Paz at last. Photo by Erin Smith
Paz at last. Photo by Erin Smith

This Hole-in-the-Wall Life

Why is there a historic division between Mexicans and Salvadorans? I can't differentiate between the two cultures as I drive through MacArthur Park in Los Angeles and SanTana. Both are races descended from Spaniards andindios. Plus, they share the staple foods of beans and tortillas. Why thepedo?

Tensions between Mexicans and Salvadorans date to the Conquest, when Spaniards enslaved Aztecs and used them to overtake El Salvador, and they continue as Salvadorans illegally cross Mexico on their way to the United States. Working diligently to bring both nationalities to the table once they're here is Birrierías y Pupusería Jalisco, a five-restaurant chain specializing in Mexican and Salvadoran cuisine. The syncretism begins with the name (it mentions the primal Mexican goat stew birria and the Salvadoran griddle cake pupusa) and the company's logo: a rose-cheeked Salvadoran woman patting out pupusas over a cast-iron grill while, outside, her mustachioed Mexican husband chases a terrified goat.

Rapprochement continues on the menu. There's not much excitement on the Mexican side (delicious, if pedestrian, enchiladas, tacos and shrimp dishes) save for the namesake birria, a goat stew that's the macho cousin of menudo. The stringy goat meat bobs in a blood-red broth that's angry and spartan, flavored only by hellish chiles, onions and soothing cilantro.

The Salvadoran menu is more extensive. The pupusas aren't spectacular, which means they're perfect—toasty on the outside with a gooey cheese interior that envelops whatever ingredient you requested: beans, the bitter flower stalk loroco or salty fried pork skin. A chicharrón pupusa complements the salpicón: chilled chopped beef, diced onions, radishes and mint. And Birrierías y Pupusería Jalisco is where I enjoy my current favorite breakfast: a fried plantain paired with black beans, sweet sour cream, eggs and a French roll. It's bueno.

Whether you order Mexican or Salvadoran food at Birrierías y Pupusería Jalisco, make sure to mix and match condiments, if only in the name of Latino solidarity. Add curtido (the Salvadoran slaw that accompanies pupusas) to Birrierías' bottle-sized burritos—enjoy the contrast between the garlicky, pickled curtido and the unspiced beans-rice-and-meat simplicity of the burrito. Spread the chilled, citrus-tinged house salsa on the pupusas to tweak the hearty appetizer. Swapping condiments is a delicious, polite gesture—and so much better than trading bullets, ¿qué no?

BIRRIERíAS Y PUPUSERIA JALISCO, 404 N. GRAND AVE., STE. A, SANTA ANA, (714) 836-4409; 17292 W. MCFADDEN, STE. D, TUSTIN, (714) 573-1586; 6999 E. CERRITOS AVE., STANTON, (714) 826-3382; 2525 N. GRAND AVE., STE. A, SANTA ANA, (714) 288-8931; 1212 S. BRISTOL AVE., SANTA ANA, (714) 662-7400.


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