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Restaurants & Bars 5

El Tamarindo -- SW Ft. Lauderdale Salvadoran

s.m. koppelman | Aug 31, 200302:09 AM

While I was waiting for a death certificate I had to pick up at the county board of health, my friend and I were hungry, so we headed down the street looking for a quick empanada or the like. I pulled into El Tamarindo, at 233 SW 24 St. (SR 84) just west of Federal in the lower left corner of Ft. Lauderdale and just a few blocks from Lester's Diner.

Turns out the dark-windowed standalone place--with a sign touting "Latin American Food"--is a nicely appointed, clean and rather civilized Salvadoran restaurant once you step inside, decently decorated with a new wooden bar, nice lighting, tiled floors and cloth napkins on the (vinyl tableclothed) tables. Prices are no higher than they are at more divey places. The menu was pretty typical and presents few obvious surprises for anyone used to, say, Cuban or (more to the point) basic real Mexican. Carne asada, pork chops, red and green salsas and so on.

Since we were just there for a quick bite and had to be out in twenty minutes or so, we didn't get any entrees and instead just got a couple of pupusas (queso and loroco--that herb with tiny flowerbuds) and one each of galina (chicken) and elote (plain sweet corn) tamales.

The pupusas were freshly made to order and on the whole equals to the ones at the tiny Guatemala Restaurant a couple of miles to the northwest, and it seems they use fresh or dried loroco instead of pickled. The slaw is fresh and decent, and the reddish-orange salsa tasty but not too hot. Good stuff.

The tamales were more of a mixed bag. The chicken one--wrapped in a banana leaf?--was good, if a bit on the soggy side, with a brownish mole-like character and some bits of vegetable. It came paired with the same slaw that was served with the pupusas.

The tamale de elote didn't do it for me. Where the Guatemela Restaurant makes it from sweet white cornmeal, this is yellow and coarse and on the dry end of the tamale spectrum, a lot like cornbread. Good cornbread, and nice enough dipped in a sweetened crema, but not really my thing. My companion felt otherwise, so you make the call--just don't miss Guatemala Restaurant's version.

Everything was fresh, nicely presented, and uncompromisingly authentic; I'd expect their entrees to be of equaly high quality, so get on over there. The 4 items made a fine light lunch for two, and the total tab was less than $9. I'd go here over Ft. Lauderdale's other sit-down Salvadoran, La Molienda, in a heartbeat.

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