The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Charlottesville, Day 3: Mexican, Hot Chocolate Break, and Vietnamese

Tristan's window
Tristan's window

Step 1: Wake up.

horchata, yeah!
Hello, yummy

Step 2: Get horchata.



Now I shall backtrack to what happened between Tristan, Olivia and I getting horchatas and falling into a collective food coma.

For a late Sunday lunch, we went to Aqui Es Mexico, one of Tristan's favorite restaurants. If I lived in Charlottesville it'd be one of my favorite places too. Because.

...They had...


You'll see them in a bit.

tortilla chips
Tortilla chips!

First came the complimentary tortilla chips, super crisp and freshly fried. As much as I like digging into the standard bread basket and thus destroying my appetite for the rest of the meal (carbs and butter will do that to ya), I think I prefer tortilla chips as a pre-meal snack. I mean, I still love bread to death!—it's just that chips go down more easily and appear to have less of an appetite-suppressing effect even though they're made of corn and fat. I mean, they're made of angel wings and fairy honey! Okay.

ahh what was this!

Olivia's caldo de res was the first dish to come out. Tender beef chunka (a "chunka" is like a larger version of a "chunk," at least in my malformed brain) in a hearty vegetable chunk-laden (large chunks, not quite of the "chunka" designation, but larger than, say, nuggets) beef broth? I'm quite sure it reeked of deliciousness.


And then came my PUPUSAS!, those gloriously thick patties of griddled corn flour stuffed with stuff, inarguably the best "stuff" being cheese and meat. They were a little thinner than I was expecting (because I usually anticipate something that will send my stomach into digestive shock) and the outside wasn't as crispy as I would've preferred—the "crunchy exterior to soft innards" sensation is one that conjures up much joy and increased drool production—but they were still damn tasty and oozing with nubby extensions of gooey cheese. Charlottesville residents, you should be stuffing yourselves with pupusas all the time. That's what I'd do if I had a pupusa-rie nearby.

fried yucca!!

Fried yucca is a "must order" whenever I see it on a menu. Who wouldn't want crispy nuggets of starch? Who denies the starch nugget?! I prefer yucca over potato since yucca has a lighter texture and has more...flavor. The flavor being "yucca." That wasn't helpful at all. Sorry. I really am sorry; here's my sad face to prove it: :(

Tristan's combination plate
Tristan's combo plate

Tristan ordered a combination plate of a pupusa and other things we can't identify. Oops. My plan to find a full menu online kinda failed and I obviously didn't take notes. There's a handful of combination plates you can order if you're indecisive/hungry and want a little bit of everything.

shrimp huarache?

Our shrimp huarache came in the form of a super-thick (a thickness that would've been good for the pupusas) corn flour patty topped with sweet lil' shrimpies, and some spicy sauce (the kind that is more of a hot, sharp feeling in the back of your throat and/or your brain, not a flavor you taste on your tongue) and cheese, and...stuff. (I'll take notes next time; I promise.)

Well, as someone who doesn't drool (or even lightly dribble) with anticipation at the thought of eating shrimp, I thought the shrimp huarache was awesomely delicious. The shrimps were memorably tender and burst with a slight sweetness as my teeth ripped through their pure bellies, like baabbiiies!, like if each shrimp had the essence of a baby!, and that essence met its doom in my stomach acids!


You too can be this happy!
funky art
Don't know what's going on here.

In conclusion, Aqui Es Mexico is the shizz—shizz-like qualities including homey-ness, friendliness, cleanliness, funky-art-on-the-walls-ness, and inexpensiveness—and will fill your tummy with joy. And corn.

gelato counter

What goes better with Mexican food than gelato? Or maybe the question should be reversed: what goes better with gelato than [insert any other food]? We went to Milano, Tristan's former workplace, to check out the gelato offerings for the day. He noticed that the gelato had unfortunately not been turned in a while, making a negative impact on tastiness. :(

My cuppa

But it's still alright. I said no to the pistachio for not being of the Sicilian sort (once you eat Bronte pistachio gelato, you can't go back), but the pumpkin melted my brain with its pure squashy essence and autumn spices without being overly sweet. I also got the coconut chocolate fudge, which was good but not as good as the pumpkin.

Tristan's family's farm

After nearly falling asleep on a couch on the second floor of the Main Street Market, Tristan drove us to his home in Louisa to say hi to his family. AND THE SHEEP!

in the barn sheeeep
Here come the sheepies!

Yup, Tristan's family has its own farm with a barn full of sheep. We tried talking to the poofy, fidgety creatures, but they mostly moaned, "BUUUUUUUHHHHuuh," over and over again, akin to a guttural, drawn-out burp. Probably translated to something like, "These fuckers better have food."

Tristan and Olivia walk!

We walked around the farm some more. Looked at a tractor. Stared at some not-very-alive crops. Visited the chicken coop. Stood by a mountain of animal excrement. Standard farm things.

entrance to the house
Back inside!

We went back inside with our muddied shoes to make Mexican hot chocolate. Or rather, Tristan made it while the rest of us mostly watched.

blender.  And meat.
The meat is for something else. Really.

Step 1: Gather your ingredients. Smash up some Ibarra chocolate tablets (really, you have to whack em against the table as though you were trying to snap their spinal chords, if they possessed murderer), heat as much milk as needed on the stove, and get your blender ready.

gonna make some hot chocolate

Step 2: Pour heated milk into blender receptacle containing chocolate chunks, as many as you want depending on the chocolate buzz you desire. (Best to do more than what the packaging suggests—those directions usually result in weak sauce hot chocolate.) Don't fill it up too much, unless you're Tristan.

Bleeend! And smile!

Step 3: Put on the blender cover and hit the "blend" button for some whizzy smashie action. If you're Tristan you put too much milk in the blender, meaning that some of it will spurt out and scald your delicate skin. Hear those screams? Those are your skin cells. But such sacrifices are needed to feed your family and friends.

yeah we have hot chocolate

Step 4: Frothy hot chocolate is yours!

mm frothy
Pouuuur!!! Again!!!

If you need to make more, pour the contents of the blender into a larger container and repeat steps 1 to 3.

KITTY!!  AW!!!!!!!!
Oh, George!

Finish the evening by petting your kitty.

yay creepy road!
Hello, creepy road!

We went back to Charlottesville on a creepy, forested Virginian road. Oh, such beauty.

After resting at Tristan's place, we ran into the same problem we experienced on Friday night: where could we eat that was cheap, delicious, and open? And no heavy things like burgers and fries.

Saigon Cafe
Saigon Cafe

Saigon Cafe was the most appealing option. My stomach is always ready for Vietnamese food; it's filling without being too heavy, encompasses spicy-sweet-sour flavors in a way that doesn't overwhelm your taste buds or rip through your stomach lining, and almost always has a high tastiness-to-cost ratio.

vegetable rolls
Vegetable rolls

We started with vegetable spring rolls per Tristan's request. At least, I think they were vegetable, assuming Tristan was following a vegetarian diet that night. Crispy, light, rice paper wrapping stuffed with carrots, fungus (fungus!) and bean noodles, oh yeah. These spring rolls would only disappoint you if you sucked. You don't suck! Yay! Extra point for you!

bun thit nuong
I haz pork

I love the soup-less rice noodle "salad," bun. And I love pork. Thus I love bun thit nuong, bun topped with chunks of grilled pork. I found the noodles a little too soft, but the crispy, moist pork nuglets (it's like a nugget, but a word that I made up) imbibed with a sweet and mildly hot (and a million other flavors) marinade up for that. At the bottom of the bowl lay fresh chopped lettuce, shredded carrot, and mung bean sprouts. And maybe more. I poured over the accompanying dish of nuoc cham and tossed the contents of the bowl to the best of my ability without making a mess, which usually fails because some evil person decided that bun in all Vietnamese restaurants should always come in a bowl that's too small mix anything in without flinging vegetable bits and sauce into your neighbor's eyes. Or I haven't mastered that art yet. Probably the latter.

hanoi beef soup
Olivia's beef noods!

Olivia started with a small Hanoi beef soup, or what I figure was pho.

vietnamese special salad

Craving something salad-like, she ordered the Vietnamese special salad for her main dish. A salad of shrimp, chicken and julienne vegetables (looked mostly like cabbage) with some kind of Vietnamese dressing. Uh. Huh. Did it hit the spot? Considering that her reaction was, "Why did I order this?" after eating a few bites, probably not. I doubt it was bad, but it probably didn't fulfill the salad craving.

tofu with vegetables
Lordy, it's a mountain of soooy!

Tristan devoured his mountain of fried tofu with vegetables. Lots of vegetables: tomato, broccoli, snow peas, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, mushroom, and carrots. At least that's what the menu says—I mostly see tofu. Whenever I eat with Tristan—forcing him to divert from his vegetarian ways and distress his body with sinful animal flesh—he needs to offset the lack of fiber and things of vegetable origins by eating...something with fiber and vegetable origins. Aw, Tristan...he's on a path to living a long, healthy like! Unlike me!


Of course, there was rice. HELL YEAH!

Grocery shopping, yeaaaah!

After dinner we went to Kroger and then Harris Teeter in search of something dessert-like, but I think Olivia just ended up getting Fage yogurt and oranges. Or maybe just the yogurt. In case you were wondering, if you go to Kroger in search of Fage yogurt you will fail.

And that's just one of many fun things you can do in Charlottesville on a Sunday night!


Aqui Es Mexico
221 Carlton Rd
Charlottesville, VA 22902

406 West Main St
Charlottesville, VA 22903

Saigon Cafe
1703 Allied St
Charlottesville, VA 22903


Tina / January 13, 2008 10:44 PM

I need to get meself some pupusas! Haven't tried them yet you scream of joy whenever you get 'em. I need to find one in Manhattan soon...or after our Boulud lunch, eh? ;)

Btw, I LOVE that part when you talk about the sheep:

"...poofy, fidgety creatures, but they mostly moaned, "BUUUUUUUHHHHuuh," over and over again, akin to a guttural, drawn-out burp. Probably translated to something like, "These fuckers better have food."

So freakin' funneh!

Sera / January 13, 2008 10:58 PM

Pumpkin! YES! I loves the pumpkin awesomness...

Hmm. Question. Why is there ground beef there with the hot chocolate ingredients? I thought it was funny. Please don't say you didn't.... hehe. ;)

Julie / January 14, 2008 1:42 AM

On Thursday, some of my friends tried a local Salvadorian restaurant, but I couldn't go because I had a meeting. I was disappointed because I read a review saying they had pupusaaaaaaas. I missed the opportunity, but now that I know they sell them, I'll have to go give them a try!

I have to go to health(y) food stores or gourmet grocery stores to find Fage or any kind of Greek or European yogurt. It's a bummer because it's so tasty, especially with some honey stirred in!

mistersquid / January 14, 2008 7:30 AM

Charlottesville holds many memories for me (1993-2002) and some of the restaurants that continue to capture my fancy are Downtown Thai, the C & O, Blue Grass Grill, and Continental Divide.

Also, if you're in the mood for tasty take-away, hit the deli in Feast! And you haven't properly done eatin' in Cville until you've hit Wayside Chicken.

Steph / January 14, 2008 8:01 AM

Ro -
Those sheep look so delightfully soft and puffy; I want to take their wool and knit a scarf or something out of it.

And speaking of burns that were obtained whilst being careless: I once splattered hot oil all over my hand while frying cannoli shells. So tell Tristan that he's not the only vegetarian who has been bitten by the bitch-goddess known as hot liquids! I feel your pain, man!

That picture of your gelato is making my mouth water.. and the photos of your Mexican lunch make me green with ENVY! You're a lucky girl, you.

Glad that you're back in the area safe and sound, and happy belated new year!

- S

roboppy / January 14, 2008 8:17 AM

Tina: LET'S GET PUPUSAS! I'd go back to Bahia!

Ah yes, those sheep...I summed up a lot in that one sentence. "Buuuuuuuh." What a lovely sound.


Nah, it was for something else. ;) The meat was defrosting, I suppose.

Kathy: That is an excellent idea. at wallspace)...

Julie: Go try those pupusas!

I used to eat looots of Fage yogurt. I think I burned out at some point, eating it...every day. Or something. But I can't go back to regular yogurt! -__-


(stabs self in heart)

...Aw, I love fried chicken. I didn't know about that place! Aghraraahharghar! Okay. I need to make another trip. I dunno might not be until spring or something, but yeah. Thanks for the rec!

I did get to go to Feast and try some awesome cheese samples. And other stuff. Mmcheese.

Steph: Come to think of it, I'm not sure if the milk was hot enough to burn him, but there was some spurting action bursting forth from the blender. It wasn't hot oil, that's for sure. :( BOO TO YOUR CANNOLI SHELLS! (I mean, unless the tasted awesome...yeah.)

I am lucky. That I don't weigh a million pounds. ;)

Thanks for the new year's greetings! So far, it's a good year! ...Cos it's only been two weeks.

David / January 14, 2008 9:30 AM

I'm mostly sure that those are not pupusas. If they were on a Mexican place, they are most likely to be "gorditas" or perhaps "tlacoyos". "Pupusas" don't exist properly with that name in Mexican food.

Besides, the Indian carrying the lady is the representation of an Aztec warrior offering the young lady to their Gods. It's.. some people from Mexico, like me, would consider it.. tacky.

Love your blog.

roboppy / January 14, 2008 10:24 AM

David: Thanks for reading my blog!

The restaurant labeled itself as making Mexican and Salvadoran food. That's not a weird combo, is it? I've heard of a number of restaurants that do both so I assumed it wasn't that uncommon. -__- I'm not very knowledgeable about these things though...

This online menu (which is incomplete) has pupusas and gorditas. I never heard of tlacoyos before! Of course, now I ...want one. They're kinda football shaped but otherwise the same?

There were some non-tacky pieces of art in there as well, but a few like that painting up there. Ahaha...oh noo. :( I feel like every Chinese restaurant I go to is tacky, except I'm so used to it that I expect tackiness as part of the Chinese food eating experience. It wouldn't be the same without it.

Annie / January 14, 2008 6:10 PM

there's a Salvadoran restaurant near me in Kingston, NY which calls itself a "pupuseria". So maybe that's the official spanish name...or the owners just made it up.

andrea / January 14, 2008 10:58 PM

can i just say that for a second i thought the ground beef was going into the mexican hot chocolate and i was very, very worried?

glad it didn't:)

Jessica / January 15, 2008 9:58 AM

Ha ha - the ground meat got me too before I scrolled down to see the pic description. Please post a non-meaty recipe for the veggies in the audience. ;)

I need to try some yucca! I'm assuming that you prepare them just like a potato?

Mikey / January 15, 2008 10:55 AM

I knew it was a BAD IDEA (tm) to read your blog, since i'm stuck at work doing overtime and i just found out i don't get dinner, 'cause we're only working till 7, not 8! *sound of stomach starting to growl*

Coco / January 15, 2008 11:48 AM

Man! I need to get me some pupusas. Those look incredibly tasty.

ohhh and I'm fo' sho' heading to New York in February. Squeeee!! Is there a way to message you so I can get the low-down on some good eats around where I'm staying? :)

roboppy / January 15, 2008 4:38 PM

Annie: Pupuseria sounds better to me than pupusa-rie. I LIKE.

Andrea: HAHA, oops, I misled everyone.

Meat + chocolate shake for another day...

Geggie: Cvillain has a discussion! I can't weigh in until I try Splendora's I guess. Which won't be for a while. :( Milano's pistachio wasn't pistachio-y enough, I can say that for sure.

Jessica: I've never prepared yucca before, actually! Uh. Hm. I assume it's potato-like in preparation. Recipe?

Mikey: Ewww, working until 8 sounds like...craptastic. :( NO FOOD FOR YOU! Until after 7.

abby / January 15, 2008 10:59 PM

Hopefully they'll be back next year, but the Red Hook Ballfields in Brooklyn are pupusa-central in the summer. YUM!

roboppy / January 17, 2008 12:18 AM

abby: Oh hell yes, I can't wait to stuff myself again in Red Hook! I hope no one takes the pupusas away... :(

Cakespy: It's awesome! I JUST CAN'T STOP EATING.

Jack / January 17, 2008 8:04 PM

Being a UVA grad, I am very happy that you found Saigon Cafe. It was one of my favorite restaurants there.

David / January 25, 2008 3:12 PM

Hey :)

Well, the mixture of cultures here in the US may allow any kind of dishes and places combinations! After being raised and lived in Mexico City for 23 years, I've never heard of "pupusas", so yeah it might be not uncommon such combinations in the States!

And yes, heh, tlacoyos are kind of football shapped, they are usually made of "blue corn", which makes them look greenish-blackish, instead of blue anyway. The corn cake is usually mixed with sour cheese/parsley, beans or chicharrón. On the top, it usually goes with nopales, sour cream and coriander, and some nice tasty tomato-based spicey sauce :D~

If you happen to find a place in New York (I'm located in Harlem!) with tlacoyos, you SHOULD let us (or me :-)) know.

BTW, I find Chinese decorations tackily amusing and fun :)

Ida / June 13, 2011 8:06 AM

Kroger and Harris Teeter!! My grocery stores of choice when buying on-a-whim chocolate chip cookie and pumpkin cinnamon roll ingredients!

Plus the Chipotle is about a 30 second walk away, so a pit stop there for the Polyface pork carnitas is obviously required.

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