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I just don't get Salvadoran (El Guanaco)

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I just don't get Salvadoran (El Guanaco)

Mike G | Feb 13, 2003 05:01 PM

Went looking for something random in the Logan Square area with my friend Wyatt, who has been to Guatemala a few times, so when we spotted a place called El Guanaco claiming Salvadoran food somewhere around 3700 W. Diversey, well, we had to go.

My only experience with Salvadoran food has been at Las Delicias. It was okay, I can see why pupusas would be good street food, but theirs paled in the memory next to Mexican things made with freshly grilled masa at places like Los Mogotes, and nothing else I had seemed very appealing, in fact it was mostly kind of borderline icky.

To make a long story short, although El Guanaco seems a bit more professional than the very homey Las Delicias, I can't say my opinion of Salvadoran cuisine went up a great deal. The first dish to come out, fried yucca with tomato sauce on it (very similar to the patatas bravas at Iberico, say), was very promising-- the yucca was more tender and less greasy than the insanely garlicky fried yucca I've had at Irazu.

Surprisingly, most of the rest was just kind of bland. Pupusas were okay as vehicles for their contents, but they didn't have the I-can't-stop-eating-this deliciousness that freshly fried dough should have in any form, and that freshly griddled masa tortillas always have. And the chicharron one I ordered as a ringer was just too strong, or rank, with a tripe/stockyard flavor to take more than a bite of. A tamale was bland and bordered on dry. Empanadas were Cheetos-orange with grease but likewise dry and bland inside, not coming together into flaky-melty goodness like empanadas should. Cole slaw was fresher looking and tasting than Las Delicias', which had been kind of scary, but still, watery vinegar with a harsh little note of dried red pepper does not strike me as the best possible thing to dump on a bunch of cabbage.

I'm having a hard time seeing Salvadoran as something I want to put a lot more effort into trying. These were all things you could grow up eating and like just fine, I guess, but the same could be said of all kinds of pretty bland middle American food. I wouldn't encourage them to eat chicken a la king, either.

Maybe it's significant that the biggest business they seemed to be doing wasn't in Salvadoran food at all. It was in pizza.

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