The DC area is home to a lot of restaurants, and among them are hidden gems that many Washingtonians aren't unearthing. To help guide us to these potential discoveries, we've enlisted some of our city's many food players to share with us their under the radar recommendations for Eater's latest feature, Dining Confidential.
Jonathan Copeland, former chef de cuisine at Palena Café, tells us where he goes to find tacos that are crisp on the outside yet soft on the inside and why he thinks the DC area may have some of the best El Salvadorian cuisine in the country.
“One of my favorite parts of the DC area to go eat at on my days off is Wheaton, MD. Some of the best Thai food, Peruvian chicken and El Salvadorian food in the Washington, DC area is located in Wheaton. One of my go-to spots for El Salvadorian is Juanita's Kitchen, an unassuming joint in the same strip mall as El Pollo Rico and Super Chicken.
Even with the allure of that charcoal rotisserie chicken wafting my way as I pull into the strip mall I find myself repeatedly passing up those old standbys for large, nourishing bowls of sopa de res (an El Salvadorian beef soup filled with yuca and other vegetables and hunks of short rib or oxtail and served with warm corn tortillas), sweet corn tamales, pupusas and tacos. Their version of crispy tacos is especially delicious. Soft corn tortillas rolled with your choice of filling. Pan-fried so they are crisp but not crispy, and hot on the outside while still soft on the inside. They combine all the best elements of soft tacos and hard tacos into one unique delicious lunch.
We are graced with a large El Salvadorian population in Washington, DC. They are the unsung heroes of the restaurant industry here, filling our kitchens with talented cooks, runners and dishwashers. And thankfully they have introduced us to their soulful cuisine. And as someone who spent several years in New York City, we are lucky to have perhaps the best El Salvadorian food in the country. Juanita's Kitchen is a great example.”
Juanita's Kitchen [Photo: Wheaton Patch]