Responding to my glowing review of the Nicaragua Restaurant on Mission Street north of Cesar Chavez, a native (a Nico) wrote me extolling the superiority of a Nicaraguan restaurant called Oye Managua 3385 Mission, across from Safeway between 28th and 30th streets. Of course, I had to check it out!
I felt like I was in an aquarium with disco music piped in very loud. The music was more often disco than salsa, though the play list also included one of my reggae favorites, “Rivers of Babylon.” The restaurant must have specialized in seafood in some earlier incarnation. The ceilings are ocean blue with dolphins, swordfish, turtles, etc.
I know that the national dish is gallo pinto, red beans stir-fried with rice, but I prefer to get my overdose of carbohydrates with fried ripe plantains (tajadas maduras). I invariably order tajadas con chancho y queso at Nicaragua: deep-fried ripe plantains, large chunks of pork marinated in achiote before being deep-fried, and deep-white cheese. The tajadas have primacy in the name because there are more of them than there are pieces of pork and cheese.
As at Nicaragua, at Oye Managua, most every entrée comes with “ensalada,” which is fresh cabbage marinated in lime juice with a few bits of tomato. I add half a jar of the pickled onion salsa, called chileros. The chileros at Nicaragua has some tomatoes. There did not seem to be anything red in the chileros at Oye Managua. Both are sour, but that at Oye Managua is distinctly hotter (mas picante). (Central American food is distinctly less piquant than Mexican with thicker tortillas smaller in diameter than Mexican.)
The ripe plantains with surface sugar caramelized and the mostly lean pork (chancho) could not be distinguished in a blind taste test. For some reason, we had to ask for the queso frito. It was golden brown rather than brown, but I think that this is because it was rushed to us after we had our other food. My dining companion claimed that it was butteryer than queso frito at Nicaragua, and that I had missed the “o” (or) on the menu. (I had not, the “o” was between green (verde) or ripe (madura) tajadas and it states “y queso frito”-and fried white cheese).
I should, perhaps, go back and order an empenada (plantain flour turnover stuffed with cheese or meat) and Nicaraguan tamales, nacatamales, and no entrée. I would never, ever order anything with yucca, which I consider less tasty than cardboard.
To complement the ceiling, there are some dishes del mar (from the sea), including a soup, sopa de siete mares (the seven seas), and prawns: Mexican style (rancheros), in garlic sauce (al mojo ajo), or breaded (empanizados). Also, tongue (lengua), chicken (pollo), and various preparations of beef steak. But when I think “Nicaraguan restaurant” my tongue starts watering for friend pork, cheese, and plantains.
Dessert (postres), as generally in the Spanish-speaking world, is mostly flan, along with banuelos (yucca pulls in which sugar provides the taste that yucca lacks). With the check we got fruit-colored (highly artificial flavored) lollipops.
Oye Managua has waiters, Nicaragua waitresses. Our waiter was eager to please, but easily confused beyond the menu by my dining companion (requiring my intervention in my Spanish, which is better in matters of food than in any other domain).
I liked the mix of music better at Oye Managua than the all-Latino (but not all the time!) music at Nicaragua, but it was so loud that it made conversation difficult. Other than the onion relish, and perhaps a slight edge in less (or fresher or hotter) oil, I did not find the food to which I gravitate better at Oye Managua. The prices were nearly one-third higher than at Nicaragua. Both have slow kitchens even when there are no diners waiting for food when we order.