I don’t like to eat off of carts because peasants usually eat off of carts and I’m no peasant! Plus, they’re very dirty… and so are the carts. But I found myself eating at one the other day and no one was more surprised than I!
Okay, it wasn’t really a “cart” per se, it was a small place with a few tables and a long counter; a restaurant, really, if that’s what you want to call it. Or, a small take out joint with some tables thrown in for good measure. Anyway, there are actual cartwheels that are used as decor around the place, and even a few pictures of donkey-drawn carts, and the name of the place is La Carreta.
I know, I know, you’re probably thinking “Well it sounds like a dump and if she doesn’t eat off of carts, why the hell would she go to a dump called The Cart?” and I was thinking the exact same thing myself! But the place really isn’t a dump at all. It’s really quite clean, albeit a little mismatched, but it does has a theme to it, which is a cart theme, if you haven’t already guessed. This place claims that they have authentic El Salvadoran cuisine and I love Comida Salvadoreña!
My friend, Kay “I ♥ Pixels”, told me about this place because I was telling her about another dump, and she mentioned this one, so I decided to go check it out. I kinda wish I didn’t though because I ended up extremely disappointed. In all fairness, even before I went there, I was already comparing it to another Salvadoran place that I used to go to in San Francisco that was so delicious, so homemade, that it’s almost impossible to beat in the yummy department! They used to hand-make tamales and wrap them in bright green banana leaves and steam them, so when you opened them up, the steam, carrying the wonderful aroma of the tamal, gently wafted up into your nostrils! The masa was creamy and succulent and the filling (usually chicken for me) had the traditional potatoes in it too, making it a double-whammy of carbohydrates! They also had this wonderfully comforting chicken soup that had big chunks of zucchini and potatoes and carrots and tender chicken thighs in this amazing chicken broth that I would slurrrp up and… hold your tamales a second, I’m getting hungry!
Okay, I’m better now.
Well, La Carreta has the same things on their menu… kind of. They have chicken soup, but it’s not what I’ve previously experienced as the traditional Sopa de Pollo El Salvadoreño. The broth wasn’t really chicken broth-ey and frankly, I couldn’t discern what it was. It also contained those tasteless little orange things I hate, called baby carrots. Hey, no carrot I know gives birth to babies, okay?! It had chunks of zucchini, potato, and some other vegetable in it that I couldn’t make out. But the kicker? There wasn’t any chicken in the chicken soup! They charcoal grill the chicken (on-the-bone breast meat in this case) and serve it on the side, and it was dry, even though it had been marinated in something (?) and it came with a scoop of stale rice.
I would have preferred getting chicken soup served to me, just like it sounds: c h i c k e n s o u p; not: chicken-soup-but-it’s-not-really-chicken-soup-because-the-Goddammned-chicken-isn’t-really-in-the-soup, soup!!
Plus, on top of all that, it cost FIFTEEN BUCKS!
It doesn’t get much better either, because I also stupidly ordered a combo plate, which included another traditional dish; a pupusa, in this case, a zucchini pupusa, and even though it was good, there was barely any zucchini in it. It also came with a tamal, which was served in a banana leaf like it’s supposed to, but it was clearly frozen beforehand and fell apart as soon as I opened it up, and finally, fried plantains, which were good, but how can you screw up fried bananas? And that dish was another eight bucks on top of the fifteen, so I was in for a whopping TWENTY THREE BUCKS! Jeez, I nearly took a crap in their cart when I got the bill! There’s nothing worse than getting something you aren’t getting… or expecting… or anticipating.
Okay, it wasn’t horrible, I ate some of it, but the whole meal was a disappointment to me, especially since cart food should be cheap! I was wondering if maybe they gave me the “White Man’s Special” and that it really wasn’t the real deal. I kept waiting for the nice girl behind the counter to walk up to me laughing, and saying that it was all a joke and that I was really on a Central American hidden-camera show.
It would go something like this:
Nice Girl Behind The Counter: Hahaha, you stupid white girl! This isn’t really traditional Salvadoran food, you know that right?
Clever Girl: Oh my gosh, you guys really got me good! I thought I was having a bad dream… and don’t call me stupid!
Nice Girl Behind The Counter: We would never serve food like that unless it came out of a cart!
Clever Girl: But, this is a cart.
I guess I should have known better since the name of the place is The Cart, and their logo is a donkey pulling a cart, but I really wanted to eat good Salvadoran food. I guess it just wasn’t in the carts…
I mean, cards.
75 South Rancho Rd.
Thousand oaks, CA