A few weeks ago, Baltimore Banner reader Kelleigh Johnson shared some of her favorite Baltimore restaurants and dishes with me.

Johnson says Tortilleria Sinaloa’s carnitas and barbacoa tacos, Restaurante Cristiano Jireh’s baleadas, and Samos’ combo plate are her and her husband’s top choices when dining out.

Tortilleria Sinaloa and Samos are two places where I have eaten many times over the years. But Restaurante Cristiano Jireh was new to me. And for this column, I am visiting some of the restaurants suggested by Baltimore Banner subscribers, trying the recommended menu items and offering tips.

The restaurant is located at 1704 Gough St., less than a block from the popular taco spot Cocina Luchadoras. Two tall Spanish lace steel doors and a brown-white-and-red backlit sign greet people at the entrance. Inside, there is lots of seating in brown and red clay-colored plastic booths with tables covered in white tablecloths. Bible passages, written in Spanish in red lettering, decorate the otherwise white walls. Table displays of snacks, desserts for sale and clothing with the Honduran and El Salvadoran flags line the perimeter of the indoor space.

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Complimentary chips and housemade salsa were placed on my table as the server took my order. I ordered horchata and tamarindo to drink and two baleadas: the sencillas, which are meatless, and the especiales con carne with steak.

Kelleigh had this to say about the baleadas at Restaurante Cristiano Jireh: “Honduran tortillas filled with meat, egg, avocado, and cheese, it’s the size of a dinner plate. So delicious.”

The chips are crispy, thin and lightly salted, and the salsa has just a little heat. The aroma of fresh cilantro and onions excited my senses before the chips and salsa even touched my taste buds.

Next came the horchata and tamarindo. Seeing the $4 price, I was expecting a small cup somewhere between 8-12 ounces. Instead, 32-ounce pitchers with light ice were brought to the table.

The horchata, a rice drink made with cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla, was a wonderful balance of creamy and sweet. The tamarindo, tamarind fruit and water sweetened with sugar, was deliciously tart.

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And then the baleadas arrived. I tasted the meatless one first. The dish consisted of a tortilla, refried beans, crema and queso, and was slightly larger than the dinner plate it was served on. Simple, warm and hearty. The especiales con carne had steak, scrambled eggs, refried red beans, avocado, queso and crema inside a tortilla. The steak was tender, seasoned with a variety of spices and citrus, and the eggs were scrambled hard, which gave them a firm texture that went well with the softness of the refried beans, avocado and tortilla. I decided to add some spicy salsa and enjoyed every bite.

This was my first time trying both the restaurant and this traditional Honduran dish. I loved my first experience so much that I’ve since returned to try more of the Honduran and Salvadoran menu. The tacos dorados and rice are outstanding. Their pastelitos and pupusas are next on my list to try.

Thank you, Kelleigh, for this suggestion. The word “hidden gem” often gets overused these days, but Restaurante Cristiano Jireh’s made-from-scratch dishes, large portions and affordable menu make this place worthy of the label.

I would love to know your favorite restaurants or share my own dining suggestions in the Baltimore area. Email simone.phillips@thebaltimorebanner.com with recommendations and questions.

Simone Phillips is the founder of the food blog Charm City Table and a Creative in Residence for The Baltimore Banner.

Simone Phillips is part of The Baltimore Banner's Creatives in Residence program, which amplifies the work of artists and writers from the Baltimore region.

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