IBJOpinion

DINING: Salivating over Salvadoran cuisine on the westside

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Dining - A&E

The flags waving over the humble 3 in 1 Restaurant (4810 W. 34th St., 543-7770) make clear that the trio referred to in the west-side eatery’s name are El Salvador, the United States and Mexico. But while U.S. and Mexican food are well-represented all over the city, it’s the El Salvadoran cuisine that drew us to this humble spot.

And it’s what will bring us back.

To be sure, there are not a lot of items on the menu. This is not one of those places where every possible combination of the same basic ingredients are organized into combos. Still, I’d suggest first-timers try the Combo ($5.79—including a drink).

Included is a sweet corn tamale, a pupusa (one bite of which may lead you to order more, at $1.50 each), and a steak taco. Many establishments make the mistake of complicating tamale’s corn-husk-encased cornmeal. When dipped in the homemade salsa, 3 in 1’s version melts in the mouth; not too spicy, not too sweet.

The pupusa (think a less-fully-stuffed gordita), consists of cheese, beans, pork and or chicken enveloped in a thick, soft, corn tortilla. Too often, corn tortillas are either a stiff shell or a crumbly circle. Here, the hand-tossed tortillas taste like someone’s El Salvadoran grandmother kneaded together the water and corn masa into these soft, doughy pouches.
 

Dining The combo at 3 in 1 Restaurant shows off a trio of deliciously simple items: a sweet corn tamale, a papusa and a steak taco. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

When our waitress asked if we wanted “everything” on the taco, I was braced for the salad-plus combo that “everything” usually means. But, instead, “everything” doesn’t mean the pile-on typical of American versions: The soft, fresh tortilla was simply topped with dark, flavorful steak, cilantro and onions, with lime to squeeze and tomatillo salsa for dipping.

We also ordered Flautas ($2.99 for three) at a price you can’t beat for packaged taquitos at a convenient store. Unlike those gut-killers, these crunchy, chicken-filled tubes were crisp without being greasy and covered with just the right amount of cheese to flavor without smothering. Our favorite, though, was the Rigua ($1.50), a sweet corn cake grilled in banana leaves, browning the top and bottom but leaving the rest golden. Despite sharing more than one ingredient with the tamales, the rigua had its own distinct taste with the corn flavor more prominent than in, say, corn bread but not so sweet that it felt like a dessert.

For drinks, you can go with the usual Coke products. But, instead, take a chance on a sweet bottle of Jarritos Tamarind soda ($1.25) or a glass of Horchata ($1.50)—the creamy rice drink that’s due for a popularity shot here in the States. No store-bought horchata powder mixing to a slush in a slurpee machine here.

There’s a small room for dining in and a lower level to pick up your takeout order. The décor at 3 in 1 is unpretentious-bordering-on-under-construction, the atmosphere is casual, and the service low-key. Getting your terrific lunch for two to exceed $15 will be a challenge. Who can ask for anything more?•

__________

Second in a month-long series of numeric restaurant reviews.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. The east side does have potential...and I have always thought Washington Scare should become an outlet mall. Anyone remember how popular Eastgate was? Well, Indy has no outlet malls, we have to go to Edinburgh for the deep discounts and I don't understand why. Jim is right. We need a few good eastsiders interested in actually making some noise and trying to change the commerce, culture and stereotypes of the East side. Irvington is very progressive and making great strides, why can't the far east side ride on their coat tails to make some changes?

  2. Boston.com has an article from 2010 where they talk about how Interactions moved to Massachusetts in the year prior. http://www.boston.com/business/technology/innoeco/2010/07/interactions_banks_63_million.html The article includes a link back to that Inside Indiana Business press release I linked to earlier, snarkily noting, "Guess this 2006 plan to create 200-plus new jobs in Indiana didn't exactly work out."

  3. I live on the east side and I have read all your comments. a local paper just did an article on Washington square mall with just as many comments and concerns. I am not sure if they are still around, but there was an east side coalition with good intentions to do good things on the east side. And there is a facebook post that called my eastside indy with many old members of the eastside who voice concerns about the east side of the city. We need to come together and not just complain and moan, but come up with actual concrete solutions, because what Dal said is very very true- the eastside could be a goldmine in the right hands. But if anyone is going damn, and change things, it is us eastside residents

  4. Please go back re-read your economics text book and the fine print on the February 2014 CBO report. A minimum wage increase has never resulted in a net job loss...

  5. The GOP at the Statehouse is more interested in PR to keep their majority, than using it to get anything good actually done. The State continues its downward spiral.

ADVERTISEMENT