The Chicken Place might be enough Peru comida for mere mortals in a single weekend, but not for us: we went for back-to-back weekend Peruvian lunches, switching on Sunday to El Pulgarcito de Callao (11333 Elkin), which essentially means “A little piece of Callao” (Callao being Peru’s largest port city). Pulga means flea — I once lived just off Avenida de las Pulgas in the Bay Area, so I am totally down with the little buggers. We saw no fleas on Sunday.
EPDC is more of a dive than The Chicken Place: mostly bare, bright yellow walls, formica tables, only about 1/4 the square footage, and it was not crowded. Television showing Latino music videos, volume was loud — which worked out okay, because it kept the five-year-old entertained while the adults chatted through lunch.
We brought a genuine Peruvian with us this time, and he thought the food was mediocre. EPDC includes menu items from Salvador and Mexico, trying to cater to a broader local population. Oddly, the pupusas (Salvadoran) were the best thing going, crisp outside but light and fluffy, good flavor, oozing cheese; quality was just about as good as Antipuqueño (reviewed here). A happy start, but the ceviche was only so-so, although I liked it better than our Peruvian did. Lomo saltado was fine. Tacu tacu con pescado — fried fish on an enormous bed of red beans and rice, far more than I could eat — was okay, a little bland, though the accompanying salad was good. Who knew the Peruvians were so good at salads? On the other hand, “tacu tacu” is a lot of fun to say.
Also fun to say: salchiapapas! A delicious portmanteau of fried hot dog slices mixed with french fries, proving once again that two fried things taste better than one. The boy seemed to like them, anyway. I was also introduced to chicha morada, a non-carbonated, non-alcoholic, preservative-free beverage made of purple corn. Hard to describe the taste. Slightly corny Kool-Aid? Not something I would drink a lot, but fun to try.
I had to try it, because EPDC was out of Diet Coke, and they don’t do pisco sours. Between the drinks and the equivalent pricing and the difference in quality, The Chicken Place was the clear winner. But after lunch we crossed the street to the Latino Mercado, where we were informed by the proprietor that nobody goes to EPDC for the food, but only for drinking (beer I guess, since they have no liquor) — he said the best Peruvian food around is a few storefronts down at Cabanita (11305 Elkin). We peered in the windows on our way home and Cabanita does look quaint inside — more like true Peru, said the Peruvian — although it looks like almost an empty, deserted storefront if you just glance at it quickly. So many Wheaton dives, so little time. Cabanita is on the list for future visits, as is a return to The Chicken Place. And I think that is enough Peru for a while.