El Salvador surprise

This item appears on page 34 of the February 2011 issue.
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As a “country counter” avidly trying to reach my personal goal of traveling to 100 countries, I added El Salvador (number 70) to my list in January 2010. To be truthful, it had not been at the top of my list of destinations to visit, not because I didn’t want to go there but because I had not thought about going. It was almost by accident that I ended up there.

I was traveling through Honduras and Nicaragua with my travel buddies, Renee Pobjecky and Doug Bohannon. Our itinerary included several days in western Honduras. Through a series of events out of our control, we ended up with free days in our schedule, so we added nearby Guatemala to our itinerary. Once in Guatemala, we were so close to El Salvador that we couldn’t resist adding it as well.

Since visiting Guatemala and El Salvador was a spur-of-the-moment decision, my expectations for both countries were low. Boy, was I in for a pleasant surprise! What I discovered in El Salvador were vividly beautiful landscapes, broad valleys, massive volcanoes, first-class museums and gourmet food.

The highlights of our cuisine experiences occurred in the Colonia Escalón neighborhood of the capital, San Salvador. The Colonia Escalón area of San Salvador is safer and quieter than the central areas of this city of close to two million people.

Dinners in El Salvador are late, by North American standards, but early for Latin America; typically, diners are finished by 10 p.m. Our first outstanding dinner experience ended by 8:30 and we were completely satisfied customers.

We wanted to experience typical El Salvadoran food, but none of us knew exactly what that meant, so we opted for an El Salvadoran buffet at Las Cofradías (Calle del Mirador; phone 2264 6148), which was recommended to us.

All of us were skeptical of a “buffet meal,” but a spotless facility, friendly service, helpful suggestions by black-suited servers on how to eat the local dishes and over 60 traditional dishes served made our skepticism vanish.

Selections included a spicy carrot salad, corn tamales and empanadas, tripe, dried anchovies, tasty fresh fruit drinks and a full dessert buffet, all for $8 each.

On our taxi ride from Las Cofradías to our excellent hotel, La Posada del Rey Primero (Pasaje Dordelly 4425; phone 503 2264 5245), also in Colonia Escalón, we noticed a restaurant on the nearby corner. The light-filled terrace of La H’ola Beto’s Escalón (Pasaje Dordelly 4352, between 85 and 87 Av Norte) was packed with well-dressed locals. We vowed to dine there the next evening.

After a busy day touring museums and monuments in the desert-type climate (hot days and cool nights), we all were thirsty for a drink when we arrived at Beto’s. While mojitos are not typically El Salvadoran, the fresh mint one that I ordered was so good, I had another.

Local beers include the popular Pilsener and the lighter Suprema. Doug enjoyed a Pilsener before trying an unusual concoction of beer and red wine. Its flat and heavily alcoholic taste appealed to none of us.

Unlike the one odd drink, all the appetizers and entrées were supreme. The shrimp ceviche and shrimp lasagna were favorites. My share of the dinner bill, including the two mojitos, was $22.

San Salvador’s museums and cultural centers are great, but don’t miss out on the city’s gourmet food in the Colonia Escalón neighborhood!

CYNTHIA CROFOOT RIGNANESE
Lake Wales, FL

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

As a “country counter” avidly trying to reach my personal goal of traveling to 100 countries, I added El Salvador (number 70) to my list in January 2010. To be truthful, it had not been at the top of my list of destinations to visit, not because I didn’t want to go there but because I had not thought about going. It was almost by accident that I ended up there.

I was traveling through Honduras and Nicaragua with my travel buddies, Renee Pobjecky and Doug Bohannon. Our itinerary included several days in western Honduras. Through a series of events out of our control, we ended up with free days in our schedule, so we added nearby Guatemala to our itinerary. Once in Guatemala, we were so close to El Salvador that we couldn’t resist adding it as well.

Since visiting Guatemala and El Salvador was a spur-of-the-moment decision, my expectations for both countries were low. Boy, was I in for a pleasant surprise! What I discovered in El Salvador were vividly beautiful landscapes, broad valleys, massive volcanoes, first-class museums and gourmet food.

The highlights of our cuisine experiences occurred in the Colonia Escalón neighborhood of the capital, San Salvador. The Colonia Escalón area of San Salvador is safer and quieter than the central areas of this city of close to two million people.

Dinners in El Salvador are late, by North American standards, but early for Latin America; typically, diners are finished by 10 p.m. Our first outstanding dinner experience ended by 8:30 and we were completely satisfied customers.

We wanted to experience typical El Salvadoran food, but none of us knew exactly what that meant, so we opted for an El Salvadoran buffet at Las Cofradías (Calle del Mirador; phone 2264 6148), which was recommended to us.

All of us were skeptical of a “buffet meal,” but a spotless facility, friendly service, helpful suggestions by black-suited servers on how to eat the local dishes and over 60 traditional dishes served made our skepticism vanish.

Selections included a spicy carrot salad, corn tamales and empanadas, tripe, dried anchovies, tasty fresh fruit drinks and a full dessert buffet, all for $8 each.

On our taxi ride from Las Cofradías to our excellent hotel, La Posada del Rey Primero (Pasaje Dordelly 4425; phone 503 2264 5245), also in Colonia Escalón, we noticed a restaurant on the nearby corner. The light-filled terrace of La H’ola Beto’s Escalón (Pasaje Dordelly 4352, between 85 and 87 Av Norte) was packed with well-dressed locals. We vowed to dine there the next evening.

After a busy day touring museums and monuments in the desert-type climate (hot days and cool nights), we all were thirsty for a drink when we arrived at Beto’s. While mojitos are not typically El Salvadoran, the fresh mint one that I ordered was so good, I had another.

Local beers include the popular Pilsener and the lighter Suprema. Doug enjoyed a Pilsener before trying an unusual concoction of beer and red wine. Its flat and heavily alcoholic taste appealed to none of us.

Unlike the one odd drink, all the appetizers and entrées were supreme. The shrimp ceviche and shrimp lasagna were favorites. My share of the dinner bill, including the two mojitos, was $22.

San Salvador’s museums and cultural centers are great, but don’t miss out on the city’s gourmet food in the Colonia Escalón neighborhood!

CYNTHIA CROFOOT RIGNANESE
Lake Wales, FL