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Pupusa Crawl in San Francisco: Your Input for SF Bay Digest

Hi, hounds

For a future digest, we're trying something new--we're creating a virtual food crawl based on board recommendations. We see plenty of threads that pop up organically ("best pizza in the south bay," "hayes valley macaron crawl")--in part we want to replicate that energy, but we'd also like to start new conversations. We plan to create a crawl map that will be attached to the digest and add specific ordering tips we find from you on the boards, both from this thread and past ones.

San Francisco pupusas are the subject of the first crawl. Any pupusa style is fine, and the aim is to create a crawl that a user could actually follow, so geographic ease is important (in San Francisco, assuming public transportation, I wouldn't include both places in Outer Richmond and in Dogpatch).

If I were embarking on a pupusa crawl in San Francisco based on recommendations in the threads I've read so far, this is where I'd go:

Balompie Cafe
La Santaneca
Rancho Grande
The New Spot

What am I missing? Are there extraordinary pupusas that you've had in San Francisco that aren't listed above and have never been covered on the board? Are there particular pupusas you always order at a certain place?

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Balompie Cafe
3349 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

The New Spot
632 20th St, San Francisco, CA 94107

La Santaneca
3781 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

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  1. I would probably start in the Excelsior at Los Planes and move up to the Mission/Dogpatch. Don't forget El Zocalo too! I prefer the outer Mission's Balompie #3 to the one on 18th.

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    Balompie Cafe
    3349 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

    El Zocalo
    3230 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

    7 Replies
    1. re: bigwheel042

      Excellent--I went to Los Planes four of five years ago and loved the pupusas, but then forgot about it.

      Thank you!

      1. re: bigwheel042

        Agreed about Balompie #3.

        La Palma has pupusas too.

        Of course hours matter in your mapping. New Spot closes at 6 or 7; El Zocalo is open until 2 or 3 a.m.

        Also pupusas are very filling. Might help to have something else (veggies, plantains, booze) to lighten the meal. The one time we tried a pupusa crawl, we called it off after the second stop because we were so full.

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        La Palma Mexicatessen
        2884 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

        El Zocalo
        3230 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

        The New Spot
        632 20th St, San Francisco, CA 94107

        1. re: Windy

          I was thinking the same thing, "pupusa crawl" sounds only slightly less ill-conceived to me than "super burrito crawl."

          "Pupusa checklist" or "top 10 pupusas" would make more sense.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Ha! Well, we're not actually loading blindfolded Chowhound posters into a creepy minivan and forcing them to eat pupusas, with occasional breaks for Zantac and weeping.

            Each of the lists will be checklists, essentially, of recommended restaurants within a certain geography but not Top 5 or Top 10 or Top Whatever, which can be contentious without necessarily adding much to the discussion. I might include 6, I might include 11, depending on how many recommendations we get from people.

            1. re: pane

              Maybe it could be a bike tour. Then at least you'd burn off a few calories between stops.

          2. re: Windy

            Here are the notes from long ago: "chowhounds defeated by pupusas"

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/21884

            But I'm sure you're tougher and harder to distract than we were.

            1. re: Windy

              More stubborn, short-sighted and ruthless, possibly :)

        2. My local spot for pupusa is La Espiga De Oro on 24th Street in the Mission.

          Of the places on your list, I've only been to the New Spot. I've been disappointed that their menu has become less interesting over time (but does still include pupusas). They have dropped some of the Salvadorian specialties.

          La Espiga de Oro is Mexican owned/run. I don't know if there is a history of pupusas in Mexico. I notice that they offer a Guatemalan tamale (they sell many types of tamales), so perhaps there are similar things in southern Mexico. Varieties are, queso, chicharron con queso, frijol con queso, revueltas (basically any combo of beans, cheese and chicharron).

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          The New Spot
          632 20th St, San Francisco, CA 94107

          1 Reply
          1. re: jman1

            Thanks--this is great!

            What's your standard order at La Espiga de Oro? What do you like best about it?

          2. I'll second Los Planes De Renderos on Persia. Handsdown, best in SF, IMO.

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            Los Planes De Renderos Restaurant
            12 Persia Ave, San Francisco, CA 94112

            1. The stand that used to set up at the Alemeny flea market on Sundays. Haven't been in a year or so and have forgotten the name, the pupusas were served very hot off the griddle.

              2 Replies
              1. re: chocolatetartguy

                Yeah, the stand at the alemany flea market has the best papusas around, IMO. They have the perfect filling to masa ratio, very tender masa at that with delicious fillings, I'm partial to the chicken and zucchini and cheese, the rest are all very good to except the mushroom is surprisingly too mushrooms for me and I am a huge mushroom fan. The portions are huge for the $3 price and they're hand made and grilled to order. I always ask for extra slaw and hot sauce with mine because they are both as delicious as the Papusas themselves.

                http://estrellitassnacks.com/

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                Estrellita Snacks
                100 Alemany Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94110

                1. re: chocolatetartguy

                  Delicious as they might be, they don't count because they are not in the correct geographic location. It is no longer about treking across the bay area to find the best, only the closest.

                  Having eaten a good many pupusas, unfortunately outside the area requested, the bottom line is that they need to be hot. The less time from griddle to mouth, the better. Outside of that it is difficult to get a bad pupusa.

                  I can't keep up with geography, but if it is in the pupusa triangle, someone might check out the pupusas at San Miguel Restaurant. It is Guatemalan, but I'm not sure if they have Guatemalan pupusas or plain old Saladoran. Guatemalan are thicker, bigger and more deliious, IMO.

                  Address and blogspot
                  http://www.yelp.com/biz/san-miguel-re...

                2. I really like the pupusas at Antojitos Salvadorenos Aminta, inside the Mission Market mall, 2590 Mission (between 21st and 22nd). I love the cheese and loroco, and for me they cook them just right, a little charred, kinda smoky, never flour-y like some i've had (which i think is from under-cooking.)

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                  Antojitos Salvadorenos Aminta
                  2578 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                  1. la santaneca is my favorite.

                    underrated choice is usulutan, across from humphry slocombe. very greasy though, but sometimes it hits the spot.

                    1. i just tried Balompie's pupusa's for the first time on Sunday afternoon - the one on 18th. I can see what all the fuss is about. I ordered the simple loroco & queso, with a breakfast of eggs over medium, casamiento, cheese and crema. The pupusas were crispy on the outside, tender and gooey on the inside, without a hint of greasiness nor doughiness. They were the best I've had. My former favorites were the ones at Antojitos Salvadorenos Aminta, These were better. the curtido was fresh and crisp and not too vinegary, and I loved the side of other freshly pickled veg – carrots, cauliflower, jalapenos - that came to our table. my friend had eggs with loroco that looked fantastic - tenderly scrambled eggs shot through with bright green loroco. my breakfast was very good too. The homemade tortillas were thick and corn-y, delicious with their mild hot sauce. the pupusas were so good i had my BF go out and get us some for dinner tonight - and they easily withstood the 4 block walk to our apt.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mariacarmen

                        Thanks, mariacarmen, for the Balompie rec--I was going to a dinner party in the Mission last night and picked up an order of pupusas to go as a last-minute appetizer. As a take-out order, we didn't get the pickled veg, but the slaw was great, as was the crispiness of the pupusas themselves. Nice cheesy flavor without feeling heavy or greasy.

                        FYI to anyone reading this thread in 2012: you're welcome to contribute whatever recs you'd like for readers of this thread; the digest I wrote based on this post was published several months ago. You can see it here: http://www.chow.com/digest/90055/san-...

                      2. It might be worth mentioning the rice flour pupusas specifically at La Santaneca. I thought the rice flour lightened things up and was really crispy, not that the regular flour was bad of course.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: grayelf

                          la santaneca is my favorite spot in the city

                        2. Los Planes De Renderos Pupuseria
                          12 Persia Ave (near Mission)
                          San Francisco, CA 94112
                          (415) 585-8645

                          1. Los Panchos for Pupusa's and Salvadorian cuisine,love the Yucca con Chichirone really good and cheap and they are open till 3:00am,after cocktails head straight there...

                            3206 Mission st.where Valentia blends into Mission St.