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Atlacatl, South Arlington

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There are so many Salvadoran restaurants around town these days, that it's hard to imagine they weren't always here. But I suspect that twenty years ago, Atlacatl, which opened in 1987 on Columbia Pike, was one of only a few.

Atlacatl is known for its pupusas, and one stuffed with frijoles and queso ($1.60) was quite a bit of food for the money. Heavy, dense, and served alongside a little pot of shredded cabbage with hot chili sauce squirted on top, it's a tasty, hearty snack, and at the price, outside the scope of nitpicking.

The basket of chips was thick and boring (the chips, not the basket), served with a salsa that's more oily and peppery than it is interesting. And yet, with a mountain-sized Huevos Rancheros ($5.75), topped with three impossibly overcooked fried eggs, and littered with frozen vegetables in the rice, you break the chips, you pour the salsa, you swill a couple Coronas, you scarf it all down, and most importantly, you get change from your $20.

Atlacatl looks like a flea-bitten hole-in-the-wall from the outside, and to some degree it is, but it really has the feel of a place with pride of ownership, with all sorts of Salvadoran kitsch on the wall, and a collection of photos of the owner with his family and friends - the owner sitting around last night enjoying his restaurant with a newspaper, a few regulars popping in and out, a couple TVs playing a soccer match, and most ominiously, Digital Thunder kicking in from time to time.



(So come on everyone, I started a new thread ... how about you guys starting some too?)

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The pupusas are great, as are the fried plantains. A couple of times I've had the whole fish (I think they use trout) with lemon butter and caper sauce. Very tasty. This place is a hearty favorite, and we've never had to wait for a table.

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