Tastes of the Little City: La Migueleña

Sopa, not Ropa

By Julie Walters
Falls Church Times Staff
October 28, 2013

With winter approaching, would you like to know what restaurant in Falls Church serves the best soup?

What if I told you that you’ve driven past it hundreds of times where Hillwood hits South Washington? You may not have noticed it, though. The storefront’s modest green awning announces only “La Migueleña Carry Out” and “La Migueleña Mercado Latino.” Plus, it’s easy to miss that there’s a restaurant inside when the sidewalk in front of the business next door is populated by those notorious, provocative half mannequins (the bottom half) in snug jeans. You know where I’m talking about, right?

PantsLa Migueleña is part Latin market, part lunch counter. There is limited seating in the market, but it’s sun drenched and cozy. You can eat at the warm, artful sand-color tile counter and watch the cooks mold the masa de maiz (corn meal) and grill fresh corn tortillas and Pupusas. Or, if you prefer, there are a few comfortable tables between the wall of windows and the racks that display chicharrones and Latin sodas. La Migueleña also does a brisk carry out business (hence the sign), but I like to eat my soup there.

I was alerted to La Migueleña by some friends who, when quizzed about their favorite dishes, emphatically answered, “the soup.”

“What kind of soup?” I asked.

“It doesn’t matter.” they replied.

I understood what they meant immediately.  On my first visit, I asked the woman behind the counter about the soup of the day.

“Es Sopa de Gallina.” she said.

“Oh good! “ I told my son, “They have chicken soup — Sopa de Pollo.”

“No.” the woman corrected me. “Es Sopa de Gallina.”

“Ah,” I hugged my son. “This is going to be awesome!”

If you are a chicken soup connoisseur, you probably already know the difference between making soup with a regular supermarket chicken and making soup with a hen (gallina).  I’ll leave you to discuss matters of chicken age and genus in the comments below but, suffice it to say, my mother-in-law would never make a gumbo in Louisiana from anything other than a hen.  And I personally have never achieved that wonderful gelatinous stock from a regular chicken.  Hens make better chicken soup.  They just do.

IMG_5728Then it got better.

I asked if one order of soup was large enough to share and was shown a veritable trough of a bowl.  We decided yes.

Within seconds, my son and I were slurping from a steaming hot bowl of rich, slightly salty chicken soup, brimming with tender cabbage, carrots, zucchini, and potatoes.  We were busily blowing on our soup to cool it and eat it more quickly when a huge plate of rice, house made corn tortillas, freshly sliced jalepeños, and a quarter roasted, crispy-skinned chicken landed on the counter in front of us.  It looked so delicious that I didn’t bother to tell the woman that we had only ordered the soup.  The chicken was juicy and perfectly seasoned, and the rice was a nice addition to the meal.  The only disappointment was the tortillas.  They were a little tough and I missed a richer corn flavor.  But, we enjoyed watching her make them on the grill in front of us.

It was a fun, comfortable, delicious dinner.  When we paid for our meal at the cash register in the back of the store, we discovered that the plate of chicken and rice comes with the soup.  For $12.00, two adults can easily enjoy one substantial meal (they’ll split it into two portions for you too).plato de pollo

All of my subsequent visits have been just as gratifying. La Migueleña usually has Sopa de Gallina, but sometimes they serve Sopa de Mariscos (seafood soup) or a soup with beef. There are also many other dishes from the cook’s native El Salvador, such as really good Pupusas (grilled tortillas stuffed with cheese, or cheese with black beans), Pollo Guisado (stewed tender chicken with tomatoes, onions, and peppers), and Carne Asado (grilled steak). The menu hangs above the grill and displays pictures of the food along with its name in English and Spanish. Most of dishes are in the $9.00 range and are served with rice, refried black beans (or salad), fresh corn tortillas, and, if you wish, sliced jalepeños. Everything I’ve eaten is wonderful, homey comfort food and authentic El Salvador.pupusa

The staff at La Migueleña is super warm and helpful. Everyone is more than happy to explain the ever changing specials, or show you the food to aid your decision. If you don’t speak Spanish, the owner or his sister are always on hand to help you with whatever you need. La Migueleña serves breakfast until 11:00 a.m. (try the Plato Tipico of eggs, rice, tortillas, and refried beans), and the soup is usually ready before 11:30. One pro tip: If it’s raining and you’re in the mood for soup, make sure you go before noon. They’ll run out of Sopa de Gallina before 1:00 every time.

Check it out and tell me if you think it’s the best soup in Falls Church. If you don’t, I sure hope you’ll tell me what is!

(All photos copyright: Julie Walters)

The Details:

404 S. Washington St
Falls Church, VA 22046

Hours of Operation:

Monday – Saturday: 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m., Sunday: 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

October 28, 2013 


5 Responses to “Tastes of the Little City: La Migueleña”

  1. Jim Breiling, North Arlington on October 28th, 2013 9:55 am

    THANKS for revealing a hidden gem.

    Is more soup prepared for the afternoon (a combining of lunch and dinner — a lunner) and for dinner?

    Glad to know about the breakfast possibility.

    Hours: Opening and closing?

  2. Julie Walters on October 28th, 2013 11:03 am

    (Yikes! The hours! Sorry! Corrected copy above.)
    Typically, when the soup is gone, it’s gone. I’ve been there when they run out before 12:30, and I’ve been there when I could order soup for dinner. It just depends. Luckily, the other food is good so, when they’re out of chicken soup, I’m okay being flexible.
    I hope you like it!

  3. Jim Breiling, North Arlington on October 29th, 2013 3:38 pm

    Betty and I went for a lunier (lunch-dinner) earlier this PM. We lucked out. The hen soup was still available. We followed your wise recommendation to share. We also had the Pupusas.

    We shared your review with Elmer (the male owner/co-owner). He is eager to meet you. He also promised to have your review in a frame when we return, as we will.

    P.S. As I understood Elmer, all 4 soups are usually available on weekends.

    P. P. S. There’s limited parking in the rear.

  4. Julie Walters on October 29th, 2013 3:50 pm

    Jim, that’s great! Thanks for sharing! I hope you enjoyed it and thanks so much for your feedback!

  5. Jim Breiling, North Arlington on October 29th, 2013 4:41 pm

    P.P.S. Elmer also said that the soup featuring the stomach of cow was very popular on weekends as an antidote to the effects of excessive consumption of alcohol. Is there relevant scientific evidence about this?

Feel free to leave a comment. Please increase the credibility of your post by including your FULL NAME and CITY. All comments are subject to editing for courtesy and content.