Calle La Calzada is Granada’s main pedestrian zone. The street runs east from the Cathedral on Parque Central, down to the shores of Lake Nicaragua. The street is lined with restaurants and bars, some offer tables on the street for prime people watching. When asked where I could try the famous weekend dish, nacatamal, I was surprised when I was directed to the charming but touristy La Calzada, to a restaurant called Comidas Tipicas Y Mas (Typical Food and More).
Once inside, we passed through a small front dining room into a large courtyard lined with several tables. Though the restaurant was far from full (it was on the early side of dinner hours) we were the only tourists. That’s one good point; so far, so good. Though our menu came with an English translation, the prices were definitely on the low side, score another one for Comidas Tipicas.
The courtyard was beautiful in the setting sun, and throughout our meal, even when a tropical storm flashed through, transforming the entire outdoor area into a small sea.
I began with an order of the repocheta de la casa, which consisted of crispy fried tortilla, beans, tangy cabbage slaw and salty grated cheese topped with sour cream. I suppose these are a version of Nicaraguan nachos. I’m especially a fan of the peppery vinegar-cabbage slaw (also found in other national dishes such as vigorón.)
And now, a drum roll please for the culinary discovery of the century, the bee’s knees…Don Julio Salsa Picante. Readers, I’m officially obsessed. Imagine another tailgating, trailer-trash, processed-to-the-max obsession of mine, Frank’s RedHot, and step it up a few spicy notches. I would be happy to drown an unhealthy amount of foodstuff in this hot, salty brew. With some dedicated Internet research, I discovered that the sauce is actually from Honduras and there’s a website that claims to be able to ship it to me. I plan to put this claim to the test.
The first opportunity I had to use my new best friend-in-a-bottle (you’d think it would be another type of “sauce”) was over my gallo pinto, considered the national dish of Nicaragua. Gallo pinto, rice and beans, is served with every meal, including breakfast. The name (translated as: spotted rooster) refers to the literal coloring of the dish. For the record, though I don’t mind the dish, I’m not the kind of person who jumps up and down about rice and beans. You might discern this fact from the amount of Don Julio I dispatched to the plate.
As I mentioned above, the reason I chose to dine at Comidas Tipicas was to taste a traditionally prepared nacatamal. This is the point where the meal took a sudden, steep, downturn. A nacatamal is a large, Nicaraguan tamal: a seasoned meat filling, or relleno (usually pork, but sometimes chicken) is packed inside a cornmeal dough, wrapped in a plantain leaf, tied with string, then steamed for a number of hours.
I ordered a chicken nacatamal out of consideration for my dining partner-in-crime who does not eat red meat. Perhaps this was my mistake. Though the dish appears beautifully prepared on the outside, and the cornmeal dough was absolutely light and delicious, once I dug down with my fork I found a few surprises…chicken bones. The nacatamal was full of bones. Clearly (if you’ve read my blog) I’m not that picky of an eater. I wouldn’t necessarily mind a few bones here and there, but pulling shards of chicken bones out of my mouth after every bite quickly became tiresome. I couldn’t finish the dish. The flavor was all there. I don’t know if the one plate I ordered just happened to be off, but it was fairly inedible, which I don’t say very often in regard to food.
Disappointed, I slogged through the remainder of my copiously Don Julio’d gallo pinto and ordered a third “pink lust” to improve my mood. For the record, at Comidas Tipicas a “pink lust” is made with light rum, coconut rum, coconut milk and grenadine. Essentially a piña colada that’s been overexposed to “Sex in the City.”
High Points: Honduran hot sauce and hot pink drinks.
Low Point: Picking shards of chicken bone from my teeth.
Restaurante Comidas Tipicas Y Mas is located on Calle La Calzada, Granada
2010 Mileage Total: 30611