Sarah Netta | Stepping Out Columnist

Tres leches cake with cream, milk, icing, and sprinkles. | Fritanga

Tres leches cake with cream, milk, icing, and sprinkles.

Imagine biting into a lightly fried enchilada with layers of golden brown dough and a juicy pulled-chicken filling. If you’re already hungry, head over to Fritanga, a cozy, one-room restaurant that provides authentic Nicaraguan food at decent prices. The word “fritanga” actually designates restaurants that make authentic, homemade Nicaraguan food.

For those of you not familiar with Nicaraguan food, it revolves around staples such as fried plantains, rice and beans and cabbage salad. The food is comparable to Mexican and other Central American varieties but has its own distinct flavor. If you’re on a diet though, beware: Many Nicaraguan dishes are fried.

Fritanga is one of the few restaurants in St. Louis that serves up authentic Nicaraguan food. With a bright outer décor and colorful paintings on the walls, Fritanga offers a lively and unique atmosphere. It is uncompromisingly authentic and refreshingly unaffected by American cuisine—there is no bread and butter served or optional mac-and-cheese sides for kids.

It is hard to find a dish without plantains at Fritanga. Entrees come with a choice of them, sweet or savory, as well as gallo pinto, a typical Nicaraguan dish with rice and red beans, or white rice and Cuban black beans. Main courses also come with repollo salad, a coleslaw-like side dish. The rice and beans are hearty but not overpowering and provide a nice, palette-cleansing break from the main course. The repollo salad is light with no mayo and just a bit of vinegar over chopped cabbage and carrots. The salad adds a tanginess that complements the fried dishes. I had the savory fried plantains, which reminded me of potato latkes with a dash of banana.

For my main dish, I tried the “canoa de maduro,” a whole ripe sweet plantain with shredded beef and a generous portion of melted mozzarella cheese on top. The different consistencies of the firm plantain, fibrous beef and fleshy cheese truly made for a unique eating experience.

I also tried the “pollo al achiote,” a charbroiled chicken breast in “achiote base sauce,” a sauce made of several spices including cumin, oregano and cinnamon. The spices lend a curry-like undertone to the chicken breast, which was cooked only until tender.

For dessert, I had the classic tres leches, a cake which literally means “three milks” and is made with cream, condensed milk and regular milk. The moist, rich tres leches cake was topped with icing and sprinkles, which added a little reminder of childhood. I also tried the banana flan, which sat in a very sweet caramel liquid. The gelatin-like substance itself had a bitter aftertaste, which was mitigated by generously dipping it into the caramel. While the banana flan was good, I would probably opt for the tres leches next time.

With entrees for less than $10, Fritanga is definitely an affordable, cultural escape for Wash. U. students. Once you visit, you’ll be wondering how you ever survived without plantains.

2208 S Jefferson Ave
St, Louis MO, 63118

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