Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: La Caraqueña

Word on the street — or rather a recent rave review by Washingtonian Magazine — is that some of the best Latin American cuisine is sitting smack dab in the backyard of Falls Church City, and of all places, near a motor lodge that’s been listed in the city’s crime report for recent consecutive weeks.spotlightCMYK

Word on the street — or rather a recent rave review by Washingtonian Magazine — is that some of the best Latin American cuisine is sitting smack dab in the backyard of Falls Church City, and of all places, near a motor lodge that’s been listed in the city’s crime report for recent consecutive weeks.

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La Caraqueña in Falls Church. (Photo: News-Press)

On the contrary, ‘twas not such the risqué scene when this reporter ventured out with a growling tummy, protected safely under her bullet-proof vest of course. OK, so maybe not, but the stomach was indeed talking.

The view inside was typical of any dining spot within the vicinity of a motel — hungry tourists in Hawaiian shirts (clearly a staple while traveling to exotic places like Falls Church), a handful of locals and a fairly laid-back vibe overall.

Service was up to par, with everything moving in a timely manner for a Thursday evening, but it was time to get down to business (i.e. the rumored Arepas good enough to expand this local joint into the D.C. restaurant scene).

However, if the finale was worth the wait, there was time to warm up. This is where the Salteñas ($3.99) come in as the perfect palette starter. Compared eloquently by my guest to a “pot pie,” this Bolivian empanada is instead its lighter, flaky-crusted counterpart. One turnover comes stuffed with a stewed concoction of vegetables, eggs, chicken and beef. However, with this only being one serving, two diners may each want their own.

Sopa de Maní ($5.99 small, $7.49 large) is another appetizing dinner intro. A bit of a curveball when it comes to predictable soup flavors, this creamy, peanut-flavored soup is another Latin American favorite. The chunks of beef and rice make it reminiscent of an American gumbo, but the parsley and potatoes successfully set this Bolivian-style soup apart from its assumed stars-and-stripes cousin.

And who can forget the whole reason for the local restaurant’s recent kudos — La Caraqueña’s Arepas (starting at $2.49), which are made to order grilled or fried. Some say the bread’s corn flavor comes out when it’s fried, but the waiter recommended the Dominó Arepa in particular be grilled ($6.99).

A can’t-go-wrong choice for vegetarians, this one came piled high with black beans and shredded cheese. At first sight, customers may be left wondering if this is some sort of English muffin, but they should just let their taste buds do the talking. The simplicity of this flattened cornbread patty, which seems to complement just about anything, makes the menu possibilities endless.

Arepa choices include options ranging from the staple Ham & Cheese to the Perico, packed with scrambled eggs, diced tomatoes, onions and bell peppers. Owner and head chef, 27-year-old Raúl Claros said eggs aren’t just for breakfast in Latin America and are often incorporated into dishes throughout the day. The Diputado ($9.49), a Chilean sandwich, comes with sirloin steak slices, onions and tomatoes, all atop a fried egg.

With additional seating underneath umbrella-topped patio tables also available, La Caraqueña is bound to become a summer hotspot for outdoor dining. Although there currently aren’t any happy hour specials to guzzle under the sun, Claros says he hopes that will change close to the end of July, once his new plans are in full swing — and that includes the addition of salsa lessons inside the restaurant.

To that, I say ¡Olé!

 

La Caraqueña

300 West Broad St., Falls Church, VA • 703-533-0076 • lacaraquena.com

Hours:

Monday, Wednesday – Friday, noon. – 10 p.m. (Closed Tuesdays)

Saturday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.