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Sept. 26, 2013

Irene’s Pupusas: Queen of Latin comfort food

by Abir Muhuri, Online Entertainment Editor
Tucked behind the Staples in Glenmont Shopping Center, a small establishment attracts a few customers for Saturday brunch. The front entrance has painted flowers on window glass and signs for Weekend Karaoke. With the latin sounds and flavors of El Salvador and Honduras, this is Irene’s Pupusas.

The Glenmont location is the third establishment of Irene’s in Maryland, including Wheaton and Hyattsville. The menu consists of typical Central American flair: small bites and hearty stew platters. To start out, a few sweet and savory corn tamales with tart sour cream will make you smile. With a remnant fragrance of the outer shell, the corn goodness can be ordered plain or filled with chicken.

Irene's Pupusas, located in Glenmont, Wheaton and Hyattsville, offers a menu filled with small and hearty stew platters. Courtesy of Yelp
Irene's Pupusas, located in Glenmont, Wheaton and Hyattsville, offers a menu filled with small and hearty stew platters.
Next up, in sync with the restaurant’s name, two types of Pupusas offer familiar flavors. Pupusas are essentially pockets of hand-made corn tortillas stuffed with beans, cheese or meat stuffing, cooked on a griddle until crisp. The cheese and bean pupusas are rich with an earthy slow-cooked flavor, even though toasted up within minutes of ordering. The "Zucchini Pupusas" are a little less impressive, with a slight blandness from the vegetable and not much help from the cheese. They can be uplifted though, with a hot table sauce called "Tapatio’s Salsa Picante." And if you’re in the mood for crunch, a fresher version of curtido (a cabbage slaw with vinegar and chilies) comes with the pupusas. The slaw has a distinct spicy after taste, and a great texture. Not overwhelmingly hot, a squeeze of lime balances the Irene’s curtido with a cool and refreshing note too.

After some small bites and occasional glimpses of the Spanish Soccer Game, it’s time to order a hearty entrée and sides. The "Pollo Guisado" is an ideal platter combination. Like your typical meat and potatoes dish, pollo guisado is a slow-cooked chicken stew with fall-of-the bone meat and big chunks of perfectly soft carrots and potatoes. To accompany the rich tomato-gravy and sautéed green peppers, some Salvadoran rice and beans are served alongside. A small salad of avocado, lettuce, red onions and lime offer a pleasing palate cleanser to the rich platter.

With sweet staff, sweet company, and a sweet family atmosphere, no way’s better to end your meal with a plate of Platanos Solos, just sweet fried plantains. Fans of any banana-flavored dessert will love Irene’s platanos, with a creamy texture and an almost caramelized outside crust. Although missing an expected crunch factor, this dessert offers a truly tropical taste of Central America.

Filled with cheerful families coming to chat or watch soccer, Irene’s is the perfect weekend getaway. The service is excellent, with menu items written in both English and Spanish. Pupusas and appetizers cost no more than $3 per order and a generous lunch/dinner entrée will run around $10. tunes and the latest Latin hits match perfectly with the festive food. Blazers, come to Irene’s for an entertaining ambience and comfort food that you’ll be sure to come back for.

Irene’s Pupusas: Salvadorian and Honduran Restaurant. Located at 12391 Georgia Avenue; Silver Spring, MD 20906. Hours: Monday to Thursday 9:30 am-12:00pm Friday and Saturday 9:30am-2:00am Sunday 9:30am-1:00am..



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