La fiesta cafecito
Neighbourhood: St Vital
Address: 730 St Anne’s Rd
Like many hidden gems in this restaurant city, La Fiesta Cafecito conceals its charm behind a nondescript strip mall front. In reality only a short jaunt down St Anne’s road is required to visit this outpost of El Salvador, but the warm-climate hospitality of this family-owned spot transports diners way south of the border.
Meals are comforting and filling, rich flavours balanced with flourishes of lemon, fresh corn, and sparing spiciness as bright as the yellow and green walls popping with vividly coloured artwork. Salvadoran signatures are impeccably executed, like papusas, pan fried until smoky and perfectly charred. Spicy jalapeño filling oozes gooey cheese. Flaky cassava (or yuca) is served fried or steamed under a pile of chicharrones – salty, crispy-fried shreds of pork – while tamales’ dessert-like sweetness arrives twisted in a corn husk.
Mexican influence can be spied in cheesy quesadillas and the massive burrito poderoso (that’s ‘powerful burrito’), but enchiladas here are far from Tex-Mex. Fried masa-dough rounds topped with savoury black bean purée, tomato-sauced beef, guacamole, or coleslaw, and scattered with cheese, give addictive crunch.
Offerings of fresh juice and housemade soup change daily, though if the server says the words “chipotle chicken”, don’t hesitate – rich in the way only long-simmered broth can be, the slurp-able soup is laden with shreds of chicken, rice, and bright rounds of green onion. Any juice is a safe bet, though rice-based horchata is a top notch refresher, cool and creamy with a tinge of cinnamon.
The menu calls for diner interaction, offering individual and share-able combination plates that encourage taste-testing. It only seems right at a location that fits the very definition of ‘family style’.
La Fiesta Cafecito is open Tue-Thu 4:30-9 pm, Fri-Sat 4:30-10 pm, closed Sun & Mon.