Hugo Castro was a friend of mine at Anaheim High School—class of 1997, just like me. We weren't in the same social strata—he usually kicked it with the jocks, while even the nerds scoffed at me—but we kicked it more often than not. If memory serves me correct, we stood in the same general area for our Senior Day portrait. As the years went by, he became one of the people I asked others about, keeping tabs on his life and happy he was doing well.
A couple of months ago, I discovered Hugo was opening a Salvadoran restaurant in Anaheim named Cuzcatlan. So he wasn't a Mexican, as I always thought? Color me pendejo again. Hugo invited me to swing by and eat, asking me to invite some of our mutual friends that he hadn't seen in ages. And while I passed the word along, I declined his invite, knowing Hugo would shower me with free food. In the meanwhile, I had my scouts get to-go orders to see if his food was legit—or if I'd have to kindly ignore it. The answer came in pupusas as thick as a terra cotta saucer from rim to base and nearly as wide, cheesy and doughy and perfect. There was an American and Mexican menu as well, but my focus was on the Salvadoran stuff: fatty sopa de pata, masses of fried yucca, horchata with a cinnamon kick. Hugo had created a pupusería worthy of review and already as great as they come in Orange County, a vital place in an era in which Salvadoran restaurants keep shutting down in the face of the taquería tide.
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But I decided to save my favorite dish for my first visit: casamiento, one of the finest breakfasts on Earth. When Hugo told me he was opening the restaurant, I asked if he was going to stock this dish: black beans mixed with white rice and accompanied by scrambled eggs, a dollop of crema fresca and a block of cotija, each part collectively hitting all the breakfast notes you could ever desire. He wasn't around when I visited his charming Cuzcatlan, a giant dining room with chairs hand-painted in the colors of the Salvadoran flag and tables awash in pastels. He wasn't there as I scarfed down his casamiento. But I can't wait to see him again soon, holding this review as our mutual amigo Art Marmolejo joins me in congratulating Hugo on a job well done. Hey, Hugo, maybe we should call up Moises Ceja and Luis Bedolla, too?