Get Piles of Nicaraguan and Mexican Meat at El Gallo Pinto

When Drew Lazor reported that  a South Philly grocery store was serving Nicaraguan food I was immediately excited, having spent some time there 2 years ago. How I forgot that it existed for so many months is very upsetting, shame on me.  But somehow it popped in to my head and I found myself heading to the back of El Gallo Pinto to place my order.

After facing blank stares when trying to order vigaron, a typical Nicaraguan dish, I found out that the original Nicaraguan owner sold the business a few month ago to people who are from Mexico. So now the menu has been narrowed, with less popular Nicaraguan dishes being ousted and Mexican food added. This barely posed a problem and I was able to order a ridiculous amount of Mexican and Nicaraguan food.

The grocery store does not have too much going on, but I did score some spicy lime chips and Krispies (a Mexican chocolate covered rice candy)

First was the nacatamale ($4), a widely popular meat stuffed corn mush wrapped in a leaf. El Gallo Pinto’s is a giant, a meal in itself, way bigger than the ones I had in Nicaragua. That isn’t a positive or negative thing, just an observation. Inside the depths of its stuffing were two pieces of tender bone-on meat. A little salsa or some spicy sauce on the side would have made it even better.

A  chicken empanada was served fried, piping hot, and topped with cotija cheese. It was delicious, though maybe a teeny bit small for $2, especially compared to the big portions of everything else we got.

There was no way I could be upset that Nicaraguans no longer run the place after trying the milanesa torta the kitchen puts out ($6) with fried steak, beans, and avocado. This sandwich was amazing, it was perfect actually. The steak was alarmingly flavorful and expertly fried. If you are by yourself and not in the mood for a meat pig out (although I highly recommend going for the full on pig out) or if you need to take something to go, this should be your guy.

Chancho (pork) con yuca ($8) is another typical Nicaraguan dish. I recall having it fried there, whereas here pork ribs were stewed in a bright sauce. It is served with boiled yuca and cabbage salad. The meat on the little ribs easily came off as I bit into them.

You can’t go to Nicaragua without having gallo pinto, a mix of beans and rice, and we couldn’t leave here without trying some. For $10, a platter of it with carne asada also came with queso blanco, avocado, and some shredded “salad”.  The gallo pinto tasted pretty legitimate but the flavor of the steak stole the show on this platter. I don’t know what they do here to get their meat to taste so good. Plus its not just all more of the same, the carne asada tasted nothing like the chancho or the milanesa. Basically, they do everything well.

Giant agua frescas are available for $3.50. We had the watermelon and it was so good I had to stop myself from chugging it.

And while you can’t get your drink, nacatamale, and a platter for under $5 like you can in Nicaragua, this place is a great value and the food is honest and impressive all at once. Looks like you do not have to be Nicaraguan to make great Nicaraguan food.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • Nicaraguan food!
  • Amazing steak sandwiches
  • Giant flavorful meat in rib, sandwich, and grilled forms

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • I am scared by menus not in English
  • No more Nicaraguan chefs in the kitchen
  • If you were hoping to find vigaron in Philly, you are out of luck

El Gallo Pinto, 1163 S 7th St (btw Federal and Annin St), 267 886-9803


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