Monday, January 20, 2014

La Cabaña Salvadoreña: Remembering Washington D.C. in Washington Heights!

By Benjamin Ramos Rosado,

Isn’t it amazing how food can transport you back in time? I think it’s incredible how the sight, smell and taste of a meal can evoke nostalgia and sentimentality. That’s exactly how I feel every time I eat a pupusa (pronounced pooh-pooh-sah). From the first bite, I’m instantly taken back to my younger carefree college days in Washington D.C. The power of pupusas cannot be denied, especially the amazing ones prepared at La Cabaña Salvadoreña.

When I was 18 years old, I moved to Washington D.C. to attend American University. Being resourceful, I reached out to a group of contacts some friends of mine advised me to call once I arrived in D.C. These contacts-who became my friends- introduced me to D.C.’s Salvadoran/Central American neighborhoods: Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights.

I volunteered, worked and interned for many of the local nonprofit organizations in the neighborhoods, so naturally, I ate there a lot-a whole lot. It was over countless lunches and dinners with friends and co-workers that I learned about Salvadoran culture and fell in love with the cuisine.

On weekends, I volunteered at the Latino senior center in Adams Morgan and was fortunate enough to have a few Salvadoran abuelitas (grandmas) who prepared homemade pupusas and tamales for me. They knew I was far from home and needed some home spun TLC. Those delicious homemade treats got me through many “all nighters” and spared me the horrible cafeteria food.  I loved those abuelitas! I will always miss them and appreciate their kindness.

Every time I go to La Cabaña Salvadoreña (in Washington Heights), I fondly remember those sweet smelling eateries, the hours-long meals with friends, and my amazing abuelitas. It’s the nostalgia and excellent food that keep me going back.

La Cabaña is a small restaurant with a take out counter and 11 dining tables. The decor is minimal and the walls are lined with mirrors, the classic design tactic to make a space seem bigger. The atmosphere is relaxed and causal; like most mom-and-pop places it’s a great place to have a relaxed meal with friends.  Recently, La Cabaña added the storefront next door and opened a small bar with additional dinner seating.

La Cabaña’s wait staff is attentive and friendly. I’ve always been greeted with a welcoming disposition and a smile. The waitresses at La Cabaña remind me of the wait staff I encountered in Adams Morgan; many of those young ladies had recently immigrated to the U.S. and were struggling single mothers. I always appreciated their service, conversation and the awesome gossip they had on everyone!

La Cabaña’s menu is divided into 8 sections, you can review it at Menu Pages: 

The last time I visited La Cabaña, I decided to forego my carb controlled diet and had a good old-fashioned pig out. I opened the menu to the Platos Salvadoreños section and ordered a tamal de pollo (chicken) and elote (sweet corn), platanos maduros con crema (fried ripe plantains with sour cream), and a pupusa de pollo.

Probably the most popular Salvadoran dish, pupusas are flat cornmeal tortillas that are filled with meat, cheese or beans. My pupusa was served with curtido, a Salvadoran relish made with shredded cabbage and carrots that are fermented in salt and vinegar. The pupusa was wonderful; the outside was sweet and crispy, yet soft inside with a delicious ground chicken stuffing. Paired with the crunchy and briny curtido, the dish was an excellent combination of differing textures and flavors. 

The tamales de pollo and elote were also wonderful. The tamal de pollo’s dough was warm, sweet, and moist; the chicken inside was delicious. It was served with a side of hot tomato sauce, which added a wonderful hint of acid to the dish.

The Tamal de elote’s dough was thicker and tasted like sweet corn bread. It was paired with a small helping of sour cream that added a burst of tangy flavor to balance the sweetness of the elote.


The platanos maduros con crema was amazing. To some, it may seem gross to eat warm fried sweet plantains dipped in cold sour cream, but it’s surprisingly delicious. It’s odd, but you have to try it for yourself. The flavors-sweet and tangy-coupled with the opposing temperatures makes this dish awesome.  I encourage you to put away whatever doubts you may have and give it a chance.


Despite my pig out, I was still hungry, so I ordered a large Sopa de Res (Beef Soup). It featured small cuts of spare rib, carrot slices, pieces of corn on the cob, chopped cilantro, onions, and chayote-a type of gourd from Latin America, with a subtle flavor, reminiscent of squash.

The cuts of spare rib were soft and well seasoned. The simple beef broth was light and savory; it balanced the sweetness of the carrots and corn perfectly. The cilantro and onions were crunchy and added an excellent hint of flavor to the soup. 

They say, “you can never go home again”…but you can reminisce. La Cabaña isn’t exactly like my old haunts in D.C. (most of which have shut down), but the delicious food reminds me of a fun and adventurous time in my life. I may not be able to go back to those good old times, but the new memories I make at La Cabana with friends, family and my partner are just as good. I hope you go to La Cabaña and make some amazing memories of your own. Go taste for yourself! ¡Buen provecho! 

La Cabaña Salvadoreña

4384 Broadway

New York, N.Y.


HOURS: Mon.-Thurs. 10:30am-10pm Fri.-Sun. 10am-11:30pm 

ATMOSPHERE: Causal and relaxed. 

SERVICE: Excellent. 

SOUND LEVEL: Conversational. 


RECOMMENDED DISHES: Pupusas, Tamales, Meat Section, and Soups. 

BEVERAGES and PRICE RANGE: See the menu link:

 La Cabaña Salvadoreña on Urbanspoon

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