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Al Carbon, Venezuelan-Owned Central American on Park Road near Rockville Metro

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Just across from the Rockville metro station sits this little hole in the wall. I've now had a few lunches here and can give it a hearty thumbs up for real Mexican in the MoCo burbs.

The open kitchen highlights a grill and rotisserie sitting over a well stoked wood fire. You're choices are well and wisely limited to tacos, burritos, quesadillas and soup. Beef or Chicken. Throw in the rotisserie chicken and that's about it. Add the typical sides in humungous portion and away you go. Have a juice that tastes like it may actually have seen the fruit it used to belong to in the last couple of days. And be sure to grab some of the toxic orange house-made hot sauce from the little island buffet.

Not elegant or sublime, just good.


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Did you notice if they are also open evenings, or is this a lunch counter joint?

Since I happen to have snagged a take-out menu...

Mon-Sat 6AM - 10PM

Sun 8AM - 8PM

Edit to add -- maybe a half-dozen tables and about 15 chairs. It's usually me and 4 or 5 Latino guys during lunch.

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The +1 and I went there for dinner a year or two ago. They have very limited vegetarian options, so i wasn't super impressed with it. The +1 was pretty impressed. I'll agree agree it's decent food at a very good price, just limited options if you're a vegetarian.

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I had a hankering for some grilled beef with a little heat, so I braved the rainy Pike and headed down to Al Carbon for a bite. The restaurant was mostly empty—it can look virtually closed from the street because of the tinted windows and dark interior, but a woman who I presume was the owner happily took my order of tostones and carne asada.

The tostones themselves didn't disappoint, in fact they were very good, but I didn't much care for the ketchup based sauce on the side. That may be a personal preference as I don't use ketchup with anything. The carne asada was as good a version as I've had with its charred exterior and the somehow simultaneously chewy and tender texture. The wood burning grill here goes a long way towards making the flavors stand out because you'll smell that warm smokiness as soon as you walk in. The owner dropped by to let me know they had homemade flan, so I gave that a whirl as well. It was a satisfying end to my meal.

I went to the cash register to pay up and the owner asked me how I heard of the place. So I gave her the name of this website. She had never heard of it but wanted to check it out, so I wrote down the URL for her and explained that it was a place for the food-obsessed to write about their experiences (I did pay full price for my meal). She told me she wants to get the word out about their new Friday night menu where they'll have "real wine" sangria and tapas. Her philosophy seems to be to keep it simple and fresh, and I'd say she's doing a good job with the joint. She's Venezuelan, by the way.

Check it out,

Al "Carbon" Dente

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I can't believe I never commented on Al Carbon (or that nobody else has since 2008).

Yes, it is a hole in the wall with a cement floor.

Yes, when you go it is usually 4 or 5 Latino guys listening to a soccer game and me and my son.

Yes, the menu is not huge.

But . . .

Yes, the food is very good.

Yes, it is inexpensive,

Yes, the portions are large and the sides huge.

No, there is no deep fried food or long smoked food.

This is a wood fired grill place and the food reflects it.

Fantastic Carne Azada, Carne o Pollo, and grilled fish.

Very good burritos and quesadillas and even a pretty good ceviche

I have no problem going there, having a huge meal with beer and getting out of there for under $20 a person.

The fact that it is still around is testament to how good it really is.

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I neglected to write about this place as well. I don't live nearby any more, but I Love their arepas with black beans and cheese. Its been a while, but I've been many times. I may need a trip to Rockville soon.

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