This Hole-in-the-Wall Life

Finally, a Salvadoran restaurant where pupusas aren't the focus: UN RINCÓN CENTROAMERICANO, a diner-cum-record store-cum-grocery in Garden Grove, just off the 22. Don't get me wrong: Un Rincón Centroamericano (A Central American Corner) does prepare its mother country's most famous meal, and it does a wonderful job crafting masa, salty cheese and the stuffing of your choice into gooey, crispy griddle cakes. But too many Salvadoran eateries concentrate on pupusas at the expense of their other items. Not here—indeed, you can guess their specialty based on the giant cowboy chicken holding a fried-chicken drum that greets you when entering.

But how Rincón Centroamericano advertises its delicious hen is part of one of the stranger stories in Central American cuisine. Fried chicken is popular throughout Central America and is known as pollo campero (roughly, “country chicken”), but a Guatemalan chain with a cowboy chicken logo has copyrighted the name. As a result, Salvadoran restaurants like Rincón Centroamericano that sell pollo campero usually call their fried chicken by the same name, but intentionally misspell the “campero” portion with a “k” so it reads “pollo kampero” (or maybe it's a Salvadoran thing, as the popular drink Kolashampan commits the same grammatical mistake—where's “Ask a Salvadoran!” when we need him?). Most eaters don't care about copyright law, though, so on to the flavors of Rincón Centroamericano's pirated pollo kampero: Peppery, golden skin, as crispy as a chicharrón but eminently lighter, encases juicy flesh, served with a side of thick French fries, a French roll and some cole slaw to lend tartness. The pollo kampero is available in orders of one piece or the full hen, all of it at generously cheap prices.

Un Rincón Centroamericano offers the county's biggest Salvadoran menu: in addition to the pupusas and pollo kampero, you'll find such standards as salpicón (a chilled-beef salad transformed into a radioactive heap grácias to lime juice and onions), fried bananas paired with black beans, and small meat empanadas that'll scald your taste buds if you're not careful. But the place also stocks rarities: quesadillas (not what you'd expect: it's a Salvadoran sweet bread similar to angel cake), five types of tamales, and an array of atoles (gruel) that'll warm you up if we ever experience winter again. And whatever meal you order, finish off with a charamusca: a block of flavored ice with which you can easily shatter glass, but should instead suck out of a plastic bag. Cost? One friggin' buck—go now.

Un Rincón Centroamericano, 13576 Harbor Blvd., Ste. B3, Garden Grove, (714) 537-3828.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *