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Nov 4, 2012 07:54 PM

Pupusas of East Oakland

On a sunny, late afternoon in June, I had a chance to stop at this pupusa cart on the corner of 103rd and International Blvd. in the partking lot of Prime Nutrition.

It has a tent with a card table and seats for eating “in”. The pupusas are patted and cooked to order with the typical fillings. I went for my usual revueltas, a mix of cheese, pork and beans. And I liked being about to order just one, $2, and not a two-piece minimum.

Two gentlemen sat with me at the table. While I waited, I had the chance to observe how each of them tackled their pupusas. One carefully slit his around the perimeter, peeled back the top crust, stuffed it full of the curtido slaw, then closed it and proceeded to eat with a knife and fork. The other immediately turned his pair over and folded them taco style, filling the cavity with squiggles of salsa and lots of drained curtido and then eating it out of hand.

My solo pupusa was a very good example, lightly crisped on the outside and tender cornmeal with a tasty filling. The curtido, stained violet-pink from the addition of red cabbage, was especially good with some crispy fresh bits and other more saturated and wilted pieces. Squeeze bottles held two different salsas, a fresh-tasting traditional mild tomato sauce and another very hot chili-based thin salsa that seemed like Mexican guajillo and chile de arbol.

I’d stop here again.

Pupusa cart
Parking lot of 10325 International Blvd @ 103rd

I proceeded north along International keeping an eye out for another pupusa cart that I’d seen on the east side of the street some months earlier. But I couldn’t find it, maybe the wrong day of the week or too late in the day.

When I spotted “pupusas” on the marquee for San Francisco Restaurant, I pulled over. But the door was locked, and the sign said that it closed at 6pm. Just missed ‘em --- has anyone tried the pupusas here?

San Francisco Restaurante
8418 International Blvd.
(510) 382-9255

Continuing north, I stopped at the taco truck parked at High and International, called Casa Jimenez Burrito Truck, associated with the restaurant of the same name. Serving up Mexican antojitos as well as pupusas, I was a bit leery since the pupusa menu did not use the term “revueltas”, rather describing the combination as frijoles con queso y chicharrón. But I was here, and a pupusa is only $2, so why not.

Well, here’s why not. The pupusa’s made to order, but it has the leaden heavy feeling of pre-cooked and reheated though the golden frico-like cheese that leaked onto the grill was definitely freshly created. A thin orange-colored, watery tomato-based salsa was ladled over along with a wet and soggy helping of underseasoned curtido waterlogging the whole plate. I couldn’t help but think about the two men at the earlier stop who went to such lengths to preserve the delicate crispness of their pupusas. This wringing wet example would be an abomination in their eyes. Not recommended.

Casa Jimenez Burrito Truck
4345 International Blvd.

This stretch of International is home to more than a handful of other pupuserias though like San Francisco Restaurant they seem to close early. Any other good pupusas in the neighborhood?

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  1. When I've been scouting outer International I've seen a house on A St. around 94th that has a sign offering pupusas (and chairs out front). I've never had the nerve to knock on the door, though.

    1. seen many pupusa stands near the coliseum flea market on saturdays but never stopped.

      2 Replies
      1. re: shanghaikid

        I had some really good ones from one of those stands -- the one on the corner of Julie Ann Way (east of the flea market).

        1. re: shanghaikid

          Not just pupusa stands/carts, there seem to be quite a few brick & mortar pupuserias nearby. With that kind of density, I hoped that the competition might have honed some really good examples.

        2. You have probably been to Tamales mi Lupita in the trailer on Foothill near 35th, right? The pupusas are made to order (not fast food) and very good. I was recently impressed also with their fried plaintains, which are prepared as a very large order and served with refried beans and crema.

          1 Reply
          1. re: foodeye

            Thanks, actually no, though I have heard of Mi Lupita. This one excursion along International Blvd is the only time I've had pupusas in Oakland. Made to order is really important, otherwise, why bother.