Believe it or not, some people still saunter up to food carts with Spanish names expecting tacos. Take it from Angel Villalvir, owner and chef of Angel's Cabana. "Everyone expects to see tacos and burritos," he says. "But that's not what we do."
Instead, the Cabana has traditional dishes from the Caribbean and Central America, with ingredients like plantains and yuca, a starchy root vegetable somewhat like a potato. Villalvir's most popular item, the platanos con carne, is like a meaty banana split with a halved, grilled plantain topped with beans; ground beef cooked with tomatoes, onions, peppers and celery; and a dollop of fresh crema. The equally delicious pupusas are masa griddlecakes stuffed with pork, beans and cheese. The portions are plentiful and nothing tops $7. The friendly and verbose Villalvir gladly explains the flavors and ingredients of anything on the menu, including his made-from-scratch horchata, which includes toasted pumpkin seeds. It's thicker than the familiar Mexican horchata and brownish-gray in color with a flavor similar to cardamom. (I was not a fan.)
The cart relocated from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the downtown Alder Street pod less than a year ago and has a loyal following. The first two times I went, the person ahead of me waited with a manic excitement and was quick to gush—without prompting—about a favorite dish.
By my third visit, I was the manic one, mouth watering, preaching to passersby about trying the platanos instead of street tacos.
- Order this: Platanos con carne ($6).
- Iâll pass: This horchata ($2) is definitely an acquired taste.
EAT: Angel's Cabana, Southwest Alder Street and 10th Avenue, 933-1515. 8 am-7 pm Monday-Friday, 11 am-5 pm Saturday. $.