All words: Dana Bleiberg
All photos: Stephanie Breijo
Tucked away just off H Street NE on the corner of 9th is that familiar blue and red goat’s head you might have seen rolling through the city’s streets. Due to new DC regulations becoming more and more unfriendly to food trucks, Chupacabra decided to ditch the truck and say hello to a permanent home.
The interior of Chupacabra is small to say the least. A kitchen, a counter to order your food, a few stools, and brightly colored skulls against black walls. Definitely not airy but thats OK because this location is all about; A. The food and B. The exterior. Currently the patio next to the building is furnished with six or so picnic benches but soon an awning and seating for 60 will take over the patio and most of the sidewalk making this your new favorite outdoor lunch spot.
I am going to start off with a VERY important note. Chupacabra is NOT a mexican or tex-mex spot. This is a latin kitchen taking influences from all over South America and the Caribbean.
We started off with the Yuca con Chicharrones. Stewed pork belly that is then fried with chunks of yuca resulting an a perfect crunchy, salty bite of pork meat and fat that melts in your mouth. The yuca keeps you from overdosing on salt and fat – If overdosing on salt and fat is even possible. If you want a lighter appetizer go for the Jardin De Chupacabra. Whole jalapeños, cauliflower florets and slices of carrot pickled in house.
Next on the menu are arepas. An arepa, if you have never had the real or stadium food version, is a South American corn cake that is stuffed with fillings. We decided to try the arepa with jamon con queso. Honey roasted ham and queso fresco filled a crunchy corn cake. Perfectly sweet and savory at the same time.
After the arepas you will see a list of tacos which really you should look at as a list of fillings since each can be ordered as a taco, a bowl, or an arepa. Fillings come in taco form wrapped in your choice of corn or flour tortillas or in bowl form over corn and cilantro rice and black beans. Both are topped with cilantro and radish.
Over the course of the Chupacabra food truck over 20 different fillings have been created. Unfortunately our stomachs only had enough room for a few of them.
- The Al pastor is that delicious-looking meat you will see cooking on a spit right behind the counter. Spit roasted pork marinated in guajillo and pineapple. Crispy from the spit, and acidicly sweet from the pineapple.
- The chorizo con hominy filling is chorizo pork sausage seasoned with annetto and mixed with fluffy corn hominy. This one was a little bit mild for my taste but if you find most chorizo to be too spicy for your liking, this is for you.
- Primavera, for you vegetarians out there, is a mixture of spicy eggplant and squash with smokey chipotle black beans. Super satisfying and filling in a corn tortilla.
- Lastly, the borrego del fuego which is hunks of juicy lamb that fall apart on your fork and it is spicy. So amazingly spicy. The staff warned us multiple times about how hot this filling is, though in my opinion, it is perfect and by far my favorite thing on the menu.
Finally we tried the Cubano which is further proof that Chupacabra is not a mexican restaurant. Bread is filled with roasted pork, ham, baby swiss cheese and pickles then pressed and grilled resulting in a crispy exterior and a soft melty inside. The pickles cut through the richness of the ham and cheese making it easy to eat two (or three) of these sandwiches.
Currently the restaurant is open from 11:00am-11:00pm on Sunday-Thursday and from 11:00am-2:00am on Fridays and Saturdays. Within the next month they expect to be offering breakfast (arepas with butter and mango jam anyone?!), take out and delivery services.