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Bites Nearby: Big Flavors, Small Plates at La Malinche in Silver Spring

Spanish tapas and Mexican botanas give patrons interesting choices at this downtown restaurant.

Where do you go if you have a taste for paella and guacamole? La Malinche can satisfy both of those cravings with a menu that features small plates of Spanish and Mexican specialties.

"I love the food. I think it's very well done. I also like the fact that it's unique among the restaurants in the area," said Abdin Noboa, a La Malinche patron.

The Silver Spring resident likes to bring relatives and friends to experience the "well-kept secret" he discovered across from the AFI Silver Theatre. "It's a good place to meet, and we hope others get to know the restaurant," Noboa said. "I also like the idea that it is being run by Latinos from Central America."

Three brothers and a brother-in-law from El Salvador realized their long-held dream of opening a restaurant together in November of last year. Jaime Sorto, his brothers Hugo and Jose Bonilla, and his brother-in-law Jose Zelaya looked for a name that symbolizes their concept of two cultures coming together.

They chose La Malinche, the name given to a historical figure who has been at the center of controversy for centuries. The noble Mexican woman was enslaved and given to Hernán Cortés, a Spanish conquistador. She became his interpreter and confidante. Their son was viewed as the first mestizo, a child of mixed blood. Many Mexicans consider La Malinche or Doña Marina to have been a traitor, but today, she is also honored as the symbolic mother of the country's mixed-race people.

At La Malinche, all of the starters, vegetables, meats and seafood are served as Spanish tapas, called botanas in Mexico. The waiters bring each dish ordered as soon as it is ready. They can explain the concept behind the more than 40 small plates. "They're going to put it on your table, and the idea is to share. It's family style," said Sorto.

The owners believe the time spent on testing each dish is the reason La Malinche has received four and a half stars from Yelp and rave reviews from customers. Sorto's brother Hugo is the executive chef. They both spent years working in other restaurants before choosing the food for La Malinche.

"I think it is fresh and cooked more like homestyle. You prepare with love. That way, it's always going to come out good. They do the food with patience, and it's going to come out right," Sorto said.

Most of the tapas range in price from $4 to $12. The fish tacos, lamb chops and croquettes are among the most popular. If you order the paellas, be prepared to wait 30 to 40 minutes. The traditional Paella Martin Cortéz comes with calamari, scallops, shrimp and chicken for $38. A fresh vegetable paella and more than a dozen vegetarian dishes are on the menu.

Rose Krasnow is a fan of the shrimp in garlic sauce, but not the large painting prominently displayed above her group's table. It depicts an Aztec warrior carrying an Aztec princess who died while he was away fighting. The artwork might spark debate among patrons, but most agree with Krasnow's take on the food.

"I ate here about a month ago, and had the special where you got an appetizer and two dishes," said Krasnow, who works near the restaurant. "Everything was good and served in big portions. I thought that was surprising for small plates, how big everything was."

The drink of choice for many customers is La Malinche's red or white wine sangria made with fresh fruit and brandy. You might also want to try the Jalapeno Margarita or other signature cocktails. Some new items, including enchiladas and empanadas will be added to the menu in coming months. Outdoor seating is also planned.

The restaurant offers a fixed price brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. You can get unlimited tapas, drinks and dessert for $30. Happy Hour prices are available daily at the bar from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

La Malinche is located at 8622 Colesville Road. Check out the website for more information about the tapas served seven days a week.

Note: This is a restaurant profile, not a review. Opinions expressed do not represent the ideas of the writer or Patch.

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