“My specialties are papusas, platanos, and tamales-both of them,” stated Lakeside Café owner Antonio with a glance over his shoulder as he plated tamales and a chicken quesadilla for the late afternoon rush. He stopped long enough for me to photograph his creations.
Ask any of his friendly regulars and it is his Salvadorian specialties over the traditional lunch counter fare that keep them coming back for more. The papusas which are stuffed corn tortillas are very much a favorite with the locals. “Papusas are lots of work,” said Antonio, “there are the different fillings to make, the dough, and the sides. Lots of work.” I requested a personal cooking lesson on papusa making and Antonio’s mother, Isabel, complied.
It was obvious in the first seconds of my lesson that Isabel had made hundreds and maybe even thousands of papusas in her lifetime. Her strong, adept hands quickly formed the soft, pillowy dough into a flat, round canvas ready to accept any of the three filling combinations: bean and cheese, pork and cheese, or just cheese. For me that day it would be all three as they generously filled my table with so many Salvadorian delights to sample.
She then placed the filling in the center of the flattened round, folded the dough in half, pinched the sides closed, pinched it all together like a purse, and flattened the entire papusa again, explaining in rapid Spanish what she was doing. Thank goodness for the visual lesson as my six years of Spanish failed me. With smiles, nods, and hand gestures we communicated brilliantly.
Although the menu at Lakeside Café consists of typical American favorites like pancakes, burgers, Reubens, and chicken strips, it is the delicious Salvadorian treats such as Tacos Carne Asadas, Platanos, Tamal de Pollo Salvadoreno, Quesadillas, Fajitas, Burrito Maximo, and Papusas that are mostly spotted on patrons’ plates.
Antonio has been in the U.S. since the 1990’s and settled in Reston, Virginia right away. He states that his mother taught him how to cook but he has also learned to cook under other great chefs including a chef from the Serbian Crown, a famous French and Russian restaurant in Great Falls, VA. He would someday like to expand and own a bigger restaurant, possibly serving Italian or International cuisines. He has owned Lakeside Café for about four years now and enjoys a steady flow of loyal customers. When you go, you may meet some of the regular Restonians who frequent this unique lunch counter that also shares it’s space with the Lakeside Pharmacy and Post Office.
If you are ever in Reston, Virginia which is not far from D.C., it would be in your best interest to pop on over to Historic Lake Anne and enjoy her offerings, especially Antonio’s Salvadorian specialties. My family enjoys the weekly visit to Lakeside Café and during the summer months you will often find my children and I at Lake Anne exploring, playing in the fountain, and ending our day with ice cream cones from Antonio’s popular and ever busy café.
1641 Washington Plaza
Breakfast, lunch and dinner, open 7 days per week. Featuring Central American and American specialties. Located inside Lakeside Pharmacy. Lakeside terrace seating available.
Monday to Friday 9 AM to 6 PM
Saturday 9AM to 6PM
Sunday 9AM to 5 PM
Tomorrow afternoon in BRK: Eating A Rainbow- Yellow: Antonio and Isabel’s Platanos Fritos. So good. So easy.