Three butchers -- two from Argentina and another from El Salvador -- are on hand every Saturday to handle the demand for freshly cut meat at Plaza Latina Market in Falls Church.
"We're so busy, it's crazy," says owner Rosa Susinski as she walks toward the small store's butcher shop. In the glass case are carne adovada, a Mexican dish of pork chops marinated with garlic, cumin and chili peppers ($3.39 a pound); flank steak ($4.69 a pound) for fajitas; house-made sausages (all $3.49 a pound), including the spicy Argentine- and Mexican-style chorizos con picante and the mild, sweet chorizos sin picante favored by the market's Salvadoran customers. Beef hearts, or corazones ($2.59 a pound) are ready to be marinated in vinegar and grilled on skewers for anticucho, a dish popular on July 28, Peru's Independence Day.
At home, Susinski, 50, prefers dishes of her native Peru, such as lomo saltado, a saute of beef and potato, but her store's crowded shelves stock "everything we can get from Mexico to Argentina," she says. These include Bolivian chunos, or dried potatoes ($2.59 a bag), queso para freir, or frying cheese (12 ounces for $3.99) and countless varieties of dried chili peppers.
Most popular with many customers are the small, freshly baked loaves of bread (three for $1) found just inside the door. "The bread comes in warm every morning," says Susinski. "Sometimes we can't put it out right away -- it's too hot!" It has a crisp, crumbly crust and pillow-soft white interior that works well for sausage sandwiches or simply eaten plain.
David Guas, pastry chef of DC Coast and Ceiba, both in downtown Washington, stops in every morning on his way to work to buy a loaf to eat with his coffee. For Guas, who grew up going to similar markets in New Orleans, Plaza Latina is more than just a market. "I can connect with the Cuban side, the Latin side of my roots," he says. "Going there, it's like a library of memories."
Plaza Latina Market (2190-N Pimmit Dr., Falls Church; 703-748-1500), in the Idylwood Shopping Center behind Idylwood Plaza, is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. -- Matt McMillen
Matt McMillen last wrote for Food about the Salt River Lobster stands in Kensington and Bethesda.