Inside El Bohio, a tiny Puerto Rican restaurant not half a mile north on Harry Wurzbach from Fort Sam, the warm smell of fried pork and salty rice hangs like sunlight in the air. Split like a horseshoe, the aroma fills the restaurant, wafting outward from the buffet table through the diner’s tendrils to the tables. The source of the smell, steaming in gleaming hotel pans, are dishes like saffron arroz con gandulez, onyx pearls of frijoles negros, ropes of glistening pernil, and the soft caramel coins of plátanos maduros. For $7.99 with a drink, the buffet makes a strong case for itself.
Still, ordering a la carte does have its advantages. Entire swaths of the menu are absent from the buffet, and after watching your mofongo con carne frita ($12.99) crumble apart at the mere mention of a fork, you might find that the all-you-can-eat siren song is a lot less enticing than the upturned mound of mashed, fried plantains. The traditional Puerto Rican dish, steeped in a garlic sauce, disintegrates like refrigerated turkey stuffing. Soft, pungent, and riddled with crisp bits of pork, it is nearly a dish all on its own. More remarkably, the mofongo manages to outshine a plate of equally appetizing counterparts, such as the chewy, taut bites of carne frita, white rice, and soft, unctuous black beans. Lightly grilled onions add crunch to the chewing gum pork, and a side salad and scatter of dry tostones make the meal easily fit for two.