Samantha’s Restaurant

The Samantha’s on the outskirts of Takoma Park at 631 East University, near Piney Branch (as opposed to the newer one right in downtown Wheaton on the corner of Georgia and University) has been a local food critic darling for many years, though it gets less attention lately.  We ate there years ago and liked but didn’t love the food, which they bill as “fine Mexican and Latin American cuisine,” all of which is true both collectively and separately.

We went back this weekend and I loved it. One of the specials, enchiladas de puerco, sucked me in, and I sucked it in: spicy chocolate-y mole, succulent pulled pork, the right amount of melted cheese, and a refried beans and rice combo that puts a lot of Tex-Mex places to shame.  One of the best enchilada platters I have ever had, including plenty in Texas. Delicious.

Surely my judgment was not at all colored by the pitcher of (pretty good) margaritas we all shared.  Others in our group tried the pollo saltado, which was deemed very good and disappeared entirely except for a mound of red onions, so maybe the ingredient balance was off a little bit.  Beef fajitas and Gallina India (“country chicken soup”) also passed the taste test, though bones and over-large vegetable chunks made the soup somewhat non-user-friendly.

Drawbacks: with most entrees in the $12 to $20 range it isn’t expensive, but isn’t as great a value as it might once have been — I’m pretty sure prices were lower five to ten years ago, though maybe I am misremembering.  It gets pretty loud, especially when you are seated next to a family with a six-month-old (I’m guessing) who screams nonstop for an hour and the parents don’t so much as walk the kid outside for a while.  Samantha’s, like most Latino restaurants, is kid-friendly, which can be both blessing and curse depending on your situation.  Even aside from that, the place was packed and quite loud.  The packed-ness also makes for difficult parking, as the lot is not nearly large enough to accomodate a full house.

Despite all that, I thought the food and service were excellent, well worth a visit.

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6 responses to “Samantha’s Restaurant

  1. I went recently too, after not having visited since probably about 2002/2003. I had a standard order – fajitas which were tasty but not mesmerizing as I recalled their dishes used to be. I will try again…but I also like Mi Rancho in Silver Spring which is priced a little lower and has a nice outdoor area in nice weather. I’d say the quality and taste is about the same, though Samantha’s offers a little bit of a variety outside the “standard.”

  2. Thanks BEI. Gotta say, I visited Mi Rancho a couple of years ago and did not like it at all, though I’m not a fajitas guy so maybe those are good there. My review is in the archives somewhere.

  3. Mi Rancho is mixed in my opinion.

    How is the Samantha’s in Wheaton? Are they related?

  4. I enjoyed my fajitas at Samantha’s, although I thought the tortillas were the one part of the meal that left me cold (they were too thick and pillowy for my taste – I like my tortillas thin, but I recognize that might be a personal preference thing). The beef was nicely cooked and seasoned and the various sides were fresh and tasty.
    Having eaten at Mi Rancho a number of times (we live nearby so its very convenient), I have to say that its fine, but not worth going out of one’s way for. I gave it 3 stars on Yelp a few years ago, but I agree with those who say it is uneven.

  5. Samantha’s in Wheaton is not at all related to Samantha’s in…Takoma? Silver Spring? Anyway. I haven’t been to the Samantha’s in Wheaton, whose decor looks kind of institutional and uninviting. But I will try to try it eventually…

  6. I’ve been to both Samantha’s and Mi Rancho quite a few times. The one in Takoma is my favorite Mexican/Salvadoran place in the immediate area, the food has pretty much always been high quality, if a little more pricey. Mi Rancho is good enough if you’re nearby, but not worth leaving Wheaton, though their fajitas are very good, mostly because they make fresh tortillas pretty much constantly. The Samantha’s in Wheaton is nothing too special, though they do offer some Vietnamese options along with the Mexican food. It does have a very “cafeteria” feel to it, though.

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