Restaurante Monte Cristo in Houston's Second Ward
Cash only places are my favorite because they usually promise to be worth the hassle of stopping by a Wells Fargo ATM.
That's right folks, Restaurante Monte Cristo in Houston's Second Ward is cash only! Unlike many places in the encroaching "East Downtown" area of Houston, Restaurante Monte Cristo ain't got an iPad equipped to swipe your Chase Platinum Card, so its best to come with a wad of cash because you're going to want to order plenty of grub for you and your homies.
I have passed Restaurante Monte Cristo too many times to count. Honestly, there's not much to its exterior to draw the eye of a driver to it. So knowing it's there is the first step. Once I knew where it was, it was just a matter of time before I stepped in to explore its offerings
The menu items are posted above head, so walk up and order and take a peak at the kitchen!
Located at the corner of Canal and Milby, Restaurante Monte Cristo is a taqueria y pupuseria, which means I HAD to have some pupusas.
The pupusas were served so fresh that after I finished taking pictures and grabbed my fork, I immediately dropped it!
For those who are not familiar with pupusas (I feel so sorry for you, but I'm glad you made it here!) they are to El Salvador what tacos are to Mexico. They are served fast with very simple ingredients and usually served with something tangy for flavor enhancement.
Pupusas are made from masa harina (dough flour), corn masa, or sometimes rice flour, and usually stuffed with cheese, beans, pork, or veggies. They are made to order and usually served HOT.
Take it all in: pupusas, curtido, platanos con crema y frijoles negras - and there it is: la salsa verde!
I ordered two pupusas de queso y chicharron and these griddled little hotcakes were a perflect blend of flavorful shredded pork skins and cheese.
Curtido is the Central American equivalent to Kimchi or Sauerkraut.
The proper way to eat your pupusa is with curtido - a vinegary blend of shredded cabbage, onions, oregano, carrots, and a bit of lime juice. At Restaurante Monte Cristo the curtido arrives at your table in a medium-size plastic container with tongs for your indulgence. And indulge I did. With every bite the crunch of the tangy cabbage relish and the soft texture of the pupusa, along with its well-seasoned cheese and shredded pork filling, were enough to make me want to order two more. But, I didn't need to. Though they appear thin on the plate, when topped with the fibrous cabbage, they are a very filling and cheap meal. At $1.75 each, I was stuffed for the remainder of my afternoon for less than $4.00!
If pupusas are not your thing, do not fear! There's plenty more to munch on at Monte Cristo.
This quesadilla didn't just have cheese and meat!
Across the table, the quesadilla plate was made up of a large flour tortilla stuffed with not only meat and cheese, but delicious pinto beans and rice too! Served with a side of french fries, this massive quesadilla is not for the faint of heart. If you think it may not be enough for your mid-afternoon Saturday lunch, you're wrong.
Platanos con crema y frijoles negras are a delicious staple of Central American cuisine.
And if you're looking for a hearty and tasty snack, then be sure to order platanos con crema y frijoles. The plantains were fried to a light crisp on the outside and had an extremely fluffy and sweet starchy texture on the inside. Paired with the tangy crema and black beans, and a scoop of the fermented cabbage, these plantains will fill you up!
I know "cashless" is supposed to be faster, but when you stop by a neighborhood haunt like this, with people walking up from the houses around the corner to have a lunchtime snack, it's okay to slow down and count out your singles. Believe me, it's worth it!
Price of our meal:
1 quesadilla plate
1 order of platanos con crema y frijoles
Total: $24.00 (and some change)
Do you have a favorite spot for pupusas? Drop 'em in the comments!