Went to Izalco last night (a Salvadoran restaurant at corner of Lawrence & Clark) for the first time. We were 4 people total and had the place to ourselves.
Izalco is a pretty big space. It's split into three rooms. The room you walk into from the outside is sparse, has the feel of a cafeteria almost they seemed to be doing a decent if slow take-out business out of that room, though there were some barebones tables available for dining in.
The third room (farthest west) seems to be under construction, judging from the power tools being used in there throughout our meal anyway.
The second room, where we ate, also has the feel of a cafeteria, but is a bit brighter, and had some spanish-language television going. Every once in a while, a song would come on over the restaurant's speakers. The music was all over the place. A Spanish-language salsa song would come on, and then no music for a while. 15 minutes later a Billy Joel song.
It's not a pretty setting, by any means, and is even a bit industrial. Personally, I think the plain setting, television and random music actually created a fair amount of charm. But others may not go for that aesthetic. The construction I could have done without. I forgot to ask when they expected the third room to be completed though.
The menu seemed to be split into two basic halves. For lack of a better term, the left side featured a la carte items like pupusas, tamales, and empanadas (there were also various combinations available), while the right featured entrees like a grilled chicken plate, etc.
My wife and I split a combination plate consisting of our choice of 2 pupusas (we opted for the corn-based pupusas over the rice-based ones and had a cheese one, as well as a chicken w/ beans and cheese one), yellow rice w/ refried pinto beans, a (what seemed to be) chickpea empanada , a chicken tamale, some fried pork bits (chicharron?) atop a bed of coleslaw and yuca, and two long plantains (I'm not sure if these are the same as what Zim wrote about a few weeks ago I don't recall noticing any black beans in them, and they were very long strips of plantains, not really fritters; if these were not what Ziim described, I would be very curious to go back and seem them out. What Zim described sounded delicious).
We enjoyed everything. Standouts were the pupusas, the tamale, the pork, and the plantains (though I must admit I am a plantain slut I have yet to encounter one I don't like). The rice and beans was the one weak point just standard, generic rice and refried beans. Not bad, but nothing special.
Our combination plate was $14, I think. We don't have huge appetites, but we aren't really lightweights either. Anyway, there was a lot of food. We couldn't finish it all. A good value I thought.
One of our dining companions wanted to sample their chocolate flan for dessert, but they were out. The rest of us were stuffed so we ended our meal at that point. So nothing to report on the dessert or coffee front.
Friendly and good. Of course, we were the only people in the place.
The waitress didn't speak English very well, but was kind enough not to laugh at my hack attempts at Spanish, and when language barriers prevented an adequate answer to our question of what lorocco is, she brought us out a small plate to sample (lorocco is a green vegetable, kind of like a green bean with a bit of an olive crossed into it, and was served with bits of egg).
Izalco is BYO, with no corkage fee. They provided a cork screw and 4 extra water glasses for our wine (they had no wine glasses).
At $1.50 a piece, I think the best bet may be to order a handful of their tasty pupusas. There was also an item on the a la carte section whose name I forget, but which seemed to be a sour cream, beans and chicken treat for a mere buck.
I haven't eaten enough Salvadoran food (or even Central American food, for that matter) to say how Izalco stacks up to others, but we live within walking distance of Izalco and it's BYO (big plus for us) with some tasty, cheap options. We plan on heading back.
Does anybody have some favorite Salvadoran spots? Or other Central American cuisines (I think there's an Ecquadorian place on either Wilson or Montrose near us that I'm curious about)?
1511 W. Lawrence Ave