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Sep 4, 2006 12:19 AM

Pupusas in Fresno

Having noticed that the open sign was in the window a little over a week ago, stopped in for lunch last Thursday. Chatting with the owner, Emilio, was told they are now open seven days a week.

Ordered the two pupusas combo, one cheese, laroco, and chicharones, the other revuelta, with beans, fried plantain and crema, $6.35, iirc. The chips to start with were nice and thin, warm and fresh tasting, the salsa had great flavors and a little more fire than I'm used to, still managed to wipe out every drop in the little molcajete. The curtido in the sealable jar was also very fresh and flavorful, but didn't get much out of the red sauce that accompanied, could be all the salsa I put away. The refried beans were excellent, wonderful flavor and a nice ratio of pureed to bits of whole frijoles.

I was worried about this little gem fading away but Emilio says they get a pretty good lunch business from Community Hospital just across the way.

There's not much atmosphere and just a dirt parking lot in the back, and probably wouldn't want to visit after dark, but for lunch I'll be a regular from now on.

Rincon Salvadoreno
302 N. Fresno St. (NE at McKenzie)

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  1. Hey PB, thanks for the report! Hubby and I will try and tear ourselves away from Don Pepe's and Taco Grande and put it on our rotation.

    1. Thought I'd bump up this thread, and include another link with additional info.

      Driving north on Fresno St. today approaching McKenzie Ave a freshly painted wall on the NW corner with the word "Pupusas" caught my eye. Tired, coming out of a 2 hr meeting at City Hall, I went back to the office thinking I'd return next week. A half hour later I was back ordering pupusas.

      This place is across the street from the former Rincon (now boarded up) and slightly north, there's a vacant lot on the NW corner. Parking requires that you turn west on McKenzie, then north (right) in the alley (there's a school playground to the left), then park inside the chain linked enclosure behind the restaurant. [Edit to add: watch out for a couple of large pot holes] You'll see double doors with the name above and a sandwich board outside listing some specials. They do mariscos and Mexican fare as well.

      There were at least 7-8 types of pupusas available, a few which I had to inquire as to what they were. I went with a larocca y queso, jalapeno, and espinacas (spinach and cheese). Also available were chicharron, revuelta, frijole y queso, and zucchini. The curtido was fresh with nice half rounds of cucumber and was accompanied by red and green salsa in two squeeze bottles. I ordered an ice tea, but the owner, Giada (pronounced gee-da) brought me a complimentary "ensalada", clear looking pineapple flavored drink with small bits of apple, leafy greens, and pineapple in it, very tasty and thankfully not overly sweet. The pupusas were expertly done, and the masa quite thin, which makes me wonder after rereading one of the posts if it may have been made from rice rather than corn. Pupusas were 2.00 ea.

      I mentioned to Giada that we used to frequent the place across the street (Rincon) before it closed and it turns out apparently she had owned it and recalled our office holding staff lunch meetings there. The signage outside says Puerto Marquez, but the take out menu I picked up lists them as Ambiente Tropical Rest. & Pupuseria. Turns out she previously owned the place on Kings Canyon/MLK Blvd and sold it. They opened in this location last November.

      There's a number of things on the menu that look worthy of exploration. Chile Relleno a la carte is 3.99, w/ chicken or shredded beef taco, 6.99, chile verde is 7.99. Antojitos Salvadorenos include Yuca frita o cocida con chicharron 4.99, Tamal de puerco o pollo 2.00, two Pastelitos de pollo 3.25. Mariscos are Mojarra frita (tilapia) 8.75, Camarones de ajo, a la diable, rancheros, or empanisados (battered) 9.99, camaron o ceviche tostadada 3.99, and The Coctel de camaron 9.99.

      Nicest people, putting out great pupusas, unable to afford advertising, give them a try.

      Topicale Ambiente / Puerto Marquez
      323 N. Fresno St (NW @ McKenzie)
      444-0550 (closed on Tues.)

      Other post on Fresno pupusa truck, Ambiente Tropicale, Laurita's, and Vallarta Market

      5 Replies
      1. re: PolarBear

        Possible ownership change alert:

        Wanted to pre-order a togo for some pupusas for our dinner yesterday, entry doors where chained shut so asked at the rear kitchen entry if they were cerrado and was told yes and that
        they would open next week. Can't say I'm surprised, no on street parking, and the small fenced in lot behind the place is not access friendly.

        I guess we're down to trying the other Zamora that took over Laurita's (NW Broadway and Divisadero) for our pupusa jones', unless another local hound can come up with more options.

        1. re: PolarBear

          PB, I'm not very well versed in Pupusas but I found a place today you and the other pupusa lovers might be interested in. It's called El Salvador Restaurante Y Pupuseria at 4422 E. Kings Canyon. It's right across the street from the old VMC Medical Center. They offer 5 varieties of pupusas,revueltas,beans/cheese, chicken cheese,zucchini,and shrimp. I ordered a revuelta and a chicken /cheese. With my order was a quart jar full of shredded cabbage and carrots pickled in a oregano infused vinegar as a condiment along with a red hot sauce in a squeeze bottle and a shaker of dry oregano. They were very good with the shredded cabbage stuff piled on top (The waitress told me what the cabbage was called but I can't remember now. I need a pen and notepad if I'm going to give a good report . They offer a Family Combo of 12 pupusas & a liter of soda for $17.99. Also a large selection of Salvadoran dinner selections that looked pretty tasty as well but this thread is about pupusas. A very friendly and helpful staff. Parking is just on Kings Canyon so it could be sketchy. The pupusa were $2.00 each.

          1. re: Jeff Avis

            How funny, Jeff. On my way to being a judge for the Science Fair this afternoon, I drove by and saw the pupusas sign, and wondered if I had time to grab one before the event, with only 10 min. to spare the answer was sadly, no. Thankfully I'd stuffed myself a few hours earlier at El Pescador, I'll try and report back on that thread.

            I was very encouraged to see that the place had been spiffed up, it is the former location of Tropicale Ambiente, that I was never able to find open for business, then happily discovered they had moved to Fresno and McKenzie, and now they are apparently gone from there.

            The cabbage mix is called curtido, and the red sauce that goes over the top always seems to be a very mild tomato water (I always ask for some salsa to kick it up a bit).

            I'll defininately be heading over to give them a try.

            1. re: PolarBear

              Been reading this thread as we are lucky to have a great pupuseria out here in the desert, and I was interested in reading about similar places elsewhere.

              One thing not mentioned in any of these posts is soup (sopa). Don't know if it's typical, but my local Salvadoran place makes wonderful and hearty soups - de frijoles, or de res, or de pollo, or (my favorite) de pata, sortof a Salvadoran menudo with a cow hoof in it - really tastes better than it sounds. If you find Salvadoran soups available, try one and see what ya think.

            2. re: Jeff Avis

              I have sampled the fare at El Salvador and it was like being transported to Central America. No one spoke English the day I was there and I almost felt like a tourist (on Kings Canyon!). The interior was very clean and quaintly painted. I also had the chicken/cheese selection and the food was straightforward and satisfying. Nothing fancy, but a good value for the lunch buck. Get there early for one of the limited parking spots.

        2. Stopped in for lunch on Tuesday and had a mixta (Revuelta) and a camarones pupusas with beans and fried plantain. Both were excellent, had never run across a pupusa with shrimp before, will most definitely be back for more. Beans were well done sprinkled with a dry cheese (cotija?) and the plantain with a slightly sour crema was tasty. Salvadoran tamales are also available, so will try them next time as well. Forgot to ask about soups, printed menus should be available by now, the young manager apologized for not having them. She speaks English quite well but may have been out sick the day fresnohotspot visited.

          Regarding the parking, if you miss one of the few spots out front, turn right at the light on Chance Ave, then another immediate right into the large parking lot for the motel. You can park anywhere but if you can get a spot in the NW corner it's just steps away to the other entrance through the dinning room. No reason to avoid this place because of parking hassles.

          1. Don't want to set off an alarm here, but after having one of the best pupusa experiences ever on my previous visit, picked up some takeout yesterday for last night's dinner and was extremely disappointed.

            Ordered two of the dinner combos, each with a mixta and camarones, beans and plantain, and one extra chicharron (received an extra by mistake).

            What we received were six masa cakes, could not detect any filling in any of them, not one had ever come close to a shrimp, only parts worth eating were the beans, plantains and crema, and the curtido. The red salsa was even thin, but at least had a little kick to it.

            Perhaps Monday is the cook's day off? The manager and another younger woman were there, but iirc, there was an older lady manning the stove previously. Also was overcharged a few dollars, even accounting for the extra pupusa I didn't order.

            I'll definitely return again, but will mention this to the manager who speaks English quite well.

            2 Replies
            1. re: PolarBear

              I actually like the places where the staff can't speak English very well. My offbeat reasoning is you'll probably get a more authentic version of the regional cuisine they are providing (before Americanization - which isn't always bad, I'll admit). But at least one can get the chance at tasting the "native" fare.

              Your situation sounds like a simple snafu in someone writing out or reading the order. I'm planning on trying the place again when I'm downtown, chicharron sounds great.

              1. re: fresnohotspot

                I wish that were the case. It was the manager that I'd dealt with on my previous visit, which leads me to believe there was a short circuit in the cucina (or is it cocina en espanol?).

            2. Had a quick lunch at Zamora Taqueria (y pupuseria) the other day. I'm unclear from the previous posts whether anyone has reported on this place yet. Looks like PolarBear may have been headed that way at one point but I'm uncertain.

              Had a #1 combo (2 pupusas, plaintain, beans & crema). Both pupusas were nicely crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, enough filling for good flavor. My pupusa chicarones was quite porky in flavor; pupusa pollo y queso was, I thought, a little better. (I'm having a difficult time distinguishing pupusas from one restaurant to another, so someone else might be able to give a better description.)

              Curtido was nice big chunks & strips of cabbage & onion & other veggies with a couple hefty slices of serrano pepper for good heat. Very homemade appearance & fresh flavor; served in a bowl on the side. Red sauce in a squirt bottle.

              Beans had a strong bean flavor (good if you like beans), not much else (i.e., didn't taste any lard or other fat). Crema cool & creamy.

              Combo with a can of soda about $7 (iirc).

              Friendly folks working the counter & the kitchen (or both). Menu includes two breakfast items (a burrito & a plate), burritos & other Mexican & Salvadoran foods.

              Zamora Taqueria
              619 E. Divisadero St. (corner of Divisidero & Broadway)
              Fresno, CA 93721

              2 Replies
              1. re: alanstotle

                Hello All,

                After having read about the delicious pupusas at Zamora's I realize that I must have one! I have never had a pupusa or Salvadorean food and would like to fill that small empty place in my heart. Does anyone know what the days/hours of operations are at Zamoras?


                1. re: gmk1322

                  According to their menu:

                  open 7 days a week
                  9am - 8pm