Atmosphere: Costa del Sol on the Potomac; be casual.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays and occasional holidays.
Price Range: From 95 cents for a platter of rice, beans and eggs to $5.95 or paella or steak; most dinners in $3.50-$3.95 range.
Reservations: Probably a good idea on weekends.
Credit Cards: Carte Blanche, Diner's Club, American Express.
Special Facilities: Parking only on city streets; inaccessible to wheelchairs; boosters and high chairs available. Carryout.
It is no secret that there are good Hispanic restaurants in Adams-Morgan, or that they serve inexpensive food. But only a few are well-known, and many others deserve to be: They serve generous amounts of home-cooked food at prices that can only be described as dirt cheap.
El Rincon Espanol is one of these lesser known places, which we had a marvelous time discovering on a recent Friday night. Located on Columbia Road between two of its famous competitors, El Rincon occupies a narrow town house that its owners have stuccoed, whitewashed and hung with greenery, floor by floor. Apparently renovation just goes on and on. During our dinner, while a guitarist strummed in the background and we passed the sangria, an employee busied himself hanging a curtain rod, a curtain and a couple of potted philodendrons.
Thus, the place may seem a bit on the scruffy side. It also is noisy, with narrow passageways and tables crowded into long, narrow rooms.
You enter past a large dairy case displaying lobster, empanadas, Spanish sausage and sandwiches. It's a steep climb to the upper floors, but it's all part of El Rincon's character. There are rough edges, but that's half the fun. You can relax, make some noise yourself, and enjoy good food here in a homey, Mediterranean atmosphere.
El Rincon concentrates on Spanish and Cuban dishes, with two or three daily specials written on a blackboard at the entrance of the restaurant.We ordered two house specialities: paella valenciana, $5.25, and arroz con chorizo (rice with Spanish sausage), $3.95.We also requested a chicken casserole Spanish style, $3.75; sopa de camerones (shrimp soup), $4.25; and milanesa a la andaluza (breaded steak Andalusian style), $3.25. All come with rice and black beans.
While we waited for the paella, which takes about 25 minutes to prepare, we sampled an order of mejillones El Rincon (mussels in a wine, tomato, garlic and herb sauce), $1.50. The dish was so good that we felt compelled to sop up the sauce with the good bread on the table.
Children's dishes are not offered, but both beef and chicken empanadas (turnovers) are available for only 75 cents a serving, and the menu offers several chicken and shrimp dishes as well as beef stew. Although flavorful, none of them is highly seasoned. Servings are large and Children could easily split an entree.
Paella was worth the wait. El Rincon's version is authentic, declared the former resident of Valencia who accompanied us; it is chock full of chicken, chorizo, mussels, clams, shrimp and fish.
Whether you order for one or two people, the bowl brought you will easily serve more, particularly if one of those people is a child.Take care, though, since the kitchen uses every part of the chicken and the fish is not fileted before cooking. There are bones in the paella, but not another negative thing to be said about it.
Shrimp soup was not a soup at all, but more of a shrimp and rice casserole, similar to the Spanish sausage and rice. On the other hand, the chicken casserole our younger daughter ordered turned out to be a huge platter of stewed chicken served with mounds of rice and vegetables alongside. Spanish style steak -- what we used to call chicken steak -- was a tender piece of beef and coated in breadcrumbs and served with similar accompaniments.
Like the place itself, the food is simple, down-to-earth, and good. We enjoyed it thoroughly.
Flan, rice pudding, house pastries and torta de chocolate, which turned out to be German chocolate cake, of all things, are all available for around $1.The flan, unfortunately, was mediocre, and the German chocolate cake, although very good, had a raisin-and-liquer filling that was too rich for the 9-year-old who ordered it.
Try an espresso or cappuccino. At 50 cents and 75 cents respectively, you won't find them cheaper anywhere else in the city.