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Pupusas

Ahh, the pupusa.

I love the textures when you put that marinated chopped cabbage slaw on top, and then pour on a little hot sauce. Yum.

Yesterday I tried the place on the corner of Santa Monica and Vine. It’s a panaderia and pupuseria, so there were a bunch of cookies and pastries in the display case. It’s a small place, and the lady was very nice. I really wanted to like it, but it was not my favorite. I got the pupusa with frijoles y queso, but there was very little queso. It was fresh and hot, but somehow it was a little too firm on the outside for my taste. And the beans were just too much.

The pupusas at El Pajonal on Vermont, just north of Santa Monica, are my least favorite. They just don’t taste fresh, and that’s why I get pupusas. El Pajonal has a great combination grill plate, though.

A good place for pupusas is the one on Echo Park Blvd, just north of Sunset. I think it’s called La Paz. They no hablo the Ingles there, but I’m becoming quite bilingual in my gringo ordering. Through a series of sign language, pointing, and knowing a few key words like “dos pupusas con queso y frijoles,” I manage to get along just fine. I sometimes stop by this place on my way home from church Sunday mornings. I’m usually the only customer, and the ladies there are super nice and friendly. The pupusas are really good, too. I get them to go, and they include a bag of the cabbage slaw and another bag of the hot sauce. When I get home, I just plop the pupusas into a frying pan to heat them up, and whew, these are really good.

There’s also a lady who runs a pupusa cart over by Olvera Street on the weekends. There are actually about 6 pupusa carts, along with various hot dog carts, fresh fruit carts, flower carts, and the guys selling counterfeit DVD’s. It’s on the corner of Spring and Cesar Chavez. I like how there always seems to be a festival over there on Sundays. A couple weekends ago was the Dia de Muerto festival. And last weekend there was a huge health fair. Anyway, one of the ladies there is a total riot. She’s probably 60 years old (although she looks 90), and she makes the best pupusas. She makes ‘em up and stacks them on her grill. When you ask for one with frijoles y queso, she methodically digs her finger into the already prepared pupusas to determine which one fits the bill. When she finds the right one, she plops it onto a paper plate and gives you one napkin. You can then put on the slaw and hot sauce. Despite the seeming grunginess of having gramma’s finger in your lunch, these are really good pupusas.

But the best one I can remember is the one in the Grand Central Market downtown. I think there are more than one pupusa places, but the one I like is on the North aisle, about 1/3 of the way in from the back. It has a clever name like “Pupusas.” It's across from the fresh fish place. It takes them some time to make your pupusa because they make it to order. At lunch time, it can really take a while; but if you go at an off time, they get it to you in about 10 minutes. The sucky part here is that they only have about 6 seats, and at lunchtime, there are easily 10-20 people at any one time ordering pupusas. So you have to be kind of patient. The pupusas are really good, though. They are bigger than the other ones, and they taste very fresh. The slaw is good, too.

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  1. There's a pupuseria in North Hollywood called Izalco, at the corner of Burbank Blvd. and Denny Ave. that I absolutely love. Great curtido (that's that spicy cole slaw), both masa and rice flour pupusas, plus great Salvadoran style tamales and a fine selection of licuados and jugos naturales. The servers don't always have a lot of English, so I wouldn't recommend it as the place to go for your first experience with Salvadoran cuisine, but they are real tasty and pretty inexpensive.

    1 Reply
    1. re: GVDub

      I tried Izalco based on your recommendation in another thread, and I was quite disappointed. The pupusa texture was off (very tough on the outside). And the meat (I got pork) was poorly seasoned and full of gristle. The best thing there, IMO, was the tamale, which was more different than good. I would not go back to Izalco. I'm still looking for something that lives up to the first pupusa I ever had, at the Hollywood Farmer's Market.

    2. Where's Denny Ave? Please name another close cross street-I would love to try this.

      Thank you,

      Stuart

      1 Reply
      1. re: Hypnotic23

        Google maps is your friend: "burbank & denny north hollywood, ca"

        http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&h...

      2. I usually go to "El Buen Gusto" they have several locations. One in Highland Park and the other in Atwater Village. The one in Atwater Village is the most recent one. I have their number to the Highland Park one (323) 225-1805 maybe they can redirect you to the one in Atwater Village. The prices are extremely reasonable! My boyfriend and I always walk out paying $20 for 4-pupusas, 2-horchatas, 1-plate of Platanos Fritos (fried plantains) and a couple sweet breads to go. The service can a be a bit slow on the weekends.

        As for that 60-year-old lady sticking her fingers in the Pupusas, it's quite comical. I'm surprised she has any clientele at all.

        3 Replies
        1. re: misschatterbox

          El Buen Gusto in Atwater Village is at 3140 Glendale Blvd (in the newer development with Indochine Vien and a Coldstone Creamery). 323-953-9032.

          There's one at 3235 San Fernando, too. 323-344-7044.

          1. re: Kat82

            The one on San Fernando closed down. I'm not sure if they re-opened elsewhere. That was the latest news last time we went there about 6-months ago. The waiter told us they were closing down. I don't know why. Probably has to do with the location, not quite visible from the street being that the restaurant was overshadowed by neighboring warehouses and stuff. Odd place to put a restaurant.

          2. re: misschatterbox

            El Buen Gusto is great. They also have wonderful other Salvadorian food. The Salpicon and the Pan con Pavo are perfect. But do not take the Pan con Pavo to go because it doesn't travel well.

          3. For us that live near N.Hollywood which is said to be better:

            Izalco Salvadorian Restaurant
            on Burbank Blvd.

            or this spot

            Texis No. 4
            12650 Sherman Way
            North Hollywood, CA 91605
            (818) 982-0907

            Please share your inputs, perhaps Das Ubergeek will join in on this topic.

            Stuart

            1 Reply
            1. re: Hypnotic23

              There is anothor post down below talking about Pupusas in SFV, I added a place I tried on Sherman Way the other day called Metapan. Its on Sherman between Van Nuys & Woodman. We went late on a Friday night and saw a big crowd. Turns out they have a live band and dancing too. It was a fun experience. The pupusas were excellent and I think $2 each. The coleslaw was really good as was the hot sauce. Not the best I have had but a fun Friday with good cheap food. Worth a try.

              Metapan
              14043 Sherman Way
              Van Nuys, CA 91405

            2. I love the ones from WFM Santa Monica, actually.

              But, for the real deal... My housekeeper is from El Salvador, and she brought some from Altacalt. They were amazing. Have no clue where it is though.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Frank_Santa_Monica

                Probably your housekeeper got them from the following restaurant

                Altacatl
                301 N Berendo St
                Los Angeles, CA 90004-3402
                (323) 663-1404

                1. re: Jwsel

                  Yes! Thank you. What do you think? I have no sense of comparison?

              2. If you're ever near the Staples center, you should check out this place. The pupusas are great, but so is the other Salvadorean cuisine on the menu. Btw, pupusas should always be made fresh to order, otherwise you're just eating a stale tortilla.

                El Salvador Cafe
                575 E Pico Blvd
                Los Angeles, CA 90015
                (213) 741-2370

                1 Reply
                1. re: ozzygee

                  Best Pupusas in town:

                  Jaragua Restaurant
                  4493 Beverly Boulevard
                  Los Angeles, CA 90004

                  Near Beverly & Western... they have a squash pupusa that is some 5 STAR stuff!

                2. I'm not really sure there are good or bad pupusas. Some people like rich and buttery; some people like rustic and cornmeal-y. Some people like cheesy; some people like meaty. Me, I don't like any of them all that much. But if someone thinks there are good pupusas and Santa Monica or Venice that I should try -- and they're cheesy -- let me know.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: sillygoosedown

                    I like Lidia's Pupuseria in Venice. It is pretty much on the boardwalk on Westminster. It is right across from Groundworks. The people who work there are really nice also.

                    1. re: Adamlick

                      Thanks, will check it out sometimes when I go to pick up my prescription.

                  2. Since somebody revived this thread, any recs for pupusas near Union Station? picking up a friend tomorrow near lunchtime and in need of a super cheap lunch. Thanks!