Pupusas are having a moment – and this North Phoenix pupuseria might be the Binkley’s of them.
As Will Rogers once said, “I never met a pupusa I didn’t like.” OK, maybe the beloved cowboy didn’t actually say that – but I’m sure he would’ve had he ever eaten one. The cheesy, gooey, griddle-browned turnovers are rustic, satisfying and effortless to love, wrought from nixtamalized corn dough (much like tamales) and wrapped around fillings of cheese, pork, vegetables and beans. Pupusas are the national dish of El Salvador, and found in an ever-growing fraternity of Salvadoran restaurants in metro Phoenix.
Seydi’s Pupuseria & Grill, housed in a strip mall on Greenway Parkway near Cave Creek Road, is the newest and perhaps slickest member of the bunch, owned by Seydi Flores and her son, Jose, who sold pupusas in a Valley parking lot for four years before taking the brick and mortar plunge last summer. The appeal to this place is obvious: delicious, hyper-regional Latin food at cheap prices.
Puffy pupusas, stuffed with quesilla (a soft Salvadoran cheese akin to mozzarella) are the alpha and omega at the restaurant, arriving steaming hot with customary sides of curtido (crunchy fermented cabbage) and salsa roja. Seydi’s salsa roja is chunkier, spicier and more compelling than many thinner, blander Salvadoran versions, but its curtido needs more oregano, vinegar sharpness and chile heat to be exemplary. I stick with the most traditional pupusa fillings – chicharrón con queso (pork and cheese), revueltas (pork, creamy beans and cheese) and loroco con queso (a vegetal Central American flower bud with cheese) – all of them sturdy and greasy-good.
Ripe plantains, black beans and sour cream (plátanos fritos con frijoles y crema), a classic breakfast dish in El Salvador, is offered all day at Seydi’s, combining puréed black beans (often thin and runny, a bit thicker at Seydi’s) with limp, golden strips of plantain, fried to a sticky sweetness, and a generous dollop of sour cream. It’s pure comfort – sweet, earthy and salty at once.
Also praiseworthy: a luscious tamale stuffed with hunks of chicken and wrapped in plantain leaf, its color golden, its texture fluffy perfection. It shows up on various combo plates like the No. 9, accompanied by crispy planks of yuca (think french fries on starch steroids), fried pork chunks, a pupusa and a pastelito, the latter a meat- and potato-stuffed fried pie reminiscent of an empanada.
For a splurge, spring for a tender 8-ounce New York strip, offered with grainy Salvadoran chorizo, moist rice, plantains, beans, an avocado wedge and a hunk of firm queso fresco. For $12, there’s whole fried tilapia, its skin burnished and crispy, accompanied by beans, rice, a simple salad and a blistered jalapeño.
But the place where you’ll live is the pupusas, tamales and plátanos – all yummy, all priced well under 10 bucks at Seydi’s, where the motto seems to be “Give me your tired, your poor.” Taking a culinary safari should always be this reasonable.
Seydi’s Pupuseria & Grill
Contact: 2625 E. Greenway Pkwy., Phoenix, 602-404-7634, seydis-pupuseria-grill.business.site
Hours: M-Th 11 a.m-8:30 p.m., F-Sa 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
Highlights: Pupusas (2 for $5; 4 for $9); plátanos fritos con frijoles y crema ($6); combo plate No. 9 ($10); plato típico (steak and chorizo plate, $16)