Monday, November 10, 2014

Sampling Salvadoran Food in Santa Maria

Las Comadres
202 W. Main St.
Santa Maria, CA 93458

I have one rule when we are on vacation. I never want to eat at a restaurant that I could eat at when I am at home. That's why you won't see me going to Cheesecake Factory in Boston, scarfing down chicken strips in Times Square at Friday's, or when I'm in Vegas, eating at Javier's. Okay, I don't eat at Javier's here either, but that's just because it's not good. Anyways, the point is that we look for places where the locals eat. These seem to be the best places, and that's what we were hoping for when we went to Las Comadres in Santa Maria.

Las Comadres is a restaurant that hit all of our key points.  It's a Salvadoran restaurant that seemed to get real good reviews on Yelp, it's something that we haven't had at home, and as an added bonus, it was just right down the street from our hotel. How could we not eat here? I did a quick check of Salvadorian restaurants in OC, and Yelp gave me 16 to try, so if we liked the food here at Las Comadres, then we might have to check some of those restaurants out.

After freshening up after our long car ride, we made it to Las Comadres at about 7pm on a Friday night. Not exactly in the most happening part of town, we were welcomed by their neon sign assuring us that they were open. There were a few TVs turned to some novellas, a few soccer jerseys hanging on the brightly colored walls, and some maps of El Salvador thrown in for decor. That's about it for ambiance. This is a no frills kind of place, where you seat yourself, and then they bring you a menu.

If you are expecting some Mexican cuisine to be hidden on this menu, you might as well keep driving. Salvadoran tamales, yuca frita, and probably the most notable dish from this Central American country, pupusas rule the roost here. The menu might seem a little adventurous, but we were pretty excited to finally try this cuisine. We asked a few questions of our very friendly waitress, and waited for our food to make its way out to us.

I guess I spent all this time telling you this isn't like a Mexican restaurant, and then they place Chips and Salsa in front of us. Okay, there's a tiny bit of crossover here. These were some pretty sturdy tortilla chips, which were almost on the verge of being overcooked. The salsa was on the watery side, but I liked the large pieces of onion in there. This salsa had a big tomato flavor, but hit you with a good amount of spice near the end. I had a meal coming my way, but it was hard to resist this salsa.

Whenever it's unlikely we will be back to a restaurant again, I always gravitate towards combination plates, and Katie must have picked this up from me, as she selected Combo #4  which includes 2 Pupusas, a Tamal, Yuca Frita, Beans and Rice ($12.99). She chose to have one of her pupusas filled with just cheese, and the other to have cheese and squash. The cheese they use in these was a Salvadoran soft cheese called quesillo. Katie was really excited by these pupusas. The squash was really fresh, and the cheese was not crazy heavy. The outer corn portion of the pupusa was a great vessel for the insides. The rest of the plate was pretty good as well. The yuca frita was probably the best version I have had. Fried perfectly, very crisp, and not greasy, it was made even better when dipped in the beans. If I had to pick a weak spot here, it would have to be the rice, which was a little on the bland side. Katie left here very happy though.

Not the most beautifully plated dish, I went with a combo as well. The #1 Combo included 2 Pupusas, 1 Chicken Tamal, and half a Plantain ($8.59). I enjoyed my food as well. I had pork, cheese, and beans in my pupusas, which is also known as the Revueltas pupusa. The pupusas are not filled to the brim here, but they will fill you up. The tamal is not like the Mexican versions I have had. These are very moist, not overly stuffed with chicken, and they have a lightness about them. I've never really been a fan of plantain, but this one was one of the best I have had. Not sure what they did to this, but if more plantains tasted like this, I'd order them way more than I do. A very solid plate of food.

It's safe to say that the food at Las Comadres piqued my interest in Salvadorian food. I've already got a place bookmarked that is near my house. As for Las Comadres, this is a no frills place serving up some delicious Central American cuisine. If you come here with an open mind, and not expecting Mexican food, you will definitely leave here happy. The service we experienced on this night was very pleasant. Glad we shied away from the norm, and went with something that was a bit out of our comfort zone. A real hidden gem in Santa Maria.

Out of five video games, (because before his name was famous for being on a video game, John Madden was head coach of Santa Maria's Allan Hancock College's football team), five being best to zero being worst, Las Comadres gets 3.5 video games.

Las Comadres does not have a website, but you can find more information about them on their Yelp page here:

Las Comadres Salvadorean on Urbanspoon

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