El Rinconcito Cafe
1129 11th St., NW
Open Sunday to Thursday 10 AM to 11 PM; Friday and Saturday 10 AM to midnight.
Nearby Metro Stops: Mt. Vernon Square/7th St.-Convention Center, McPherson Square
Price Range: Inexpensive
Reservations: Not Needed
Special Features: Kid Friendly
Among the area's many Salva-Mex restaurants, these cafes stand out for excellent pupusas and strong spicing. As with most of the hybrid Central American menus, skip the Mexican (quesadillas, tacos, burritos) and American (subs, hamburgers) and zero in on the boquitas (appetizers) and house specialties.
In the former, you'll find corn tamales--equally good steamed and fluffy or deep-fried and crispy--and fried plantains. Among the house specialities are well-seasoned steaks that come plain or with a variety of dressings--the carne de salpicón has an eye-watering, chili-laced topping.
At the 11th Street original--little more than four tables and a bar--be prepared to recall your high-school Spanish.
Also good: Cheese and black-bean pupusas; yuca, fried and topped with pork and a vinegary slaw; carne desilada, a platter of shredded beef, avocado, rice, and beans.
Open daily for lunch and dinner.