Cheap Eats 2007: Samantha’s

It might be set next to an auto-repair garage on a dreary strip of highway, but inside this family-run joint you’re greeted with a peppy mariachi soundtrack, tables packed with extended families, and a basket of tortilla chips with fresh salsa.

The menu is primarily a mix of Mexican (terrific carne asada) and Salvadoran (seven kinds of pupusas) cooking, but it also borrows from other Spanish-speaking countries. Masitas de puerco—cubes of pork marinated in garlic and bitter oranges, then seared until crusty—are a Havana tradition done right. Milanesa de carne—a thinly pounded, breaded steak served with rice salad and beans—transports you to a Buenos Aires cafe. From Spain comes gambas al ajillo, a gratin of shrimp sizzling in a garlicky butter sauce. It arrives with a baguette, and it’s hard not to blow your appetite swabbing up the sauce.

Entrées are so generous that they can be stretched into a day or two of leftovers.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

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 Logan Circle.