It’s pretty easy to drive past El Gallo Pinto; it’s a treasure, hidden away in yet another Azusa strip mall. It’s not a fancy place, but it’s cheerily decorated and welcoming. Nicaraguan food in general isn’t very greasy, and the home-cooked flavors here are great, says pleasurepalate.

Fried green plantains and fried cheese make a nice starter–it’s hard to stop eating them with the sweet and tangy Nicaraguan “salsa” of sour orange juice, onions and green peppers. This salsa tastes great over anything.

A dish of pork and yuca comes topped with cabbage and tomatoes–the meat is tender and flavorful, and there’s a good contrast going on with the crunchy cabbage and slight acidity of the tomatoes. Even better is vigaron–the same preparation as above, but with chicharron instead of pork.

Gallo pinto, a staple dish, is a mixture of fried rice with onion, bell pepper and beans boiled with garlic. The boiled garlic really puts it over the top, while the beans keep the rice nice and moist.

Another Nicaraguan classic is nactamal, a kind of tamal filled with pork or chicken, rice, potatoes, tomatoes, onion, and bell pepper, wrapped in plantain leaves and boiled for five hours. This is definitely oilier than the other dishes and than regular Mexican tamales, but the buttery taste makes it all forgivable.

They have a cacao drink that’s basically like a chocolate horchata, with cinnamon and vanilla–very refreshing.

For dessert, definitely get bu

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