The colorful main entrance might be the first thing you notice about Los Chorros. Next, come the paintings a local artist created to remind Pedro and Reina Lazo of special places in their hearts. They came to the U.S. from a small town in El Salvador in the early 1970s, bringing little more than their love for each other and their two sons. By 1989, the Lazos had their own restaurant in Wheaton.
"It's their American dream. A lot of people come here just to be successful and have their own business, and that was really their goal," said Omar Lazo, one of the owners of Los Chorros and the oldest son.
This month, the Lazo family is celebrating the 24th anniversary of the restaurant on Blueridge Avenue. Omar and his brother, Jason Lazo manage Los Chorros, which their parents opened to give a growing Salvadoran population the tastes of home.
"They put all of their hard-earned money and savings into it. They took a huge risk," said Lazo, who started washing dishes at Los Chorros when he was twelve. He and Jason grew up watching their parents build a business out of life experiences and money made working two and three jobs.
"Both my parents were pretty much orphaned at a young age. My mom used to go deliver bread in the village that they lived in. She got introduced to business at a very young age," said Lazo
Reina Lazo took her sons with her on trips selling the bread she made in the District. She learned the restaurant business while working at El Tamarindo, her sister's place in Washington, D.C. Betty Reyes helped Reina and Pedro bring Salvadoran food to Wheaton. The Lazos expanded and renovated the restaurant in 1995, adding 3,000 square feet and more than 100 seats.
"The food and service, they are both excellent," said Itzayana Hernandez, a customer and Wheaton resident. "Their pupusas are geat. I have tried many of their dishes, and they are awesome."
Los Chorros built its reputation on making dishes the way Salvadorans did at home. The Lazo brothers take pride in continuing the tradition of preparing most of the food fresh and from scratch. The cooks and many of their other employees have worked at Los Chorros for more than a dozen years.
"There are no recipes back there. Everything is by eye and taste, the old-fashioned way, the way my mom made it," explained Lazo.
That includes a Salvadoran staple popular with customers. "It [pupusa] tastes like home cooking. My in-laws make it. They have it at Christmas time, and it tastes just like it," said Rosemary Gomez, a Silver Spring resident.
Gomez and a group of about 20 teachers, along with the principal of St. Andrew Apostle School, celebrated the end of Catholic Week with lunch at Los Chorros. Some of them have fond memories of the restaurant from past years.
"I have a 29-year-old, and we used to come when he was little. It's very family oriented," said Tracy Rawls, a teacher and Rockville resident. "It was a great place to come with children for dinner. Not every place is family friendly."
The Lazo brothers want to keep Los Charros as successful as their parents made it, and build on the tradition that helped them pay for college educations and homes of their own.
"We just want to make sure our quality and standards remain the same so that people find value in that and want to come back," said Lazo.
The children of people who were once young customers now come to Los Chorros for the pupusas and other Salvadoran specialties. You'll pay $1.99 for each handmade corn flour tortilla stuffed with cheese, meat or both. Most entrees range in prices from $9.95 to $15.95.
From the Tex-Mex side of the menu, the combo fajitas with steak, shrimp and chicken are $15.95. Burritos, enchiladas and chimichangas range in price from $7.95 to $13.95. Lunch specials start at $6.00 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
Seafood dishes are also big sellers at Los Chorros. Ceviche for two is $9.45. A flounder filet cooked on the griddle until golden is $12.95. You'll pay market prices for sea bass, stuffed lobster, seafood soup or steamed salmon with wine sauce.
The restaurant has a full bar and is open seven days a week. Margaritas and bottled beer are sold. Delivery service is now available for customers located within three to four miles. Longer distances will be accommodated for large orders. Los Chorros also prepares food for delivery to large groups, events and parties.
Los Chorros is located at 2420 Blueridge Ave. between Georgia Avenue and Elkin Street. A public parking lot is nearby at Blueridge and Elkin. Check out the restaurant's website for more information or call 301-933-1066.
Note: This is a restaurant profile, not a review. Opinions expressed do not represent the ideas of the writer or Patch.
This article has been updated.