well, thanks to a few thumbs up on this board, i finally made it to el familiar tonight with my wife. i hope the chow teams lets me give a detailed review of the food.
i noticed the restaurant was very clean all around (a good sign to a chef) and modest decor. a friendly welcome and immediate seating by the window. our waitress brought chips and salsa while we looked at the menu. chips were a bit stale but one of the salsas was very good (the spicy one) while the other was decent with a nice touch of actual fresh cilantro within. it may be the first time i have NEVER had to add salt to salsa in a restaurant.
while some items were obvious bows to american tastes (fajitas, chicken wings, quesadilla) i was interested in the antojitos. i saw chicharones con arepa and had to have that right away while we continued to peruse the menu. we asked our waitress if they used jack cheese or latin types like queso fresco or anjejo. she told us mostly jack (not a good sign to me nor good for my lactose issues). oh well, we ordered the oxtail soup, pork "tingas" tacos, arepa con carne y hogado, salchichas con tostones and empanadas.
the chicharones were basically two very thick slices of bacon, deep fried, served with fresh limes and arepas (south american corn cakes). nice way to start. pork tingas tacos were very good, a little heat, little smokiness, tortilla was a decent, soft corn. oxtail soup was also a winner, two huge chunks of gelatinous, falling apart meat, potato, carrot and a good stock made from this same meat. the arepa carne y hogado was a large flat arepa with a slice of beef from the leg covered in a stew of tomatoes, scallions and onions cooked with olive oil. the meat could have been more tender but was still good while the arepa and hogado were outstanding.
the salchichas con tostones wound up being a plate of "griddled" salami with wonderfully done plantains, fried to a tee. good, but not the star. the empanadas were stuffed with a fine mince of what tasted exactly like the oxtail soup served with a sweet and sour salsa. they were generously filled and the dough we thought was "arepa" rolled thin. beautiful nonetheless....
i want to note that as a chef, i truly appreciate the very clean flavor of all items and the fact that the deep fryer oil was fresh, prodigious use and garnish of fresh limes (very expensive), the restaurant clean, the service sincere, the horchata was great and the whole meal (a lot for 2 people, we are both chefs though and love to eat) was 40$ ! a steal in this state and compared to the 100$ we spend at nobi on a regular basis, easier on the wallet.