Stumbling home after the bars have closed and in need of fortification? Instead of ringing that gut-busting old fast food Bell again, get your "fourth meal" tacos and quesadillas at just-as-cheap El Manantial Latino - they're waaaay better there. Leaving for the airport at some no-restaurants-open hour? El Manantial Latino can come to the rescue with excellent handmade empanadas.
Stumbling home after the bars have closed and in need of fortification? Instead of ringing that gut-busting old fast food Bell again, get your “fourth meal” tacos and quesadillas at just-as-cheap El Manantial Latino — they’re waaaay better there. Leaving for the airport at some no-restaurants-open hour? El Manantial Latino can come to the rescue with excellent handmade empanadas.
Even if EML didn’t make good grub — and it does — it’d be worth noting because of its ridiculous commitment and stamina. Get this: It’s a pan-Latin food truck advertising 24/7 hours — and in my experience, indeed never closes. Seriously, I’ve hit it up during the dead of winter, in the dead of night.
Considering their “we don’t close” policy, I suppose it’s not surprising EML’s colorful truck looks a bit, um, lived-in. And since a lotta stuff is handmade-to-order, it sometimes arrives on the slow side. Here are two other caveats: 1) unless you specify otherwise, EML’s fare comes garnished “American style,” with cheese, sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes and onion; and 2) a chef pal of mine who likes EML calls it “No tenemos,” (“We don’t have”), because they’re often out of menu items. All that said, there are many great-tasting reasons why a line forms frequently outside EML’s picnic-tables-equipped base at the 14-0 Express Carryout on Hudson (just east of Indianola).
Probably half a dozen countries are represented on EML’s too-large menu, which can be confusing. So here are some suggestions.
First of all, EML’s best meats are its deeply flavored beef (carne asada), real-deal fat-rendered Mexican chorizo and its almost al pastor-ish chicken. Try these on tacos ($1.50), which arrive on little toast-spotted good soft corn tortillas, or try them in EML’s immense and freshly griddle-crinkled quesadillas ($5).
Even better is the Arepa con Chorizo ($6). Like a thick and toasty pancake of stiff white grits topped with crispy, salty, spicy and tangy sausage, it’s a pleasure to rip into.
Ditto for the killer, Honduran-style Baleada ($4), probably the best deal here. Basically a big ol’ dense and crispy-yet-pliable distinctive homemade flour tortilla that’s a pure delight to bite into on its own, this baleada arrives packed with that good steak-y beef, refried beans, plus fixins. Kick it up — as you would any treat here — by spilling on some hot red or tangy hot green salsa.
Photo by Meghan Ralston