A new wave of Salvadoran eateries in the Valley brings an exciting uptick in pupusa options.
Five Valley locations, salvadorenorestaurant.com
When actor Leonardo DiCaprio was asked in a recent interview to name his favorite Mexican food, he said, “I’m a pupusa man, myself.” The interviewer quickly pointed out that pupusas hail from El Salvador and are the country’s national dish, which prompted DiCaprio to declare them better than tacos. If you haven’t discovered this delicious Hollywood-endorsed Salvadoran flatbread fashioned from masa and oil into rounds, stuffed and then griddled with an array of fillings, visit one of the Salvadoreño Restaurants to catch up. The family-owned restaurants serve 20 flavors ($2.85 each, pictured), including beef, spinach and revuelto, a traditional El Salvadoran combination of simmered pork, beans and Monterey jack cheese. Served with pickled cabbage (curtida) and salsa, “it’s like an explosion in your mouth,” chef-owner Karlos Ramirez says.
Pupusas Doña Mary
5889 W. Indian School Rd., Phoenix
This West Phoenix strip mall restaurant offers a wide assortment of pupusas (prices vary), from jalapeño and broccoli to chicharrón and chicken. After you order, watch the cooks pat, fill and flatten the cornmeal dough into tortilla-like circles before throwing them on the sizzling grill. They take a while to cook through, but the griddled pancake look-alikes are worth the wait. Each order comes with tart curtida cabbage slaw flecked with carrots and a ramekin of thin, mild red salsa. If you want to fire it up a notch, there’s jalapeño sauce on the table. While the revuelto (beans, chicharrón and cheese) is the most popular pupusa here, the vegetable and oozy, melting cheese offerings shine brightly.
Seydi’s Pupuseria & Grill
2625 E. Greenway Pkwy., Phoenix
Mother- and son-owned Seydi’s Pupuseria & Grill boasts 11 kinds of hand-patted pupusas ($2.50 each) on its menu. If you prefer a meatless experience, order the zucchini and cheese pupusa, with bits of zucchini mixed with ropey strings of cheese; or cheese and loroco, an edible Salvadoran wildflower with grassy notes that clings to the melted mozzarella. The brightly lit pupuseria also peddles shrimp, chicken, pork and steak pupusas, all stuffed with melted cheese and wrapped in tidy masa casings griddled to perfection. The curtida slaw and red salsa are peppier than those at the other pupuserias, adding a nice kick. Are pupusas truly better than tacos? Leo might be on to something.