I have passed this place hundreds of times without paying any attention to it, assuming it was just another Mexican restaurant. Located just a block west of 59 on Bissonnet, the main street-side sign is faded and only a smaller one points to the side of the strip center where the restaurant is located, across the parking lot from a Burger King. It’s a combination restaurant/sports bar, seating only 47; they are big supporters of the Dynamo. The restaurant side of the space is very plain, the bar looks well worn, but judging by what comes out of the kitchen, it is in fine shape.
The complimentary chip (!) comes with a house-special roasted tomato salsa that tastes a lot like a roasted tomato pasta sauce; it is sprinkled with a cheese that smells like Parmesan. Hey, they go real well together with a crispy corn tortilla. The salsa, which comes with many items on the menu, has virtually no heat.
They have a daily lunch special, 11-3, M-F, $5.99 including drink, with 6 combo options, all but 2 of which come with yuca frita y chicharron, curtido and salsa de tomate. I wanted to try their tamales so I got # 2, un chuchito de puerco, a snack-sized pork tamale. One on-line source says there are more than a hundred different styles of tamales served in Guatemala; Lo Nuestro serves 2 of them. The chuchito is about the size of a billiard ball, served in a corn husk, is very, very moist, and has a generous amount of chunks of pork It was very good. The yucca/casava fries are about as interesting as french fries; I’ll try to avoid them on subsequent visits. Some of the chicharrrons, deep fried cubes of pork, were awesome, with tender, moist chunks of pork goodness inside a crispy, fried exteror, but some were very tough.
I like pickly, vinegary cole slaws much better than sweet and creamy ones so I have a natural affinity for Central American curtido, their pickled slaw. Like creamy slaws they can get soft and mushy if they aren’t fresh but Lo Nuestro’s is very crisp; it has a small amount of red pepper and a little bit of heat. I liked it very much.
On a second visit I had an Enchilada Chapina for an appetizer ($1.95). Chapin is a nickname the Guatemalan people apply to themselves so this is a Guatemalan style enchilada. Much like what we would call a tostada, it is a crispy corn tortilla topped with marinated red cabbage, lettuce, finely chopped marinated beef, parsley and cheese with half a hard-boiled egg. There was also some ingredient that was either small peas (smaller than black-eyeds) or something like capers which weren’t mentioned in the menu description. Another winner – I really liked it.
Eggs seem to occupy an important part in the diet; another dish on the menu, Bandeja Chapina ($13.99) is a grilled T-bone served with frijoles negros, arroz, 2 poached eggs, plantanos fritos, queso fresco and crema while El Plato Tipico ($7.25) is basically the same with just one poached egg (and presumably a lesser or smaller steak).
The other tamale I’ve tried is labeled Tamale Centro-Americanos ($3.25) and like the chuchita comes with either pork or chicken. I presume it is their version of what an on-line source says is the most common Guatemalan tamale, tamale colorado, topped with their salsa and a dark chile sauce. Cooked in and served on a plantain leaf it is about the equivalent of 3 or 4 Tex-Mex tamales with their very good, very moist masa dough which includes some raisins and nuts. The pork version came with a large chunk of fork tender pork, about 3-3.5 oz worth I’d estimate. This comes with a hot sauce in a squeeze bottle that tastes a lot like Cholula. It’s the spiciest thing I’ve had there.
I had read that it is considered rude in Guatemala to eat more than one tamale at a time so I was surprised when the waiter asked if I wanted just one. It would not only be poor etiquette, it would also be foolish to try to eat more than one of these; they are very, very filling.
All of my pictures of the enchilada and tamale came out a little fuzzy but here’s the best of them:
Down the middle of the mass of masa is the piece of pork, flanked by masa dough. I thought the toast listed on the menu was a translation error but it wasn’t. I though the toast was totally superfluous.
They have about a dozen import beers - I remember Gallo (Famoso) and Regio but didn’t make a note of all the others. The decor is very plain. One sign asks for patience since your food is prepared ‘para sue ordenar.’ Another one I liked that I’ve seen in other ethnic restaurants translates basically as ‘Curb your child.’
I plan to visit this restaurant repeatedly to try other items on the menu. Garnachas, apparently the Guatemalan version of nachos, sound good, as does the pollo a la chula, grilled chicken breast smothered in cream of vegetables.