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Pupusas : SFBA Dish of the Month September 2014

Pupusas are the September 2014 dish of the month!

Dish of the Month is an activity where we collectively try as many versions of Pupusas as we can, reporting back with details and photos. We aim to try versions that are new to you.

Never heard of Pupusas before? Great! Now's your chance to try it for the first time and tell us what you think!

Pupusas are a Salvadoran thick, hand formed, tortilla-like product that's usually filled before grilling. The accompaniments are a watery tomato salsa and a slaw called curtido. Fillings vary and the dough can be (nixtamalized) corn or rice-based.

Report back on the Pupusas you eat, how you like them, and what they're like.

Previous reports:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9719... (fresh masa vs. masa harina )

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  1. Oh, I'll start. I just took 2 cousins out for these items on Thursday.

    Cousins from upstate NY and Paris...it's increasingly a struggle when they visit every year to find something new or novel to intrigue them. This year it struck me: Pupusas! And in fact neither of them knew what these are. It also served as an excuse to get them out of the Mission and Bernal.

    Sadly, Los Planes De Renderos appears to be shuttered.

    So we ended up at Los Guanacos (4479 Mission in the Excelsior).

    The Pupusas: Good, not great. Not greasy, which was important for the French cousin who has a deep aversion to fried things. Masa was good, but it didn't seem like fresh-made nixtamal. The loroco and cheese had plenty of loroco. Beans were quite flavorful, likewise the chicharon.

    The curtido was a weak point. It was a bit limp. But it was bright and very vinegar-y; I think it had just sat too long -- we were there shortly before closing.

    In comparison with El Zocalo, which is where I have had 90% of my pupusas in the past 10 years, Guanacos comes out ahead. I guess I prefer slightly stale curtido over too-fresh (i.e., freshly cut cabbage with just a hint of vinegar, which seems to be the norm at Zocalo). Guanacos' pupusas were definitely smaller than Zocalo's, and less leaden. But I wouldn't call them "pillowy," as San Jalisco's were described in one of the linked earlier threads.

    5 Replies
    1. re: waldito

      Glad to hear you found a potential replacement for El Zocalo-- they're selling the business to make room for an expansion of Emmy's Spaghetti Shack : http://bernalwood.wordpress.com/2014/...

      Oh no! I hope Los Planes were just on vacation or something (Los Planes isn't normally closed on Thursdays). They were open the previous weekend: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/987000

      1. re: waldito

        " It also served as an excuse to get them out of the Mission and Bernal."

        Do you mean out of "The Mission" into the REAL Mission?

        1. re: waldito

          Okay <<whew!>>, I can confirm as of 9/2/14 Los Planes De Renderos is still in business. Pupusas are still the best. 'Nuff said.

          1. re: waldito

            We just went back to El Zocalo when we heard about their retirement. Good to very-good pupusas, and a surprisingly good chicken enchilada with green sauce. The green sauce had some unusual taste notes. All spice? Nutmeg?

            But I agree on their curtido being too fresh -- I like it very vinegary.

            Waldito, do you go to Balompie #3 or Santaneca? How do you think they stack up?

            1. re: waldito

              Well, I'm glad they're not really closed. Sorry to exaggerate rumors of their demise. Maybe they were doing a deep cleaning, it had that 'closed for more than just tonight' look. Now I'll have to trek back out to the 'real' mission to take another shot.

              I'm not really a pupusa guy normally, so haven't been to Balompie or Santaneca. I keep meaning to go to Santaneca...I suppose I will when Zocalo closes. Most of my pupusa eating is when someone else at the table orders them. And usually that is at Zocalo, and usually I'm glad I can eat only half of one, as they simply feel too dense after a few bites.

              If the Excelsior is the 'real' Mission, does than mean it too will start to feel like the Marina in a decade? I hope not. Having said that, I had a table full of enjoyable items at Lolo in their new space the other day. I'm confident that I was the only one in the building with any sense of the basement's history as a punk club.

            2. Don Julio's Latin Grill U pupusas just opened in Rohnert Park. I thought the pupusas were excellent. Great slaw too.

              1. I have been eating pupusas sporadically for about ten years. They are a popular find at Manhattan street fairs. I actually ate one about three days ago at a Montreal street fair. For some reason, I have never seen one in an actual restaurant.

                I love anything made from corn and I love cheese in (almost) every form so this is an easy choice for me.

                The sauce is too watery for me and the slaw doesn't really add anything. So I just like to eat the pupusa itself. Maybe I will try one of the places in LA before I leave. I have probably never had a really great pupusa. Let me check and see what is close to my hotel.

                1 Reply
                1. re: t19103

                  For some reason, the sauce used with pupusas is usually terrible -- sort of like ketchup watered down with tomato soup. The curtido (slaw) is also highly variable. When it's good, it adds some texture and zing to the pupusa. When it's not (often) it's -- as you noted -- pointless. So don't automatically dismiss the option to eat the pupusa with the curtido.

                2. for those confined to options east of the bay bridge, Lupita's has a delicate touch with their pupusas. 3340 Foothill Blvd. (oaktown, betw. Coolidge and 34th ave.).

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: moto

                    In Oakland, Casa Jimenez had a surprisingly tasty, grease-free loroco pupusa. Curtido is pretty average.

                    Further south in Hayward, Pupuseria las Cabanas has nice pupusas (corn & rice) and a curtido with a little kick.

                    There's a Planes de Renderos in Hayward too. I haven't tried it yet. Is it related to the SF one?

                    There's a place in Richmond I like whose name escapes me ATM.

                    1. re: drewskiSF

                      Taqueria La Bamba, perhaps? The last time I ate there, admittedly over a year ago, I had a cheese and loroco paupsa and the chicharron one.

                      12345 San Pablo Ave, Richmond, CA 94805
                      (510) 235-2288

                      1. re: drewskiSF

                        Here's my post from a couple years ago on the pupusas I've tried in East Oakland. The problem I had with Casa Jimenez is that the curtido and sauce was spooned over my pupusa before it was served to me.

                        I've wondered the same about Los Planes de Renderos in Hayward. I had ambitions of hitting it after my stop at Las Cabañas, but I really can't eat more than one pupusa in short order. ;)

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          In the Casa Jimenez restaurant, the salsa & curtido is served on the side.

                          Good amount of loroco in the pupusa. The curtido was heavy on the oregano, but not much else.

                      2. re: moto

                        For what it's worth, I ordered Lupito's from Caviar delivery service a few months back and wasn't that impressed. Couldn't distnguish between the fillings as everything tasted the same to me and lacking flavor. I realize this is delivery so not a fair way to judge but I wouldn't do it again, in person or otherwise.

                        The pupusa's at Olivo's in the T-loin are pretty good. The only others I've had in the Bay Area were at the Latin American/Salvadoran place corner 16th and Valencia (crack corner) where the woman often cooks them fresh outside on a griddle. They're nothing special imo. I'm actually not certain that I'm a fan of pupusas because so far my experiences have all been pretty bland. I find them doughy and lacking in complexity (I realize it's simple rustic food). The vinegared cabbage is usually pretty bad; hard to describe but I often find it tastes like it's been tossed in an old gym sock. The pickled carrots and jalapenos are the only savior for me. The sauce is indeed usually thick and ketchupy. Perhaps I've never had a really great pupusa yet but until that day, I'm not overly fond of them.

                        1. re: OliverB

                          i'm surprised everything tasted the same. what types did you get?

                          Lupita's is my favorite in Oakland. my "go-to" there is the loroco.

                          btw, Lupita's (or their truck in the parking lot) is where Bourdain ate at on the SF "No Reservations"

                          1. re: drewskiSF

                            I don't remember but I ordered about 7 or 8 different kinds; both meat, chicken, and vegetarian for my wife. Maybe I should give it a shot in person? I'm just not that into pupusas, I don't think.

                            1. re: OliverB

                              understandable, in the larger context of our diverse food experiences and preferences. part of the process in the 'dish of the month' collaboration is learning how or why some things aren't suited for everyone. if someone only experienced the mainstream u.s. interpretation of pizza topped with tomato sauce, they could taste all the same too, whatever else went on top of them.

                              1. re: OliverB

                                Yeah, meat filling tends to be nondescript for me too, so I prefer to get vegetarian pupusas.

                                Take-out isn't very forgiving to pupusas --- they lose flavor as they steam in aluminum foil, and can get either mushy or rubbery.

                        2. The pupusas Pacita's in San Leandro are big, tasty and made to order with a bunch of options for fillings. They also make a huge pan con pollo and, on certain days, pastelitos de pollo (fried masa filled with chicken) served with same finely chopped curtido and mild red salsa as the pupusas. I have not yet tried any of the sweet bakery items but they look fabulous.
                          Las Pacita's Salvadorean Bakery
                          14750 E. 14th St.
                          San Leandro CA 94578

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: flavorenhancer

                            Thanks for the recommendation! This will now become part of our regular rotation. Delicious pupusas. The chicken sandwich also looked awesome. Excited for this new to us close to home gem. Looking forward to exploring the menu further.

                          2. tried the squash/bean pupusa from Yam Leaf Bistro in Mountain View. organic ingredients, very strong and tasty flavor, and well made. Had the veg chorizo pupusa as well, which was good, though I liked the squash/bean version better.

                            this place used to be a Salvadoran restaurant. the ownership changed last year. the new restaurant maintains the Salvadoran dishes though they do only organic vegetarian dishes now as they are buddhist. They also have chinese specials during the weekend. Price is higher, though the ingredients are better and made from scratch.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: ckshen

                              Thanks ckshen!

                              Mountain View area has had an unusual concentration of Salvadoran restaurants, I recall six offhand, not counting Rincon Sabroso which hyperbowler reported. They tend to make lively fresh curtidos (flavored with oregano etc.). One Salvadoran restaurateur mentioned that El Salvador had many immigrants from Germany -- possibly the origin wherefrom curtido itself evolved -- and that it's popularly used there also as a garnish for grilled sausages.

                              I was already rather over-pupusad, and may beg off on revisiting still more pupusas specifically for DOTM.

                              The former Salvadoran restaurant mentioned by ckshen was El Calderon for 44 years (even Herb Caen from the SF Chron lauded it, he'd take the Southern Pacific train down from SF). Last year, longtime owner Angelita "Lita" Lopez sold El Calderon. The new owner re-christened it Yam Leaf Bistro, updated the interior, and took it vegetarian, but kept the staff and much of the Salvadoran menu (and Lita Lopez, who lives nearby, as consultant); I share in the strong consensus that it's a worthy successor to El Calderon.

                              Of the lower-peninsula Taqueria La Bamba group (which is also Salvadoran), the one on Rengstorff (converted high-ceilinged fast-foodery of some kind) has also made creditable papusas in a larger size than El Calderon's. And, next to Napoletana Pizzeria on El Camino is an explicit papuseria I haven't been to in some time (owing to the distracting presence of Napoletana).

                              1. re: ckshen

                                I remember eating the papusas at the Salvadorian place in about '94, like it was yesterday. Yum.

                                More recently, tried a papusa at Ay Carumba It's La Bamba (the Rengstorff as mentioned). I believe I had a curdado, and did rather like it. Heavy, good, added a bit of their solid salsa.

                              2. El Rinconsito Catracho in San Mateo's "pupusa montada" is a wide pupusa topped with several fried eggs and a sauce closer to ranchero sauce than the normal pupusa salsa.

                                The fully cooked egg separated the sauce from the pupusa, but the top of the pupusa was softened and wet. Cheese protected the browned bottom from losing any flavor.

                                I got it filled with loroco and cheese, and they cut the loroco into bigger chunks than I've had before. I liked the knobby texture. Loroco is often compared to asparagus, but in the midst of a melty cheese and tomato sauce, this bitter plant brought me to eggplant territory with a hint of tea.

                                The side of curtido was great- spicy, crisp, and not overpowered with oregano.

                                1. Rincon Sabroso in Mountain View has an open kitchen so you can see them hand form and grill pupusas while you wait for your order. I got the calabaza y queso (zucchini and cheese) pupusa.

                                  I watched them reform the dough after zucchini pierced the outside, but this didn't seem to affect the integrity of the pupusa's outside, which got lightly browned and held together well. The high water content of the zucchini caused the insides to not fully cook and they reminded me of pasty grits.

                                  The curtido had a lot of heat from green chili, jalapenos IIRC, and was not overpowered with oregano.

                                  Their tacos use small tortillas from a bag, but I also watched them press fresh tortillas for some other dish. The dough is made from Maseca flour.

                                  1. Had pupusas at the Kensington Farmer's Market (a sweet market for those looking for new ones to try) Sunday. Thumbs up. They were already out of meat (a sell-out makes me think I should go back to see what the fuss is about....). But I thought the cheese were well done. Not greasy, a lovely balance of flavors with a good curtido and salsa (they give you two tubs--I didn't love the red, which seemed a bit harsh [burned chiles?]--but the tomatillo salsa was perfect, a lovely topping for the creamy filled pouch and fresh, vinegar-y slaw.)

                                    1. I first had pupusas some 30 years ago when I lived on Shotwell off 24th. We used to get them at El Trebol, which is long gone (24th just west of Mission), and El Santaneca, which is still there. I was just out of college, having a great time living in the Mission, and to this day any given pupusa has the potential to be a madeleine-in-lime-blossom-tea type deal for me.

                                      For the last 17 years I've been living in a basically pupusa-free neighborhood (though I hear the liquor store at 11th & Geary serves them--will have to check that out), so I go long stretches between pupusas. Years, maybe a decade even. But I have retained my fondness for them, and the DOTM challenge was a good excuse to eat my fill of them (and, quite possibly, then some).

                                      I figured I'd start my DOTM quest where it all began, at La Santaneca. But when I walked by (at 10:45 am!) all the tables were full. So Plan B was...well, actually Plan B is by definition 'create a diversion and run like hell'. So I skipped to Plan C, which was to go into any random place that served pupusas and see how they were.

                                      That random place was Las Palmeras (Mission between 23rd & 24th). Two pupusas revueltas (a la carte, no rice & beans) for $4.75 w/tax--pretty reasonable.

                                      First visual impression was that they seemed a little pale; I remembered them as generally having more searing on them. First bite struck me as a little bland and doughy, but I think that was partly an unlucky bite (mostly cheeseless), because it got better after that. There was some nice griddled spilled cheese--always my favorite part. The curtido was a little fresher (crunchier) than I like, but the flavor was just right--the vinegar/spice combo took me back 30 years. The salsa served with them had a nice kick.

                                      On the whole, they were decent, not outstanding (again, I would have liked a little more searing). Certainly not bad for having been selected pretty much at random.

                                      ETA: Apart from the pupusas, my favorite thing about this place was the typo in the right-to-refuse-service sign.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: TVHilton

                                        Good lord, I'd completely forgotten about that liquor store on Geary. And I'm the one who posted about it! I would never eat a reheated pupusa, but do try the tamales (if they're made by the same person as in the past).

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          Good to know! I was thinking about stopping there on the way home from work sometime this week. I'll definitely pick up some tamales along with a couple of pupusas.

                                        2. re: TVHilton

                                          Arriving in the Mission a few minutes after La Santaneca closed, Las Palmeras beckoned based on your tip. I agree the pupusas could have been cooked longer and crisper, but these were really good! The cheese ones had an even distribution of a salty/oily cheese. Oh, and they use fresh masa which they purchase from off site--- the dough was evenly cooked with no rubbery bits and had a good texture.

                                          The revueltas filling weren't porky enough for my liking. Curtido was crisp.

                                          Open until 9:30pm.

                                        3. I still like El Tazumal on 4th St. in San Rafael. I posted about it a while back:

                                          Prices and service very good. Queso y loroco is my go-to here. Parking is easy, and they're close to Bordenave's Bakery if you're looking for day-old bread for French toast.

                                          1. Bocanova has a Pork Pupusa on their brunch menu for $13.

                                            Menu description has fried egg, black beans, cole slaw, pickled onion, and tomatillo. I thought some things would come on the side, but everything came in a big stack, and unadvertised were some crumbled queso fresco and chopped cilantro.

                                            Also, this was a cheese pupusa with the above toppings plus roasted pork under the over-easy egg, instead of having some chicharrón (Salvadoran shredded pork) inside the pupusa with the cheese.

                                            There was a lot going on and the pupusa got lost except for a couple of bites of the edges that escaped the toppings, which I liked because some cheese had oozed out and crisped up on the griddle.

                                            The curtido had visible red pepper flakes and oregano, but neither flavor was very prominent.

                                            It satisfied for breakfast, but is not something I would order again.

                                            1. Pupuseria Las Cabañas, Hayward

                                              Two weeks ago I had an appointment in Hayward and finally stopped in at this pupuseria that I've been meaning to try for a couple years now. It's a full-service restaurant, pretty large, with a full menu of comida Salvadoreña y Mexicana.

                                              Pupusas can be ordered as singles here. Corn flour ones are $2.50 apiece and rice flour pupusas are $2.75. I almost always order rice ones when available, and I did again with the cheese and zucchini filling.

                                              Cooked to order and scrumptious, the pupusa was filled generously and some of the cheese leaked out for a frico-like effect. The curtido's served in buckets and the red tomato salsa's in a syrup dispenser to help yourself. Curtido was on the fresher end of the spectrum with crisp cabbage cut into long, thickish strands, a moderate amount of Mexican oregano and some red chile flakes. I liked the tomato salsa which also had a little warmth to it. September's a good time for pupusas as DOTM as tomatoes are at peak for making this fresh style of sauce.

                                              I started with an empanada de leche, $1.75. The milky custard layered between two slabs of solid plantain was too stiff. And to drink, atole de elote, $4.99 for a small size.

                                              Pupuseria Las Cabañas
                                              30030 Mission Blvd., Suite 113
                                              Hayward, CA

                                              1. Planes de Renderos, Hayward.

                                                Was running an errand in Hayward and finally made it to Los Planes de Renderos. The friendly waitress explained that the owner here was the original owner of the SF restaurant of the same name, but sold it when she opened the Hayward location.

                                                Anyway, they have both masa and rice flour pupusas and all varieties are $2.25 along with other Salvadoran and Mexican dishes. I got a corn pupusa with loroco and cheese and a rice flour pupusa with chicharrón and beans along with some Horchata and a Tamal de Puerco.

                                                I prefer Salvadoran horchata compared to Mexican The morro seeds give it a nuttiness and the version here has a light chocolatey flavor. Very smooth with absolutely no grittiness.

                                                The tamal is wrapped in a banana leaf compared to Mexican in corn-husks. The masa was moist and flavorful. There was plenty of chunks of pork along with strips of carrot and bell peppers.

                                                Here they bring small bowls of the salsa and curtido. The salsa was the typical thin and mild red stuff and the curtido was fresh and crunchy. Despite having a decent amount of red pepper flakes, the curtido was surprisingly tame.

                                                There wasn't that much loroco, so that one was dominated by the cheese, which unfortunately stayed in the pupusa so no crisp griddled cheese bits :(

                                                The rice flour one was thinner and really tough to cut through even with a knife. I turned it over and found the bottom side a little burned up making that half more cracker like. The rice flour pupusa (non-burned parts) was much denser and chewier than the masa pupusa and the filling was mostly bean with pockets of pork.

                                                1. Headed out to Balompie in Bernal Heights today but found it closed, so I thought I would try nearby Rinconcito Salvadoreno Restaurante instead. I figured that I may be in trouble when I picked up the sticky plastic menu from the counter. More encouraging though was finding the menu was entirely in Spanish except, oddly enough, for the headings (e.g. Desayuno/Breakfast).

                                                  The pupasas were decent but came with a very watery slaw and the standard hot sauce. They were also pretty flat and appeared dense but ate better than they looked. There was also the portion of grilled cheese that had spilled out to the side.

                                                  Also tried the fried yuca con chicharron. The crispy chicharrones were crunchy, moist and wonderful but the yuca was just plane bad (rubbery & tasteless).

                                                  1. Reina's Restaurant, East Oakland.

                                                    I thought I was going to Pupuseria Mamachus, but found Reina's Restaurant in it's place. Still serving up Salvadoran and Mexican, I got two pupusas, a Calabaza y Queso (zucchini & cheese) and Chicharron y Frijoles (pork & beans), along with a Tamale de Pollo and Horchata.

                                                    You get some thick chips (made in house?) and mild salsa verde while you wait for your meal.

                                                    The tamale was just OK. Along with the chicken, there was bell pepper and potato chunks. The moist masa couldn't make up for the dry chicken meat.

                                                    The pupusas were so-so. They came out with some burned spots and I thought this was what I tasted when I dug into the pork one, but further investigation revealed the the burned flavor was coming from the pork and bean mixture so was in every bite. Bleh.

                                                    The zucchini one was significantly better, though still had the burned masa spots. Too bad loroco isn't an option here.

                                                    Typical mild, thin salsa. The curtido was more fermented than I've seen at other recent spots (which I liked) and mildly spicy.

                                                    Reina's Restaurant
                                                    9102 International Blvd
                                                    Oakland, CA

                                                    1. Sunday morning I went to La Santaneca (the one near Richland*, not the one I used to go to 30 years ago) and got the pupusas revueltas (with rice & beans this time--$8.16 with tax). Pupusas a little more done than at Las Palmeras, so the texture was more the way I like it. Filling seemed a little meatier. The curtido was more marinated, which is how I like it, but not quite as flavorful. The sauce was the thin mild stuff. Rice & beans were pretty standard. Pretty good overall; I would come back but probably just get the pupusas a la carte next time.

                                                      By the way, the next table over ordered horchata all around, and when it came it was truly impressive--served in vessels that were sized somewhere between a margarita glass and a soup tureen. I was on my way out then, or I'd have been tempted to order one myself.

                                                      *This would be a great area for a pupusa crawl, with Balompie and Rinconcito Salvadoreño both within a block; the only obstacle would be stomach capacity.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: TVHilton

                                                        Looks like I may have made the wrong choice with Rinconcito when Balompie was closed. La Santaneca appeared to have a few more customers but the hanging signage with missing letters made me think they weren't running on all cylinders.

                                                      2. Last night I ate at Los Panchos, which is basically on the corner of Valencia and Mission Street in San Francisco. I think I ate there one other time in the past two years, but I definitely ate food from there in June of 2012, since I posted about it here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/859472

                                                        I ordered plain cheese pupusas, which were excellent. Bubbling, hot cheese on the inside, with a really nice circle of crispy cheese (the part where the cheese gets directly grilled when it oozes out) on each one. Is there a word for that bit of toasted cheese? There should be.

                                                        The curtido has a lot of some herb in it (oregano? epazote?) and is slightly pink. I really liked it. Hot salsa was served with chips at the start of the meal, and I had to ask to get some mild tomato sauce for the pupusas.

                                                        I ordered two pupusas with rice and beans, which were good but nothing special. Guacamole was also in the 'good but nothing special' boat. One dining companion ordered pupusas with a small cup of chicken soup. I didn't really think the soup was that great, especially compared to other chicken soups in the Mission (one that comes to mind is at Chava's on Mission near 24th St).

                                                        Friendly service, not super fast because the pupusas were made to order, but it was worth the wait. Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures.

                                                        1. Shoot, I'm on the Peninsula tonight and was planning to revisit the iconic Amelia's in Redwood City. Unfortunately, it closed two years ago after a very long run. Anyone know if Amelia has resurfaced anywhere?

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                            I too would love to know if the folks from Amelia's have resurfaced. I miss their pupusas, curtido & that fruit drink. I haven't found any pupusas in Redwood City to take there place. Have tried a couple that were just not worth the bother....

                                                            1. re: RWCFoodie

                                                              Could you please share the names of the places you tried? That will save others the trouble.

                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                Ah, Melanie, I thought I could skate past you on this!

                                                                First was a truck, Anabelita's, decided to try it because the signage on the truck proudly proclaims PUPUSAS. Usually parks at Woodside Rd. & Santa Clara in Redwood City from 1-5. I tried a queso & chicharron. Made to order. Maybe I'm being too harsh, it wasn't terrible, it just couldn't compete with my memories of Amelia's.

                                                                Second was Karlita's, also on Woodside Rd. in Redwood City. Again, made to order. Meh, for the same reasons as above.

                                                                Actually, if I really, really want a pupusa & I don't want to go schlepping around, I'd give the edge to the truck... Just wish there was more oregano in the curtido.

                                                          2. Today I hit Rincon Latino (5080 Mission). The whole southeast quadrant is the Land of the Lost for me, so it took some motivation to venture into that blank space on the map...but I was prepared to take a bullet for the DOTM cause. (I consider it a major accomplishment that I got completely lost only once, not counting a wrong turn where I actually kind of knew where I was.)


                                                            I ordered two pupusas revueltas, no rice & beans ($5.43 with tax), and they brought them right away--which gave me pause. But they were fresh and hot and the outside texture was just right, with a little crunch. Lots of cheese filling; I felt like the meat sort of got lost in it.

                                                            The curtido was the best so far: goldilocks texture (not too crunchy, not too limp), good strong flavor, with a little spicy kick to it. Overall (factoring in the superior curtido), this was my best pupusa experience so far--well worth the arduous travails of a journey into Terra Incognita.

                                                            By the way, they have a good selection of beers here, including not just Mexican and Salvadoran but also a couple flavors of Lagunitas.

                                                            1. pupusas aren't a fave. most memorable one was at taqueria la bamba.
                                                              chicarones pupusa(2) was tasty and not greasy. curtido good too.

                                                              open kitchen allows one to watch the pupusas being made.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: shanghaikid

                                                                Taqueria La Bamba, Richmond

                                                                It's been awhile since I ate at La Bamba (pre-remodel in 2009) and it was the spot @vespadoggie had guessed up-thread.

                                                                All pupusas are currently $2.40. They have a Revuelta (pork & cheese) and a Revuelta con Frijoles on the menu and I got one of the basic Revuelta and a Loroco y Queso pupusa.

                                                                The pupusas were not greasy, but the masa tasted a little undercooked. The Revuelta was disappointingly bland. It was light on the fillings with not much cheese and the pork didn't seem seasoned. The Loroco one was much better, though light on the Loroco so it didn't come through in some bites.

                                                                I liked the sides. The curtido was tangy from fermentation and had lots of oregano flavor. The salsa is the same that they give with their Mexican food items and was much spicier than the standard thin red salsa most places provide.

                                                                Taqueria La Bamba
                                                                12345 San Pablo Ave
                                                                Richmond, CA

                                                              2. Taqueria & Pupuseria Las Americas, Richmond

                                                                After being a little disappointed at La Bamba I decided to head down San Pablo to Taqueria & Pupuseria Las Americas. The sidewalk sign said pupusas were $1.75 and con loroco $2.

                                                                The dining room is small with 4 tables. There's a large prep area behind the kitchen where it looked like they were getting stuff together for a catering job.

                                                                I had some difficulty ordering from the nice older lady at the register. They were out of loroco. So I decided to go a little lighter with Pork & Beans. She repeated "Cheese? Queso? Better with cheese." with a frown on her face as I shook my head. Finally I said "OK. Queso" and her face lit up with a beaming smile.

                                                                Then she repeated my order. "3 pupusas. 1 Pork. 1 Beans. 1 Cheese." and I eventually got my order to just one :)

                                                                They need to clean/scrape their griddle between orders. The dark spots you can see on the top half of the pupusa were just burnt griddle remnants that I brushed off with my fork and didn't impact the flavor. The dark spot on the bottom was tasty, crisped cheese that had oozed out.

                                                                She forgot the pork so this ended up being beans and cheese only, which I was fine with. Nicely stuffed and an even mix of the fillings.

                                                                The salsa was the typical thin, mild red stuff. The curtido was sub-par with just shredded cabbage, carrots and a jalapeño slice. It didn't taste like there was any vinegar or other seasonings beyond the jalapeño.

                                                                Now if I could have had this pupusa with La Bambas sides . . .


                                                                Taqueria & Pupuseria Las Americas
                                                                12929 San Pablo Ave
                                                                Richmond, CA

                                                                1. Pupuseria Metapan, Excelsior District, San Francisco

                                                                  I picked Metapan because it offers rice flour pupusas and to explore more of the Excelsior. I tried it for lunch on Saturday. A basket of complimentary corn chips and tomato salsa (the same as served with the pupusas) were delivered to the table with the excellent Salvadoran style horchata. My waitress pointed to the bottled hot sauces on the table in case I needed them, saying that they're not part of her culture.

                                                                  My rice pupusa ordered with the special filling of carrot, loroco and cheese was just a little too thick of crust. This resulted to it being hard and tough around the edges and slightly undercooked in the middle. I did like the filling though.

                                                                  The second one was pupusa Obama made with black corn. I ordered it with revuelta (pork, cheese, beans) and this was quite different than revuelta that I've had elsewhere. Instead of being blended, this had nearly all pork with a strip of beans and a small scatter of cheese in one quadrant. Usually my favorite filling, I did not care for this treatment. The black corn itself had deeper flavor than the typical masa.

                                                                  The red salsa had a touch of guajillo chiles but not crossing the line over to spicy. I liked the crispy curtido, just barely wilted, cut into thin long shreds of carrot, cabbage and jalapeño with a little red chile flakes. I could have used more Mexican oregano, as this had none visible to the eye and only faintly detectable in the taste (or maybe that was my imagination).

                                                                  I bought a Salvadoran quesadilla to go. This is a cake made with cheese and sour cream, nothing like a Mexican quesadilla. A little on the dry side but with nice caramelization around the edges.

                                                                  1. I tried some pupusas at Los Cocos in Oakland (Fruitvale Ave and 14th St). I ordered a revueltas and a loroco. They came out not terribly crispy, but browned on the outside, and slightly less done than I'd like on the inside. The revueltas filling was one of the more flavorfull I've had in recent memory, however, with plenty of pork flavor in the bean/cheese mix. The curtido was quite crunchy, with what I perceived to be a vinegar note (rather than fermented) and plenty of picked onions. The hot sauce was a fully pureed tomato salsa in a squeeze bottle. Overall I wasn't too excited, though I've never been a huge fan of pupusas. My favorite part of the meal was the tamarindo agua fresca I got, after being told they were out of coco and ensalada. It wasn't too sweet and was ade with real tamarind pulp.

                                                                    1. La Palma Mexicatessen is one of the few places to use fresh masa for their pupusas. The benefit of fresh masa comes across in the earthy corn taste of their cheese ones http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9719... , but I could not tell the taste difference in the revuelta pupusa.

                                                                      Whether it's a texture advantage from fresh masa or their skill at cooking these, the revueltas is a fantastic pupusa. The even spread of chicharon spiked beans and melted cheese imbue a lardy flavor with each bite of the crunchy dough. The dough itself is cooked dry on the griddle, and stays crunchy despite the lack of excess oil. It is wide and elastic enough that you can fold the pupusa in half and eat it as you strut along 24th street.

                                                                      I actually like the texture of their pupusas more than their taconaso, which is like a giant super taco with a thick, but tough, cake of masa.

                                                                      The salsa was mild and tasted a bit like gazpacho (green peppers?)

                                                                      La Palma Mexicatessen
                                                                      2884 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110
                                                                      Mon-Sat 8am-6pm, Sunday 8am-5pm

                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                      1. re: hyperbowler

                                                                        that looks huge! how much do they charge for a pupusa @ La Palma?

                                                                        1. re: drewskiSF

                                                                          It is huge-- for just under $3, you get a pupusa the size of (paper) dinner plate!

                                                                        2. re: hyperbowler

                                                                          Is that one of the pre-made ones that they have on the back counter? I've always wondered how those are.

                                                                          1. re: srr

                                                                            This was made to order.

                                                                            I've gotten bags of pre-made huaraches and, IIRC something else that's stuffed with beans, but I'm not sure I've ever seen these pupusas pre-made. If the bags are still warm and you eat them right away, they're great (others might know better techniques, but toasting cooled ones in a frying pan has made them rubbery, but still better than ones I've gotten reheated at restaurants).

                                                                          2. re: hyperbowler

                                                                            I must agree. I hadn't been there in years, too crowded. I had a black bean and cheese pupusa on a whim while passing by a couple of weeks ago.

                                                                            It was sublime. Just very flavorful in an honest corn-y way. And the cheese did not overpower the beans, one of my most common complaints.