Monday, November 24, 2008

Las Hamacas

8541 Gulf Freeway @ Monroe and other locations

I first went to Las Hamacas for the fried chicken. Well, why not? I had visited another Honduran restaurant, Coquitos, and been impressed enough with the food to want to try more Honduran cuisine and read on that the fried chicken at Las Hamacas was very good. I first went to the location on Gessner at Harwin, the one closest to me. Right away it became apparent the complaints on b4 about the loud jukebox were not just the ravings of some cranky, picky diners. The jukebox was not only loud, it got louder with each selection until it reached a point of being almost intolerable, then muted considerably on the next number. Obviously, it’s programmed to do that. The food would have to be incredible for me to return to that location.

Fortunately I’ve found the Gulf Freeway location, while it can be loud, is no were near as unpleasant and I’ve made all my subsequent visits to that location.

Back to the negatives, though. I’ve had the Pollo Frito twice now, once at the Gessner location, and both times it’s been disappointing. It is offered two ways, I recommend getting it on the bed of banana chips (tajadas). It comes covered in shredded cabbage (the Central American curtido) and a plain tomato sauce. While the tajadas were excellent the chicken was dry, having been cooked in advance, I think, and held under a heat lamp too long. On a visit to the Gulf Freeway location I got the additional arroz, frijoles and aguacate (pictured on this post) and didn’t get the tajadas. This time the breast/wing piece came out looking absolutely gorgeous, glistening with just a little bit of the oil, but the meat was terribly dry and tough, practically needing a steak knife to cut. I’ve given up on the Pollo Frito at Las Hamacas.

But everything else I’ve had there has been very good. I’ve always gotten the Baleadas Sencilla, a thick warm flour tortilla smeared with frijoles rojos and sprinkled with some grated queso duro, a hard, salty cheese very much like parmesan, then folded over. It’s a popular street food in Honduras and very satisfying - warm flour tortillas and refritos are comfort food and I can’t pass it up. You can also get a Baleadas Especiales with with meat, eggs, crema and avocado.

I’ve also tried the Bandeja Catracha, described on the menu as a Honduran casserole. Catracha is a nickname for the Honduran people and like the Bandeja Montanero of Colombian restaurants, this is a combo plate which includes scrambled eggs, refritos rojos, carne frita, arroz, aguacate, queso and tajadas de plantanos instead of bananas. This was all good except that the skirt steak the time I got it had some gristle. I prefer the banana chips over the plantanos here.

On my most recent visit I ordered entirely off the appetizer menu, getting the Mix Hondureno in addition to the Baleadas (all pictured above). This included a pastelito (Honduran meat pie, snack sized), Honduran style enchilada (very similar to a Tex-Mex tostada) and Honduran taco, basically an oversized taquito. All of this was served on a plate covered with the encurtido and sprinkled with some cheese. The flavors bear a strong resemblance to Tex-Mex. Honduran food is not spicy but there are bottles of Tabasco on every table, perhaps a sop to Texans. I haven't used any of it.

The best thing on this plate was the pastelito, made with corn dough and stuffed with a ground meat and potato mixture, probably the same one which topped the enchilada. The taco meat was chicken which I understand is first stewed then crisped up a little on a grill. The corn tortillas used for both the taco and enchilada were very thick and soaked up a lot of oil in the cooking process.

There are many more items on the menu to try, including the Sopa de Caracol (conch soup) which is supposed to be a speciality of Honduras and Sopa de Jaibas, a crab soup. As at many taquerias and Central American restaurants, the Sopas seem to be the most popular items here.

If you’re looking for a quiet dining experience, Las Hamacas is not the place to go, but if you can stand a little noise with 2 TVs on pretty constantly and occasionally a song on the jukebox, the Gulf Freeway location hasn’t been unbearable for me.


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