Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: La Caraqueña

You’ve heard the buzz from people who are not me about how La Caraqueña is great. The restaurant was recently featured on the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” even though it’s too classy to be a traditional “diner,” way too classy to be a dive, and lacks the ability to serve customers in their cars.

 

IMG_0986You’ve heard the buzz from people who are not me about how La Caraqueña is great. The restaurant was recently featured on the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” even though it’s too classy to be a traditional “diner,” way too classy to be a dive, and lacks the ability to serve customers in their cars. I don’t have cable, so I was unable to watch the episode that (hopefully) showed the glorious side of Falls Church to the nation, but if any negative words were said about this place by “Diners” host and hair-chemical dump Guy Fieri, he and I will have fisticuffs.

Located in the Stratford Motor Lodge, the interior is tiny and dimly lit, with only a few slightly-cramped booths and tiny tables available. Any seats you get will inevitably be near the kitchen or the bathrooms, although not in a way that will negatively impact your dining experience. I was a little put-off by the posters and other advertisements for the Food Network, but I suppose they’re required to give some advertising to the network that is giving them free publicity. Because of the new-found fame that is sure to follow, reservations would probably be a good idea if you’re planning to get a table at any point in the near or distant future.

Specializing in Latin American cuisine, chef and owner Raul Claros delivers succulent and affordable high-end delicacies to those in desperate need of them, which in this case is everyone. After noticing that their drinks menu included Xingu, a Brazilian black beer that is regarded by experts as one of the greatest alcoholic beverages ever, I knew that I was in the domain of a professional and would offer more respect than usual, not that I was going to be flippant with my father and grandparents in tow.

The journey began with some empanadas salteñas, turnovers filled with beef, chicken, onions, potatoes and various vegetables. Although the juice that squirted out when I first put a fork in it was almost boiling hot, the dish itself was perfectly crispy and not excessively hot after a minute or two. My dad claims that it took him right back to high school in Panama, where slightly larger versions of this exact dish could serve as a lunch.

The Pabellón Criollo, a sumptuous Venezuelan dish consisting of pulled beef, rice, black beans and perfect plantains was presented with each part of the dish separated as if they were each part of a flag that should be raised high and saluted. I personally wished that the beef were a tad spicier, but the green pepper sauce served with the empanadas helped out perfectly.

If you get nothing else, get the Pollo a la Plancha. This work of avian art, topped off with lemon caper sauce and a side of incredible mashed potatoes and broccoli that my grandfather and I agreed was “perfect,” is simply too good to pass it up. If you pass this up and I find out about it, you will be judged. Harshly.

The lemon caper sauce, used sparingly on the chicken, was emphasized more on the grilled tilapia, which created a great butter/fishy combo for my already tantalized taste buds. Tilapia is a difficult fish to screw up, but it’s also a difficult fish to make incredible. Whatever secret Claros has, he’d better get it to the patent office yesterday.

I’ve already said too much. Go here while you still have the chance.

La Caraqueña is located at 300 W. Broad St. For more information, call 703-533-0076 or visit lacaraquena.com.

Hours:
Monday, Wednesday – Friday: 12 – 2:30 p.m., 5:30 – 10 p.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., 5:30.– 10 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., 5:30.– 9 p.m.
Closed Tuesday