San Pablo: Susy's Bakery and Deli – Pleasing pupusas and gorgeous geletinas
Susy’s is a good Salvadoran bakery that opened in 2009. About seven months ago, they opened a Salvadoran and Mexican restaurant.
Although they fly both Salvadoran and Guatemalan flags outside, the staff said the food was Salvadoran and Mexican only.
However, the thick pupusas with a generous filling are closer to Guatemalan pupusas and there are other Guatemalan dishes like sopa de chipilin and rellenjos of pacaya, cauliflower and green beans
Breakfast is served all day. Most of the breakfast dishes are $6.99 and include chilquiles, machaca and eggs with loroco … the last is something I haven’t seen before. Breakfast burritos plus a choice of coffee or juice are $5.99.
On each visit since it opened Susy’s gets better and better. There’s a half dozen workers busy in the kitchen and bakery. It had a steady stream of customers.
They recently added the prettiest Mexican geletinas I have ever seen. They look exactly like fresh flowers. The taste was also the best I’ve tried.
Here's what I had rated from A+ to F -
B + … Pupusas
B …... Geletina
C …… Coffee
Service: B - ... Very good
Ambiance: B - ... Very good
Details in first reply.
Susy's Bakery and Deli
14520 San Pablo Ave, San Pablo, CA 94806
At $5 I knew the Salvdoran pan con pollo (chicken sandwich) was going to be different from the 50 cent Guatemalan version. This is a hefty sandwich on a house-baked soft roll from the bakery.
First there's a layer of curtido, the Salvadoran slaw used for pupusas. Next there's lots of pieces of pulled (not sliced) roast chicken. That is topped with basically a salad of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, radishes, pickled caulflower, julienned carrot and a whole jalepeno (optional).
It comes with a baggie of a mild, warm red sauce similar to the Mexican torta ahogada.
I ate this wrong, trying to pick it up like a sandwich rather than a knife and fork. I had to eat most of the salad before eating it sandwich-style. The sauce and curtido were wet enough to cause a threat of the roll falling apart. Next time I'll eat drowned in all its saucy glory with a knife and fork.
It's not a highly flavored sauce, reminding me a bit of the warm version of the red tomato sauce that comes with pupusas ... but bit more substantial than that.
It is quite the value. I seem to be on a fast food orgy lately and managed to pass up the grilled McChicken sandwich across the street for this way more filling sandwich with pollo straight from the chicken.
BTW, the Guatemalan version is on a similar roll with dab ... really little more than a tablespoon or two of chicken salad, usually just shredded chicken lightly dressed with mayo. Add a lettuce leaf and that is it. For 50 cents it is a great way to stave off a snack attack.
Also tried a soft torpedo-shaped roll filled with sweet cheese. It wasn't too sweet and I liked it.
I wouldn't get the sesame seed rolls again, which looked great but were only ok.
Until I try the sandwich drowned, I'll grade as follows
Pan con pollo: B, above average
Cheese filled roll: B-, very good
Sesme roll: C, average
SUSY'S BAKERY AND DELI DETAILS
Pupusas: B + … Very, very good
These pupusas are a third thicker and larger than the average pupusa which remind me of the Guatemalan version. There are both rice and corn pupusas.
I had a rice pupusa with cheese and loroco which had a lot of loroco flavor. Most pupusas with this flower don’t taste like much but cheese. So big points there.
That being said, I’m not that much of a fan of loroco. Fresh, it has a flavor something like artichokes. Frozen or jarred, it either loses all flavor or becomes more pungent, like an aged cheese. I'm guessing that rather than frozen or canned, Susy's is using Salvadoran-style cheese that has loroco in it.
The rice pupsa wasn’t that much different than the corn. My choice was chicharon and cheese. Like most Salvadoran pupusas, the chicharon was finely ground almost to a paste. It had a good porky flavor.
The curtido, cabbage slaw, was excellent. The vinegary cabbage was crispy with enough oregano for flavor but not too much to overwhelm it. There as one piece of jalepeno in it, but it didn’t add any heat. The red tomato sauce was good as well, fresh tasting and not too thin.
Geletina: B … Above average
These looked like those clear glass paperweights with flowers inside. Not only were they pretty, they actually tasted good with a light floral/lemon flavor similar to meyer lemon. At $2 each, I am definitely buying more. The esthetics and flavor make for a luxurious and low calorie dessert. I see using these as dessert for a dinner with guests.
Full-sized geletina cakes can also be ordered.
Coffee: C ... Average
What was I thinking? I did nothing but whine the past year about Central American coffee. This at least had flavor, but didn’t rise above the fast food level. While there were generous refills, the $2.50 price tag seemed excessive for what it was.
Lots of people were ordering the coffee when I sat down … and again … forgetting the Central American flavor profile … I ordered it without looking at the beverage list which included liquados and aqua frescas such as ensalada, chan (dragonfruit), passion fruit and other lesser seen fruits as well as standards like strawberry, papaya and pineapple.
Service: B - ... Very good
It was prompt and helpful. English isn’t a first language here, but no one was struggling with it either.
Ambiance: B - ... Very good
While it isn’t fancy, with large windows it is bright and sunny. There is a steam table up front, but it wasn’t in use on my visit. It is very clean and I found it pleasant in a coffee shop type of way.
It is almost across the street from the original El Tazamul. I haven’t been there in years, but if they haven’t changed the décor, I found Susy’s a more pleasant place than the plastic fast food table El Tazamul.
Lots of parking and the bakery are located in back. The restaurant can be entered through the bakery.
Despite burnout on Central American food after recently having returned from Guatemala, I found this a very satisfying meal. I definitely will be back to try some of the other baked goods and dishes such as the casamiento (rice and beans), pan con pollo (chicken on house-baked bread), or sopa de patas (Sunday only).
I’m also intrigued by the option of adding egg and crema (99 cents extra) to the shrimp soup.
It has just been too long since I've been to La Bamba or anywhere. I always liked El Tazamul the best and have been considering dropping in and comparing.
However, just back from Central America so I was afraid local stuff might suffer by comparison.
Not that it was all great. I had the best and worst pupusas in my life in El Salvador (hint - if the restaurant hangs laundry in the dining room it is not a good sign).
My real quest in the Bay Area is going to be finding Guatemalan pupusas. A friend kept promising to take me to a local joint but never came thru. So I didn't try them until a week before I left and... oh my food gods. They are bigger, about salad plate-sized, thick and the filling of actual chopped big pieces of crispy chicarron ... wow. Still need to do that report on the South American board. I'm not really optomistic about finding them locally, but will give at least look. That's why I was so impressed with Suzy's they were slightly reminisant of the Guatemalan version.
No expert here either ...but melty cheese wrapped in masa ... what's not to like.
When I started on Chowhound I didn't know pupusas existed. So I went on a local pupusa crawl to find out what was a good pupusa ... from a gringo's perspective.
My conclusion was freshness was the most important factor ... the quicker from griddle to mouth, the better. They should be hand patted to order and not pre-made ... or worse ... pre-griddled and heated. Given my El Salvador experience ... the griddle should not be so, um, seasoned that it hasn't been cleaned for maybe decades. Unlike unseasoned cast iron, cooking flavors can compete with the cheese.
For me the curtido is the next factor. It can elevate the pupusa. There shouldn't be too much or too little oregano ... or like my pupusa from hell in El Salvador ... if you have to ask what the black things are in the slaw ... not a good sign. It took a few beers to work up the courage to point at the jar and ask "Que es eso ... negro?"
There was one Salvadoran joint in GT that served pizza-sized pupusas with a choice of regular or hot curtido ... the only time I've had this ... it was searing hot too.
The tomato sauce I like on the thicker side, but it is not make or break to me. I've often wondered if there was a specific name for it, but it seems not. Wherever I asked, I was just told 'salsa'. It is very similar to Guatemalan chirmol, a thin tomato sauce that is poured on almost everything.
While a pupusa, sort of a Latino grilled cheese sandwich, can be a cheap, filling and satisfying meal, after my pupusa crawl I burnt out for years. If ever there was a food item ready for a little creativity, it is the pupusa.
There were some different fillings in Central America such as mushroom, asparagus, chicken and a few other such things. However, by time they are ground up in to that paste, one filling pretty much tastes like another. That's why the GT version with identifiable chicharron was so memeroable. And to bring this home, the strong chicharron flavor in the Susy's pupusa was memorable.
When I started that pupusa crawl many years ago, I never imagined I''d be eating them actually in El Salvador someday. I wondered a lot what hell Central American would have been if I hadn't learned so much about Latin American food from Chowhounds over the years.
The street pupusas crossing the border were absolutely outstanding with a softer and more corny masa and a perpect proportion of cheese to covering. That is all these ladies make all day, every day . Those delicate pupusas, packed with flavor were exquisite.