El Pike

The outside sign says "Pike Pizza," but hearty Bolivian dishes (and weekend saltenas) are the thing here.

From June 2005 Cheap Eats

It'd be easy to miss this little Bolivian dinette hidden in a strip mall. The name above the door reads pike pizza. There's a steel pizza oven in the back corner, and cardboard pizza boxes are stacked nearby. But the place hasn't served pies–not the Italian kind–for years. The ovens and to-go boxes are devoted to salteñas. These cornmeal-crusted turnovers–a staple on the streets of La Paz–look like empanadas but trickle savory, soupy fillings of olives, raisins, egg, and peas. El Pike's renditions, stuffed with shreds of chicken or beef, are delicious.

Salteñas aside, weekends are the best time to come. That's when the yellow booths are lively with Bolivian families, the kids chowing down on huminitas, a husk-wrapped cornbread, the parents noshing on spicy green-chili salsa. It's also when you'll find traditional Andean fill-ups like sopa de mani, a hearty broth loaded with peanuts, potatoes, and beef shanks, and stews of tripe and kidney.

Entrées could fill you for the whole day. The menu highlights proteins, such as thinly pounded steaks and rugged chorizo sausages, but each plate gets a heavy dose of starches. The falso conejo, a round of thin, breaded beef smothered in potent pepper sauce, hides four: rice, a boiled potato, hominy, and a rustic salad made from eggs and chunos–Andean freeze-dried potatoes. The simple lomo, a flatly pounded steak, is enhanced by a zippy marinade, buttery rice, and two runnily cooked eggs.

To drink, there's mochachinchi, a pleasant refresher made from stewing dried peaches with cinnamon and sugar, and Inca Cola, a soda that tastes somewhere between Brazilian guarana and bubble gum.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.