the level of what I had this evening at El Pueblo.

Cheers,

Rocks.

---

[Edit: A third visit to El Pueblo was a disappointment, with everything from the over-onioned guacamole, through the over-sauteed frozen vegetables, to the overcooked whole red snapper missing on just about all counts.]

Edited by DonRocks (log)
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  • 5 weeks later...

I was disappointed to get your e-mail message the other day about a bad experience at El Pueblo. I figured that it might have been a bad day, so I went there again for dinner yesterday. Things started out fine - the chips were warm, the salsa spicy, the beer cold. But that was it. Things went rapidly downhill after that.

I started out with the tortilla soup with chicken. The chicken was tough and dry, kind of like the kitchen had microwaved some Costco chicken tenders, and then tossed them into the soup at the last minute. The tortilla strips were soggy.

After that, I had two favorites, the garlic scollop tapa and the chicken tamale. The scollops were tough. In fact, I didn't know it was possible to make tiny bay scollops that tough. The garlic toast was soggy and the sauce insipid.

The tamale was worse. Once a delightful dish with soft, fragrant cornmeal that was just firm enough to crumple when broken, revealing tender strips of chicken, things have changed. The cornmeal had become a gelatinous mass lightly populated with pieces of the same dried out chicken that was in the soup. I couldn't finish it. Of course, I couldn't finish the other dishes either.

It's sad for a restaurant that started out so well to have become an "avoid at all costs" kind of place in such a short time. Clearly, they've had a staff shake-up in the kitchen. But it would have been nice if they'd hired a cook who had a clue of some sort.

It's sad that there's no good way to get word to the owners about the rapid decline.

I don't plan to go back to tell them, though. Hope the same thing doesn't happen to Villa Bella.

WR

---

[Edit:  A third visit to El Pueblo was a disappointment, with everything from the over-onioned guacamole, through the over-sauteed frozen vegetables,  to the overcooked whole red snapper missing on just about all counts.]

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I'd have to agree, I had lunch there about a week ago, it was ok, but not special-I'm still partial to El Puerto, Richmond Hwy., for lunch-their chile rellenos are usually very good. On the positive side, the Swiss Bakery, right next to El Pueblo, is WONDERFUL-pretzel rolls, fruit tarts, Swiss Army bread, zopf...I like this bakery better than one that is closer to me, they have a better selection of breads (which I understand are not as profitable to bakeries (I've been looking at the independent bakery threads), I definitely appreciate them-I think their breads are great, I just wish I lived a little closer to them...Linda

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