El Asador promotes itself as Salvadorian and Mexican restaurant but their food is far more Salvadorian fare than Mexican, and this is a good thing. They make so many dishes that qualify to be an Awesome Eats and this review only scratches the surface. There is nothing like being able to eat authentic, made from scratch foods from other cultures in your own backyard. They even have wooden picnic tables outside under cover to consume to-go orders on the fly. Who needs to hop on a plane for the foodie experience when it’s right here?
Ordering a shrimp cocktail anywhere else would normally produce a glass holding steamed and shelled shrimp with cocktail sauce in the middle, but not here. Think of a shrimp cocktail deconstructed, if you will. A fiesta in a glass. An elixir. Quite possibly a cure-all.
The huge margarita bowl is filled to the rim with chunks of shrimp, avocado, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and cilantro. Plump whole shrimp are perched on the sides halfway into the pool. This is more like a cold soup or chowder and can be eaten with a spoon (oh, yes I did!). They serve it with saltine crackers because tortilla chips just can’t handle the weighty delight.
Crumble the crackers in it; add some of house made salsa verde for some heat (you can also order it with diced jalapenos) and dig in. Warning: do not consume if you have to go back to the office or be in close quarters with others. Fiesta Breath scale of 9. This dish rocks!
Their shrimp tacos are explosive and to die for, you know, the kind of taco seen on Street Eats or No Reservations. They are so good I had visions of going into business with them and buying a mobile taco truck, and then realized I would no doubt eat all of the profits. Two soft fresh corn tortillas try to contain the perfect combination of fresh grilled (key word) Pico de Gallo, which softens the onions, green peppers and tomatoes, and then they add fresh shredded cilantro, grilled gulf shrimp and a wedge of lime. This is a two-handed taco requiring napkins, and seconds. Once you have had these soul-filling babies you will be hard pressed to drive by without having to stop so you might as well put them on speed dial and call it in.
El Asador is family-owned and operated by Maria and Raul Rivas, the husband and wife team grew up in El Salvador. All of the recipes are family recipes and both Maria and her husband can be found cooking in the kitchen just as they have over the past ten years. Like many of their offerings the salsa Verdi is unique and takes a long time to make. They grill the green tomatillo tomatoes and let them rest before adding the other spices and seasonings. It is pureed fine unlike the chunky version so it makes it easier to pour on and over everything. It is so popular with the customers that they now sell it in quart containers and it’s easy to see why; it is sweet, a little sour and has just the right amount of heat to add flavor without scorching the lining of your mouth.
Tamales De Gallina is Salvadorian style and filled with chunks of spicy marinated chicken, tender potatoes and chickpeas. The dollar bill-sized tamale is made with fresh corn mesa and steamed inside of a corn husk rendering them soft and silky. It’s their version of the American Hot Pocket, but yummy.
Elote is a popular breakfast item at El Asador, it is a corn ‘oatmeal’ dish that is eaten for breakfast in El Salvador. Made from fresh scraped corn off the cob and pureed with sugar (lots of sugar), flour, and milk, heated and served. It used to be on their menu only in winter months but it is so often requested they have had to put it on year round. Rich, sweet, milky and corny all at the same time it’s more like drinking hot creamed corn. It is very sweet, and very native.
Another popular breakfast item in El Salvador that we tend to eat for dessert is the plantain empanadas. The cooked and mashed plantain, which tastes like a banana, is rolled around a filling that is akin to a cooked pudding. The filling has a taste and texture of fresh coconut meat and is surprisingly not that sweet but combined with the plantain casing it balances the flavor. These are just a great snack any time of day.
Refreshing, sweet, fruity and cooling is a drink they make called "Ensalada." Chopped apples, melons, and grapes in a strawberry and pineapple juice drink. It’s like drinking a fruit cocktail. One could almost order this as a dessert, if you didn’t order the flan. The flan is so light, so smooth, and so silky that even if you are stuffed to the gills from dinner you can enjoy it. They make their own caramel sauce and their own flan using heavy cream but the dessert is neither rich nor overtly sweet. The perfect finish, to a perfect El Salvadorian meal, at El Asador.
El Asador is located at 100 Olde Greenwich Dr. in Fredericksburg, VA 22408.
Shelly Van Cleve has been in the restaurant industry for over 25 years and is a longtime foodie. Her Let’s Eat Out Menus Magazine is an award-wining restaurant magazine published and distributed to homes, offices, hotels and visitor centers. Grab a copy at the Fredericksburg Visitor's Center, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.