Driving to Armando's Place in Elizabeth, NJ, reminded me of driving from Brooklyn to Queens, or driving through Harlem. In a way, it was quite funny to be in such familiar surroundings without ever being there before. I had been trying to visit this place as it is owned, or co-owned, by a co-worker of mine, but because of the distance of about 35 miles from home, it was not an easy feat to fit it into my schedule.
After a shopping trip to Menlo Mall, I finally had reason to go to Armando's Place, as it was less than 12 miles from the mall. Parking was not as hard to find as we thought it would be, presuming it was like the NYC urban areas we were accustomed to. Armando's Place had the music blasting so loud that even from our parking spot a block away, it was hard to miss. Once inside, we saw a bustling crowd sitting at the bar, found our way to some empty tables between the bar and the "solo bar" admitting only 21 and over folks. As I had my daughter with me, we stopped short of this "solo bar" and just enjoyed the mix of merengue, bachata, and reggaeton, reverberating from the other side of the wall.
We just ordered one entree to share (carne asada with tostones, salad, and a side of black bean rice), with our own pupusas (my husband got the chicharron, I got the revuelta), and also ordered a Honduran soda and a glass of horchata. It was plenty of food, but with none left over because it was quite good! My favorite of the whole meal was actually the side dish: red cabbage slaw that comes to the table in a half-gallon container. Literally a half gallon! And the waitress didn't take it away, so I literally could've eaten the whole thing had I wanted to! It was unlike other slaws I've had with other pupusas, so this was the surprise.
For dessert, I tried the dulce de leche mousse. It was simply a caramel mousse. I was hoping for something more special or specific to the Honduran/Salvadoran/Central American cuisine, but alas they had no tres leches, no flan, not even the rice pudding. My sweet tooth was denied its craving.
In the end, our bill totaled just $24 before tip, so it was a deal. And as I won't have any other reason to trek to this part of NJ after this, it was also worth the trip.
One caveat that I've read in other forums is that you need to speak Spanish to dine at this place. I had my husband do all the ordering (he's Colombian) so unfortunately, I can't tell you if this is true or not. Actually, I don't see why this would be a problem because everything is explained on the menu, and a lot of the food items even have pictures to match the dishes.
P.S. I recommended this place to UrbanSpoon!