Edit: this place has closed.
In Spanish, Los Cobanos means….. The Cobanos.
Now that that’s cleared up, let’s talk food. Specifically Salvadorian food.
M and I happened upon Los Cobanos while looking for The Purple Yam, a Filipino restaurant that has so far eluded us. When we took a quick look at Los Cobanos’ menu however, we knew we found the consolation prize.
If you haven’t checked out FantaCity Mall yet on W. Market St, let this be your reason. Los Cobanos is in the international food court, which is to your left if you’re looking at Super G Mart.
The first time Mackie visited Los Cobanos, we had $5.25 on us combined. Amazingly, that was enough for two homemade pupusas, each with a small cabbage salad. Pupusas are similar to tortillas but with the consistency of a dense pancake and stuffed with cheese and usually something else. In our case we got a squash papusa and a “mixed” which was filled with beans and chicharrones (fried pork skins). They were delicious, tangy oozy cheese and a warm crispy exterior. And with the cabbage salad? If you’ve like eating your hushpuppies with slaw at a bbq place like Stamey’s, you’ll dig this.
Now, while these papusas were good enough to deserve their own blog post, we had to go back and eat more. We returned Sunday afternoon. Mariva (although she says everyone calls her Maria) informed us that they were serving Sopa De Pata, one of the official dishes of El Salvador. Sopa = soup. Pata = ?
In case you’re wondering, pata means foot. But before I tell you about cow’s foot soup, let me tell you about the drinks Los Cobanos serves.
Mariva brought us out a sampler of three drinks they make in house – horchata, tamarindo, and maranon. The horchata was very good, milky with a nice vanilla note. Nothing about it tasted artificial like some I’ve had. It also wasn’t chalky like horchata can tend to be. Mariva told us they make the tamarindo by soaking dried tamarind pulp for a few days and straining it. It was delicious, a good combo of sweet and tangy. Lastly was the maranon, which is made from the fruit of the cashew apple. Apparently there’s a lot more to the plant than the cashew nut. It’s really hard for me to describe the flavor of this drink, but it was extremely good. M went with the tamarindo, along with a chicken empanada like dish that I forgot to take pictures of.
Back to the soup – a big steaming bowl of yuca, corn, cabbage, onions, cilantro, lime and a large gelatinous
intimidating beef bone. On the side were two homemade Salvadorean style tortillas. The broth was delicious, rich and beefy with a nice zing from the lime. Mariva mentioned it was traditionally eaten with added cabbage salad and hot sauce, which she was nice enough to bring out for me. I finished the soup and was gingerly scraping at the remaining bone with my spoon. M and I were debating whether it was there to be eaten or for flavor, like a ham hock. Mariva promptly cleared up that discussion when she asked me why I wasn’t picking it up and eating it with my hands like everyone else.
This is the part where I wish I could say I picked it up and ate the fat and cartilage clean off the bone like an Andrew Zimmern highlight real. It didn’t happen. I think I took two bites. You win this time, cow foot.
We had been chatting up Mariva every time she walked by, trying to learn more about El Salvador and its culture. Apparently on Saturday and Sunday, it is customary to eat either sopa de pata or tamales de pollo. Once the afternoon rolls around, everyone drinks atole, which according to Mariva is “like what Starbucks is to Americans.” It just so happened they had been cooking a pot of atole all day in preparation for the afternoon crowd.
Atole is a sweetened milk and cornmeal drink, laced with kernels of fresh corn. Warm and creamy, I basically had to wrestle it out of M’s hands to get a few sips. It was very mildly spiced, which was nice. (There was a nice subtlety to flavors of the food overall.) You could tell it had been on the stove all morning long because the cornmeal was soft and not at all gritty. The fresh corn added an interesting texture and made it very fun to drink.
Mariva told us her goals for her restaurant – keep the food as traditional as possible and stay authentic to themselves. Her mother is a trained chef and works in the kitchen and her daughter works in the front of the restaurant. 3 generations devoted to bringing Greensboro a taste of the flavors and traditions of El Salvador. Don’t miss this opportunity.