Lakeside Café: Boasting Salvadorian Favorites

“My specialties are papusas, platanos, and tamales-both of them,” stated Lakeside Café owner Antonio with a glance over his shoulder as he plated tamales and a chicken quesadilla for the late afternoon rush. He stopped long enough for me to photograph his creations.

Ask any of his friendly regulars and it is his Salvadorian specialties over the traditional lunch counter fare that keep them coming back for more. The papusas which are stuffed corn tortillas are very much a favorite with the locals. “Papusas are lots of work,” said Antonio, “there are the different fillings to make, the dough, and the sides. Lots of work.” I requested a personal cooking lesson on papusa making and Antonio’s mother, Isabel, complied.

It was obvious in the first seconds of my lesson that Isabel had made hundreds and maybe even thousands of papusas in her lifetime. Her strong, adept hands quickly formed the soft, pillowy dough into a flat, round canvas ready to accept any of the three filling combinations: bean and cheese, pork and cheese, or just cheese. For me that day it would be all three as they generously filled my table with so many Salvadorian delights to sample.

She then placed the filling in the center of the flattened round, folded the dough in half, pinched the sides closed, pinched it all together like a purse, and flattened the entire papusa again, explaining in rapid Spanish what she was doing. Thank goodness for the visual lesson as my six years of Spanish failed me. With smiles, nods, and hand gestures we communicated brilliantly.

Although the menu at Lakeside Café consists of typical American favorites like pancakes, burgers, Reubens, and chicken strips, it is the delicious Salvadorian treats such as Tacos Carne Asadas, Platanos, Tamal de Pollo Salvadoreno, Quesadillas, Fajitas, Burrito Maximo, and Papusas that are mostly spotted on patrons’ plates.

Antonio has been in the U.S. since the 1990’s and settled in Reston, Virginia right away. He states that his mother taught him how to cook but he has also learned to cook under other great chefs including a chef from the Serbian Crown, a famous French and Russian restaurant in Great Falls, VA. He would someday like to expand and own a bigger restaurant, possibly serving Italian or International cuisines. He has owned Lakeside Café for about four years now and enjoys a steady flow of loyal customers. When you go, you may meet some of the regular Restonians who frequent this unique lunch counter that also shares it’s space with the Lakeside Pharmacy and Post Office.

If you are ever in Reston, Virginia which is not far from D.C., it would be in your best interest to pop on over to Historic Lake Anne and enjoy her offerings, especially Antonio’s Salvadorian specialties. My family enjoys the weekly visit to Lakeside Café and during the summer months you will often find my children and I at Lake Anne exploring, playing in the fountain, and ending our day with ice cream cones from Antonio’s popular and ever busy café.

Lakeside Café
1641 Washington Plaza
Reston, VA
Breakfast, lunch and dinner, open 7 days per week. Featuring Central American and American specialties. Located inside Lakeside Pharmacy. Lakeside terrace seating available.
Open –
Monday to Friday 9 AM to 6 PM
Saturday 9AM to 6PM
Sunday 9AM to 5 PM

Tomorrow afternoon in BRK: Eating A Rainbow- Yellow: Antonio and Isabel’s Platanos Fritos. So good. So easy.


  1. gfe--gluten free easily
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 7:23 AM | Permalink

    All that food looks fabulous! My friend/fellow gf blogger has been making papusas for entrees and desserts lately. Now, I really must get with the program. She’s actually not far from where this restaurant is … in Vienna.

    Yum. Thanks for sharing, Robin Sue!

  2. Joan Nova
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 7:57 AM | Permalink

    Great job on the photography and description of the food. If I were headed your way, I’d definitely put the Lakeside Cafe on my list of places to eat…right after the Big Red Kitchen! 🙂

  3. Josie
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 10:10 AM | Permalink

    Wow – if I lived closer to DC, I would be in my car now! You are very lucky to have the chance to learn to cook with such talented people.

  4. biz319
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 12:19 PM | Permalink

    I’ve never heard of papusas before – they look delicious!!

  5. Karen
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 12:33 PM | Permalink

    Those looks like plates of food I would love. Thanks for the tour!

  6. noble pig
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 12:48 PM | Permalink

    Wow, that looks delicious! Nice place to stop and eat.

  7. Maria
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 3:22 PM | Permalink

    Looks like a great place!

  8. Sabrina
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 3:53 PM | Permalink

    What nice people. I will have to get out there sometime.

  9. Katy
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 5:28 PM | Permalink

    Your photography is scrumptious!

    The food looks so good I’d almost be willing to drive the 10 hours to get there!

  10. Dawn
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 6:18 PM | Permalink

    wish I knew about this and you when I lived in Old Towne, VA.
    Great photos!!

  11. Linda
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 8:50 PM | Permalink

    Wow, everything sounds so good!

  12. Netts Nook
    Posted May 27, 2009 at 9:14 AM | Permalink

    What a great post Robin your pictures and story are perfect.

  13. Lisa
    Posted May 27, 2009 at 11:16 AM | Permalink

    The food here looks wonderful! I do get back to Northern Virginia occasionally. Maybe next time I can check this out.

  14. Jenn@slim-shoppin
    Posted May 27, 2009 at 1:45 PM | Permalink

    How lucky that you got a lesson in making those. They look amazing!

    I know where Reston Va is!

    I’ve thought about asking for a back of the house tour of some of my favorite places. It doesn’t hurt to ask! All they can say is no!

  15. Diane-The Whole Gang
    Posted May 28, 2009 at 6:28 AM | Permalink

    Thanks to my friend Shirley from Gluten Free Easily for sharing this post with me. I actually live in Herndon and walked right by Lakeside during the farmers market on Saturday. Great market if you can get there. I love pupusas but I’m not as good at shaping them yet. Maybe I’ll go by for a lesson. So glad I found your blog and the cafe.

  16. Amber
    Posted July 9, 2009 at 11:20 AM | Permalink

    I will have to tell my hubby about this place. He works out there and they order lunch every day. Thanks for posting about it!

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