Long Beach Lunch: Pupuseria Salvadorena

Since Long Beach doesn't have a street-food culture in which bacon-wrapped hot dogs and al pastor tacos materialize on street corners, farmers' market pupusas have sufficed for me as the closest thing to sidewalk grub I'll get in this town. Always cheap ($2 tops), these masa pockets of cheesy goodness are easily eaten in rips with a plastic fork or nibbled on over the edge of a paper plate as though it's a limp pizza topped with savory tomato salsa.

But I can't always wait until Friday, when my nearest farmers' market is open, so a Westside friend recommended I try Pupuseria Salvadoreña instead.

After stopping by one Monday only to realize that they are “Cerrado los Lunes,” I waited a week and a half, grabbed a fellow gabacho friend and made a second trek up to Willow and Easy Street for some sit-down pupusas–a lunch well-worth the wait.  

Unlike a few of the other Salvdadorean restaurants in Long Beach claiming to be home to the best pupusas in town, Pupuseria Salvadoreña doesn't have any Mexican food on its menu, preferring instead to specialize in traditional dishes from the tiny Central American county it takes its name from. This means that breakfast plates come with platanos fritos, meat dishes include pollo guisado (stewed chicken) and salpicon (hash beef), and (thankfully) there is not one chips-and-salsa serving in the whole house.

I was tempted to try a pacaya envuelta (palm flower wrapped in egg) or an employee-recommended chicken sandwich (a whole-plate bargain at $8), but we came for pupusas, damn it, so that's what we got.

Pupuseria Salvadoreña makes eight different fillings for its stuffed-and-fried specialties, ranging from the common revueltas–a mixture of pork, beans and cheese–to the had-to-Google-from-my-phone-while-in-line loroco y queso. They all range in price from $2 to $2.50 each, so we ordered two a piece, and even with drinks (try the Kolashampan–El Salvador's orange-colored Inca Kola), the total was barely more than $10.

The revueltas and pollo pupusas were standard but well-executed, with marinated meat and gooey white cheese emerging from the soft, hand-patted tortillas in a way that the farmers' market's pre-made ones never did. Even the fermented-cabbage topping curtido was fresher, with a slight vinegar taste that was less sauerkraut and more unrefrigerated cole slaw.   

Though I had never even heard of the edible Salvadorean vine loroco before I walked in, I finished my lunch a total convert. Part broccoli, part jasmine, the flavor melded supremely with the salty cheese and tart curtido in a way that would have only been mutilated by the presence of anything else.

With more interesting vegetarian options than the farmers' market and a patient staff willing to help gabachos find that perfect Salvadorean meal, Pupuseria Salvadoreña is my new favorite not-so-hole-in-the-wall for uncommon Latino eats.

Pupuseria Salvadoreña, 1336 W. Willow St., Long Beach, (562) 426-6004.

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