I drive by this place frequently, every time thinking I should give it a shot. I finally got around to it and am kicking myself for not doing so sooner.
This place is small, no more than 4 or 5 tables. Folks looked at me like I was lost. No, truly, I want to eat here! At first I was disheartened by the menu, which is populated with typical Mexican/Salvadoran fare that you'll see in any number of places through out DC, none of which is particularly adventurous. Then I noticed the white board. That's where the real food is listed.
I ordered a pork pupusa, beef tongue taco and a chicken tamale. This is, by far, the best pupusa I have ever had: lightly crispy on the outside while the contents had a creamy consistency. The flavors worked well with the slaw and salsa to make the sum of the whole greater than the parts. This alone was worth the trip.
When I mention tongue tacos to most people, they recoil in horror. They should not. There's nothing funky in the taste like, say, liver. It's just a lean piece of beef. And this taco is an excellent example of what can be done. With the pico de gallo and a squeeze of lime, I was in heaven. Yet again, this alone was worth the trip.
As for the tamale, I admit to some trepidation. It is really hard to find a well made tamale. Cerrito's does theirs well. The filing was more than just the single note of chicken, it included chunks of potato and green beans. One was just enough, any more and I would have been filled to bursting.
I will definitely make a return visit, and so should you. They are on Rt. 50, about 4 miles west of the intersection with Rt. 28.
Cerrito's Pupuseria 43137 John Mosby Hwy Chantilly, VA 20152 (703) 327-0052
Let's just get this out of the way right now: I love Meatpaper! I've been a subscriber since the beginning and read every issue cover to cover. The latest edition is another example of high quality writing and excellent photography.
There are a few articles here that really made me think. In particular, I enjoyed Heather Smith's discussion in A Modest Proposal: A Selective History of Telling People What to Eat. This delves into the essence of Don't Yuck My Yum: How meat eaters and vegetarians feel threatened by each other. Her article on hot dogs is also worth a read.
Meatpaper is not just about the consumption of meat, but rather fleischgeist:
Fleisch•geist (flish'gist') n. From the German, Fleisch “meat” + Geist “spirit.” Spirit of the meat. From Zeitgeist, “spirit of the times.”
This spirit includes articles on how bulls are enticed into participating in artificial insemination, hunting with eskimos and taxidermy. This issue misses the perfect mark for the article on the shock value of certain food TV shows. I feel the author really stretches to make the facts fit the theory. Oh, and my usual complaint about Meatpaper: It's too short!
As usual, this is a well crafted publication that is artfully assembled. Given the wide range of styles, this could easily have been garish and jarring. But they pull it off well. My only complaint is the lack of captions on nearly all photos. Sure, I can infer meaning from the accompanying copy, but I'd like some specifics.
Food Porn: 18/20
There is always some seriously good photos in this magazine, but this issue does not have as many good money shots. About the only one is on the end papers. Mmmm, pancetta. The carving up of the whale blubber kind of killed my appetite, though.
No recipes, but that's OK. Meatpaper isn't a cooking magazine.
While running errands in the Chantilly area, I was overwhelmed with hunger. Lunch time! I happened to be driving by Dave's Seafood and Subs. Normally, I would not have chosen this place. It's a generic store front in a generic strip mall with nothing beyond the word "seafood" to grab my attention. However, a workmate of my wife's recommended it.
My first impression was, "Yup, inside looks just like what you'd expect from the outside. I was a little worried that I was the only one there, despite it being a little after noon (there was a steady stream of patrons after my arrival, though). This was assuaged by the aroma of freshly fried fish. MUST EAT NOW!
I focused solely on the seafood, ignoring the subs options. I order the fish sampler which included 3 pieces of fried fish (catfish, tilapia and, I believe, haddock) and 2 sides (I selected onion rings and potato salad). The wait was long enough to tell me that my order was made fresh. I was not disappointed.
Three large pieces of fish come out piping hot with a cornmeal coating strong enough that I could eat this by hand (calluses come in handy to insulate you from the heat). Delicious! It did not even need the tarter sauce it came with, though it was equally good with that and the ketchup / hot-sauce combo I usually mix up when anything fried is on the plate. The potato salad is as I like it: no big chucks, almost puréed with a mustardy dressing. The onion rings were nothing to write home about, just your generic Sysco supplied side dish.
My only complaint is that this is too much of a good thing. I could only eat half, and I was stuffing myself. This combo could easily be split between 2 people, maybe even 3. I say this is a problem because you need to eat fried fish (well any fried foods) quickly as the quality decline accelerates with time. My last few bites were still OK, but it was clear that this wouldn't make for good leftovers.
I will make a return visit with the family.
Revisiting Dave's Seafood & Subs
I find that with many new places we go to, the second visit is never as good as the first. Sometimes after raving about a place, my return trip leads me to wonder what in the heck I was thinking. (See my piece on the Curse of the Second Visit.) Not so with Dave's. This time I went with the whole family.
We ordered the 3 fish sampler again. The catfish was everyone's favorite, followed by the trout. The whiting was OK. The fried oysters, at first, had me worried. They looked over done, but were actually well cooked, meaty and just a degree below scalding. Perfect. The buffalo wings, too, had heft and a good combination of crispy outside and juicy meat.
Where this place excels is with their side dishes. For most places, these are just after thoughts probably bought frozen from a vendor. Dave's, however, makes their own and does it well. I will take this time to apologize for my comment in my initial review about the onion rings. I claimed they looked like typical food service fare, but, no, they are clearly home made and taste that way. I'm not sure why I thought otherwise last time. The potato salad, though, was as good this time as last. The only comment from the family was surprise at the the lack of chunks, being mostly puréed. The hush puppies were the best I've had this far north.
If you're in Chantilly and you're hungry, you could do a lot worse.
Dave's Seafood and Subs 4008 Walney Rd Chantilly, VA 20151-2986