Open 7 days: 5 AM to 10 PM
Gravitas: Decor: Cost: Proximity:
This is a story about a nice new Guatemalan restaurant in Chambersburg, but also about transition and renewal, as it happens to be located where Papas Tomato Pies used to call home for 60-odd years until it left for Hamilton Square in 2013.
Don’t let the name fool you, La Chapinita offers a full Guatemalan menu. It contains a counter with some baked goods (frankly, Central American baking doesn’t do much for me), plus a steam table with empanadas and quick take out foods (explaining the Cafeteria in its name). But order off the menu, and you’ll get fresh cooked food out of the kitchen.
The image above shows the Carne Adobada platter ($6.99!) I ordered for lunch yesterday (July 2014). The Carne, was spicy and PERFECTLY cooked. I had to ask my waitress for the salsa verde, but she brought it happily and it was homemade (and no extra charge). I admit this is the ONLY dish I’ve sampled so far, but any restaurant that can do this well (and present the food so handsomely) knows what it’s doing. I can’t wait to get back.
There’s plenty of table space inside, inherited from Papas, which is clean and pleasant enough. The old mural on the wall of Paris (which was incongruous in Papas) is even a little odder in the current context. BYOB.
More broadly, anyone who lives in Trenton and is missing out on the Hispanic Revival, is missing the boat. Does another Guatemalan joint make up for the loss of Papas? Maybe not by itself. But Papas itself was a legacy of a wave of Italian immigration 100 years ago which, at the time, wasn’t that dissimilar to what’s happening today in Chambersburg. We’re living through a process of transition and revival. 5, 10, 20 years from now great things will have emerged. La Chapinita is one more step in this process.