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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Mexican, Salvadoran
Casual restaurant

Mon–Thu 11:00am–3:00pm
Mon–Thu 5:00pm–10:30pm
Fri–Sat 11:00am–11:00pm
Sun 11:00am–10:00pm

Features Outdoor dining, veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


Capitol Hill
517 8th St. SE
Washington, DC
(202) 543-3700
Las Placitas
If you’re in Capitol Hill, it’s hard to do better for Salvadoran, but go elsewhere for Mex

Some of the Southeast quadrant’s best Salvadoran food is served in this cozy little room, along with passable Mexican (thus the silly sombreros and piñatas hanging around). But ask anyone punching out of a Capitol Hill office on a Friday night: it’s the margaritas that draw a crowd.

Let’s begin, as should any proper meal of this persuasion, with a pitcher on the rocks. Las Placitas makes a miraculous mix: full of tart lime, plenty of tequila without too much bite, and a snowdrift of salt crystals on the rims of the glasses. Even once the ice melts, this drink doesn’t taste diluted.

Much of the non-Salvadoran food at Las Placitas might be called Tex-Mex-Este, a version of the real thing that does get diluted the farther it gets from the border towns where the margarita is purported to have been born. The most authentic aspect of the portions are their presentation: generous and not very pretty. Fajitas are made with thickly sliced cuts of steak, onions, and peppers, and the guacamole is pleasantly chunky. Tacos get a gringo treatment with flour tortilla, rather than corn, and pico de gallo. They taste pretty plain; substandard, when compared to those found in a few stand-out places in Columbia Heights. Some other specials flirt with Baja California, the Yucatán, and Monterrey. A nod to the Southwest comes in the form of chimichangas. Even a Spanish paella wanders on the set; the kitchen is overflowing with mariscos, so why not? It’s appropriately saffrony, but the seafood is hardly a revelation.

On the Salvadoran side (the menu is literally split), the typical specialties are offered (plaintain, yuca, chicken, pupusas), most of which are conveniently congregated in the El Típico plate and its vegetarian counterpart. The meaty version includes a smattering of very juicy sweet plantains, some rather dry yuca fries, an ordinary chicharrón-and-cheese-stuffed pupusa (even ordinary, these are always good), and a so-so chicken tamal.

To finish an entire main course at Las Placitas is a feat to be remembered, and perhaps even regretted. The best deal here is to order a sampling of Salvadoran antojitos, all under six bucks (some way under), and most very good.

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