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Samantha's, Charming Little Salvadoran and Pan-Latino Mom-n-Pop on University Boulevard in Silver Spring


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Last weekend, after a truly frustrating afternoon at Lowes, we finally got around to checking out Samantha's (according to the Post's website, it does have the apostrophe). We found it only by memory and luck ("I think it's on University").

It has a nice casual, family-friendly vibe. We were starving, and demolished the salsa and chips. The salsa was pretty good-- it's thicker than most (not too drippy or runny). We started with the chicken tamales (billed as a Salvadoran "treat") and the ceviche. I thought the chicken in the tamales was a bit dry, but I think almost all chicken is dry (except at Palena Cafe). Nonetheless, the tamales had a great cornmeal flavor to them, and had garbanzo beans and mushrooms, and we really liked them. This was certainly not a mass-produced glob of cornmeal, as tamales can be. The fish ceviche was also excellent. It reminded us that we need to get back to Costa Verde for their huge ceviche appetizers....

For entrees, I had the mariscos saltado, which was shrimp and scallops, assorted vegetables and onions in a "peruvian" broth. I didn't think it all came together that well (I am kind of picky about veggies and I didn't realize the dish would be predominately veggies so it was my own fault), but the sauce was nice. My husband had a dish that was chicken stuffed with peppers, mushrooms and spinach, which was recommended by the server. He was quite pleased with his dish-- everything was very fresh and flavorful.

For the price point (low teens for entrees) and the authentic cuisine, we would definitely return.

[edited to add a detail that I had forgotten]

Edited by DonRocks
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Due to the wonders of United's frequent diner's program, I became aware that Marakesh de Paris became Azucar.  If you have a hankering for meat and you are north of Randolph Road, this spot is worth a stop.

Good salsa is served with ok chips.  The menu has a lot of the typical Salvadorean Tex Mex mix that drives me crazy at most "mexican" restaurants in my part of MoCo.  But they also offer a Parillada Argentinian and some pretty darn good meat dishes.  Tonight Kay had the 10oz Skirt Steak Carne Asada and I had the Lengua.  The tongue was amazing in its texture (tender without being soft or mushy), more al dente.  Unfortunately is was in a bowl of gravy.  So I pulled out the slices (about 8 of them) and enjoyed the meat with the excellent black beans and a little rice.  Kay's skirt steak was tasty.  At first it didn't look like 10 oz but it was a pretty good size piece o meat.  With two shots of Sauza Hornitos, a frozen margarita it all came to about $45.  Not worth a long drive, but very nice indeed!  Plus I get a bunch of miles!!!

If you liked Azucar, try Samantha's on University Ave. in Silver Spring, near the intersection of Piney Branch Rd. Azucar has the same menu, but Samantha's is the original. My wife and I are Samantha's diehards, having eaten scores of meals there in the past few years. We like to go on weekends, when there is a menu of specials, including chucks of tenderloin with a wonderful sauce and a spicy green side salsa that only makes an appearance every few weeks--an amazing dish, always worth the drive if it's on the menu. I sometimes call ahead to see if it's on the menu and if it is, we're on our way....

I'd guess theat Azucar has the same specials as Samantha's, as well.

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If you liked Azucar, try Samantha's on University Ave. in Silver Spring, near the intersection  of Piney Branch Rd.  Azucar has the same menu, but Samantha's is the original.  My wife and I are Samantha's diehards, having eaten scores of meals there in the past few years.  We like to go on weekends, when there is a menu of specials, including chucks of tenderloin with a wonderful sauce and a spicy green side salsa that only makes an appearance every few weeks--an amazing dish, always worth the drive if it's on the menu.  I sometimes call ahead to see if it's on the menu and if it is, we're on our way....

I'd guess theat Azucar has the same specials as Samantha's, as well.

Is Azucar a clone of Samantha's, under the same ownership etc.? (If so, there's no need to drive out there since, for me at least, Samantha's is closer anyway)

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Is Azucar a clone of Samantha's, under the same ownership etc.? (If so, there's no need to drive out there since, for me at least, Samantha's is closer anyway)

Yes, same ownership. Like you, I live much closer to Samantha's, so I haven't tried Azucar, but I did stop in there when they were preparing to open and the owner showed me the menu. It appeared to be exactly the same menu. People I've spoken with who have tried Azucar say that the food is very similar.....and very good.

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I've been to Samantha's a few times in the past month or so for lunch and had chile rellenos (sp?) with cheese or with beef. Nice pulled beef, very moist. Also had their tamale and enchilada lunch special. They have a seafood soup on the lunch menu I mean to try soon.

I probably don't have time at lunch to choose from the dinner menu, but it sure looks good! It's in and out quickly for lunch! They're quick.

They seem to like it that I order a maranon or a tamarindo.

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Samantha's also has some pretty excellent pupusas. Ceviche is always incredible and a very good value for how much you get. Nicer "contemporary Latin" restaurants serve half the portion and charge $3 or $4 more than Samantha's.

The neighborhood's slightly sketchy, but it goes with the territory in finding unexpected hole-in-the-wall type places like Samantha's.

One odd little gripe, though. I wish they'd make the bar a little more friendly to sit at. They use it more like a server work station with wine bottles all lined up on the edge of the bar, weird little signs posted everywhere. That's my only complaint because I go there to eat alone sometimes and I prefer the bar when I do that.

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i like samantha's and look forward to going back soon.

went about a month ago and got a prok dish with a burnt orange sauce that was tender and tasty.

the tres leches cake was also great. portions are big, so go with a group. and order some of the items like pupusas and chile relanos a la carte. they are a steal at 2 or 3 bucks.

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i went about a month ago and got a prok* dish with a burnt orange sauce that was tender and tasty.

Mmmm. I love prok* dishes! I went there for the first time a couple of months ago and loved it. Pupusas with the slaw where simply delish, and I was jamming on this yucca-y beef dish. I wish I had taken better mental notes, but too much time has passed. I'm looking forward to going again.

*our secret :)

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fried breaded jumbo jalapenos stuffed with chicken were good, although some of the poultry still thought it was in the refrigerator. crab enchiladas and marsitas de puerco also measured up fairly well, although the pork had not yet quite reached the carmelized and crispy stage and, while tender, was not falling apart. after the tres leches you won't be able to eat a thing for quite a while, and it will put you in the mood for fraternizing with the locals in one of the many nearby parking lots (which probably won't go over very well). this is a friendly restaurant in an interesting neighborhood that feels worlds away from where you came from. as for the food, it reminds me of la plaza on columbia road or lauriol plaza years ago when their popularity was first building and there was a rationale for it.

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Went to Samantha's this Saturday and had a very nice meal. It was pretty crowded and loud so if you are sensitive to having your seat bumped as people pass you might want to go in the off hours. We did get a table, within 5 minutes after arriving at 7. Personally I liked it loud and crowded and I enjoyed the family atmosphere. We had a good time making faces at the baby next to us and then had a nice talk with the parents after they realized she had been staring at us. I like the nice homey family atmosphere. I feel like this is as close as I am going to get to the atmosphere from a neighborhood restaurant in Brooklyn circa 1960 where everyone knew everyone and their 1st second and third cousins. You know, the kind of place where you walk in and they ask how your uncle jackie is doing and if you are rude to the waiter you would get a call from your angry mother that night. That may sound strange but you always see those types of places in the movies but I have never been anywhere that had that vibe. Samantha's is probably about as close as I have come.

The food was good also. We had the deluxe ceviche which was solid and had a nice bold flavor for an appetizer. I had the Carne asada, good medium rare and surprisingly tender and Beth had a trout special which was decent although she didn't care much for the cream sauce it came in. I liked it just fine but it was a bit heavier than she was expecting I think. Tres leches was fantastic. With a pitcher of margaritas (little too sour mixy for my tastes) and two espressos the bill came to around $75. Not too shabby.

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I heard about this place yesterday so of course I dragged a friend there for lunch today. Friendly, efficient service. Above average but unspectacular chips and salsa. I ordered Lomo Saltado. I hadn't really read anything about it but it sounded goo although 15 bucks for lunch is a bit much. But oh my, what a dish. The steak, tender and perfectly medium rare. A pile of fries, peas, peppers, onions, and tomatoes, and the whole thing smothered in a sauce whose flavors I won't try to pick out but will call outstanding. Almost a spicy gravy, and everything was smothered in it before I took bites: fries, rice, beans, stuff off my friends plate, my fingers--everything.

My companion got a combo beef enchilada and tamale plate. The tamales say they are homemade on the menu, and I thought it was outstanding. She doesn't much like tamales but liked this one. The enchilada had hunks of beef, not ground, and the enchilada sauce was very nice.

All in all, this place was great. I wish I had read this thread though, because Azucar is much closer to my office, so I will try there next. Oh and last thing--if you ask for hot sauce your choices are tabasco or habenero. I got the latter and I think it was just habs, oil, and a little spice muddled together. Pretty damn hot.

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It's been awhile, but I went there again today.  I went for the Chili Relleno and enchilada combo plate, and added a pupusa.  The pupusas here are massive, which I didn't know, so I am typing in a food coma.  Perfectly crisped on the griddle and the star of the show.  Our table tried several varieties and all received oohs and ahhs.  The Mexican lunch specials were all very good, and the carne asada was given a rave by the guy who ate it.

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It's been awhile, but I went there again today.  I went for the Chili Relleno and enchilada combo plate, and added a pupusa.  The pupusas here are massive, which I didn't know, so I am typing in a food coma.  Perfectly crisped on the griddle and the star of the show.  Our table tried several varieties and all received oohs and ahhs.  The Mexican lunch specials were all very good, and the carne asada was given a rave by the guy who ate it.

It's been awhile for me, too, but I don't think I've ever had a bad meal here - I've been maybe five times in my life, and I think it's the Layalina of Langley Park. What do others think?

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Really like this place, but hate trying to park. We've gone a couple times and given up on parking in their lot, sometimes unable to even pull in. With little kids, we're not going to park down the street and walk over. That's a pretty busy street.

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Probably the best of the Sal-Mex places in the neighborhood. Really solid food. I agree with dinoue on the parking hassles.

Joe, since you live nearby, would you call that strip of University Blvd. Silver Spring, Takoma Park, or Langley Park? Since I grew up in White Oak, I'd take 29 to downtown Silver Spring (Giffords!), 650 to Langley Park (Kiddieland, and I *cannot* believe I remember that pump train thing after not having thought about it in 45 years!), and rarely ever needed to cut over on 193, so I just never became all that familiar with it - it certainly is fertile ground for inexpensive Central American.

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Langley Park.

Joe, since you live nearby, would you call that strip of University Blvd. Silver Spring, Takoma Park, or Langley Park? Since I grew up in White Oak, I'd take 29 to downtown Silver Spring (Giffords!), 650 to Langley Park (Kiddieland, and I *cannot* believe I remember that pump train thing after not having thought about it in 45 years!), and rarely ever needed to cut over on 193, so I just never became all that familiar with it - it certainly is fertile ground for inexpensive Central American.

Google maps says that it's Silver Spring and that Langley Park stops at University east of Carroll. Culturally and psychologically, I'd call it the western edge of Langley Park and put the fuzzy boundary at the corner of University and Piney Branch (also to include the businesses and apartments down Piney Branch to Sligo Creek)

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It's clearly in Silver Spring (north of both Carroll and Piney Branch). If anything, it's closer to the boundary of what's considered Takoma Park (MD) than Langley Park - since it's also west of University (though right on the street). Langley Park is exclusively in Prince George's County.

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