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Pupuseria El Salvador (w/pics)

Pupuseria El Salvador (w/pics)
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  • Pupuseria El Salvador (w/pics)

    Post #1 - September 5th, 2005, 1:39 am
    Post #1 - September 5th, 2005, 1:39 am Post #1 - September 5th, 2005, 1:39 am
    I couldn’t be happier that bjt recommended Tacos del Pacifico and that so many have made the trip. It’s such a great little place and deserves every bit of the praise (and business) it has received. Almost directly across the street is Pupuseria El Salvador, another real gem.

    The first time I visited Pupuseria El Salvador I chatted with a friendly customer who was curious what other Salvadorian restaurants in Chicago I’d tried. When I named several he shook his head sympathetically and announced firmly, “This is better.” He was so right.

    Pupuseria El Salvador, Looking East on 106th
    Image
    Pupuseria El Salvador occupies the basement of an apartment building at the corner of 106th and Avenue L.

    View from the Counter Seats
    Image
    It’s quite a small space, only three tables plus three seats at a counter that overlooks the tiny open kitchen. These counter seats are fun because they let you watch the women make the pupusas. My God, they make it look so easy! From what I can tell, three Salvadorian women run the whole show and they really know what they’re doing. This is some “simple” cooking done at a high level.

    Pupuseria El Salvador’s Menu
    Image
    The menu is small but has most of the standards. Virtually everything is made in house, including chorizos and crema.

    Pupusas and Curtido
    Image
    You’d be foolish to pass up their pupusas, especially since they cost only $1.35 each. They taste intensely of fresh masa and have a wonderful mottled surface from the griddle. My favorite filling is the simplest: queso, because a little usually leaks out and turns toasty on the hot griddle. Help yourself from large jars of excellent curtido (pickled cabbage salad), more interesting than any I’ve had in Chicago, with a strong oregano presence and a mild bite from vinegar and peppers. Two salsas are offered. The milder red one traditionally accompanies pupusas and curtido.

    Chorizo and Tortillas, with Platanos in Background
    Image
    Their house made chorizo, its plump links tied off with corn husks, is completely different from its Mexican counterpart. A mellow sweet chile presence makes for a great sausage. The accompanying handmade tortillas are very thick and good. It’s worth ordering something that comes with their excellent crema. Platanos are nicely caramelized but still with a bit of texture. Tamales de elote are another excellent choice.

    Another must-order is bread-banana pudding (budin), an absolute steal at $1.25. No alcohol is served but bottled Salvadorian soft drinks such as La Cascada Kolashanpan are available. Horchata is very good, again significantly different from the Mexican version.

    Pupuseria El Salvador and Tacos del Pacifico are currently two of my favorite restaurants in Chicago. For less than five bucks at either place you can experience greatness. These people care passionately about what they’re doing and the food reflects that.

    Pupuseria El Salvador
    3557 E 106th St
    Chicago
    773-374-0490
    Mon 10-8, Wed-Thu 10-7, Fri 10-9, Sat 10-9:30, Sun 2:30-6:30

    These hours, copied off the door, are current as of 3 Sept 05. I’m not sure how this fits with the breakfast hours on the menu, photographed over 6 months ago.
  • Post #2 - September 5th, 2005, 10:04 pm
    Post #2 - September 5th, 2005, 10:04 pm Post #2 - September 5th, 2005, 10:04 pm
    Hi,

    Someday soon I will follow your advice to try this Pupuseria, which is just a stones throw from Tacos del Pacifico. This might be the starting point of an LTHforum progressive dinner as people eat and travel about the south side.

    A few years ago, I had a discussion with my friend Dino at Captain Porky's who makes as much as possible in house. He said he saved money by making in-house rather than purchasing premade from restaurant suppliers. Especially for smaller establishments like this Pupuseria, those savings allow lower prices and hopefully a great margin of profit than if they purchased the crema and chorizos. The added bonus is a better quality product for us which sets them apart from their competitors; whose product may be homogenized sameness from purchasing the same products from restaurant suppliers.

    Thanks again for your efforts in unveiling these treasures.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #3 - September 6th, 2005, 1:47 pm
    Post #3 - September 6th, 2005, 1:47 pm Post #3 - September 6th, 2005, 1:47 pm
    Rene G.

    I can't wait to get to this Pupuseria--although I'm wondering how I can eat there and fill my fish taco jones. And I am so intrigued by the chorizo, all chubby and stubby. I've only had pupusas at Izalco here in Chicago and it recently closed, so now I'm ready to check this out. Have you had real gorditas in Mexico, you know when they actually stick them under the comal to get the smoky flavor? These look a lot like the gorditas we used to eat at the Embajadores Market in Gunajuato. They were thick masa cakes, stuffed, not tacos split and stuffed.

    Thanks for the pictures, they really seal the deal.

    bjt
    "eating is an agricultural act" wendell berry
  • Post #4 - September 7th, 2005, 2:01 pm
    Post #4 - September 7th, 2005, 2:01 pm Post #4 - September 7th, 2005, 2:01 pm
    It’s quite a small space, only three tables plus three seats at a counter that overlooks the tiny open kitchen. These counter seats are fun because they let you watch the women make the pupusas. My God, they make it look so easy! From what I can tell, three Salvadorian women run the whole show and they really know what they’re doing. This is some “simple” cooking done at a high level.


    I agree - been there only once, for takeout, but it was very well done. Not
    quick by any means - really slow, actually - but well made.

    However, dont they have a little more room? I went at a very busy time
    (which is why it was slow)... but the 3 tables, the 3 seats at the counter,
    and there was that little area right next to where you come in, maybe
    down a step or two.. I think there was a good-sized table there, with
    a party of 6/8 people at least.

    You’d be foolish to pass up their pupusas, especially since they cost only $1.35 each. They taste intensely of fresh masa and have a wonderful mottled surface from the griddle. My favorite filling is the simplest: queso, because a little usually leaks out and turns toasty on the hot griddle. Help yourself from large jars of excellent curtido (pickled cabbage salad), more interesting than any I’ve had in Chicago, with a strong oregano presence and a mild bite from vinegar and peppers. Two salsas are offered. The milder red one traditionally accompanies pupusas and curtido.


    Agree on the pupusas, all I had, to go. Got the pickled cabbage thingy on the
    side, ate it while driving. Was difficult to do, but very good. Will try the queso
    pupusa next time, thanks.

    [heir house made chorizo, its plump links tied off with corn husks, is completely different from its Mexican counterpart. A mellow sweet chile presence makes for a great sausage. The accompanying handmade tortillas are very thick and good. It’s worth ordering something that comes with their excellent crema. Platanos are nicely caramelized but still with a bit of texture. Tamales de elote are another excellent choice.

    Another must-order is bread-banana pudding (budin), an absolute steal at $1.25. No alcohol is served but bottled Salvadorian soft drinks such as La Cascada Kolashanpan are available. Horchata is very good, again significantly different from the Mexican version.


    Hmm. Not tried any of these - will definitely do so the next time, thanks. Especially
    the bread-bana pudding sounds like a sure bet.

    Pupuseria El Salvador and Tacos del Pacifico are currently two of my favorite restaurants in Chicago. For less than five bucks at either place you can experience greatness. These people care passionately about what they’re doing and the food reflects that.


    Both nice places, yes - and literally across the street. For 5 bucks at Pupuseria
    you can get a lot, probably more than TEP - though I like TEP a lot. The first
    time I went, it was to both - 2 tacos at TEP, and a bit to go at PES. After that,
    Ive been to TEP and gone with 3 tacos - I prefer that I think. But will defn
    go to PES again, was a very nice spot. And both really really reasonable.
    (At PES I paid about 4 bucks, and picked up a pretty big bag of stuff,
    including their pickled on the side etc).


    These hours, copied off the door, are current as of 3 Sept 05. I’m not sure how this fits with the breakfast hours on the menu, photographed over 6 months ago.


    Six months, huh? Ok :-) I went to TEP the first time like 3/4 weeks ago, on a
    Saturday, a bit before close (6ish). Thought the guy who was walking out
    looked sorta familiar... and then later wondered if it was you, after seeing
    something on here :-) But if youve been going for 6 months, probably not.

    c8w
  • Post #5 - September 7th, 2005, 2:25 pm
    Post #5 - September 7th, 2005, 2:25 pm Post #5 - September 7th, 2005, 2:25 pm
    bjt wrote:Rene G.

    I can't wait to get to this Pupuseria--although I'm wondering how I can eat there and fill my fish taco jones. And I am so intrigued by the chorizo, all chubby and stubby. I've only

    Thanks for the pictures, they really seal the deal.

    bjt


    It *is* possible - you have 2 tacos (one fish, one shrimp), and then move on to
    PES :-) But I dont think that works very well - when I tried it, I wanted more
    tacos at TEP. Just couldnt get them because they were closing - and so
    went across the street. If youre really hungry, though, it can be done :-)


    c8w
  • Post #6 - September 7th, 2005, 10:26 pm
    Post #6 - September 7th, 2005, 10:26 pm Post #6 - September 7th, 2005, 10:26 pm
    I can't wait to get to this Pupuseria--although I'm wondering how I can eat there and fill my fish taco jones.

    That’s a problem I can sympathize with. But if you limit yourself to a tostada and a taco or two, it can be done. If walking across the street hasn’t worked up an appetite, a hike to St Simeon (1 mile on Ewing each way) might do the trick. Or you can walk down 106th to Indiana and back.

    Of course, you can always get takeout. The pupusas don’t travel all that well and you pass up the serve-yourself curtido. The tamales and chorizo don’t suffer quite as much and the budin holds up perfectly.

    I agree - been there only once, for takeout, but it was very well done. Not quick by any means - really slow, actually - but well made.

    However, dont they have a little more room? I went at a very busy time (which is why it was slow)... but the 3 tables, the 3 seats at the counter, and there was that little area right next to where you come in, maybe down a step or two.. I think there was a good-sized table there, with a party of 6/8 people at least.

    I’m happy to hear you enjoyed it. That’s true, you really can’t go if you’re in a hurry. But sitting at the counter, time passes quickly watching them pat out pupusas.

    The way I remember it there are 2 squarish tables in the main room, each seating 4 (maybe 6). The front room has a long picnic table that would hold 6 or 8 people. The counter has only 3 stools (and some of the counter space is taken up by the cash register at one end and warming lights at the other). Maybe there are more tables than I remember but in any case there’s not a whole lot of room at the Pupuseria.

    Six months, huh? Ok I went to TEP the first time like 3/4 weeks ago, on a Saturday, a bit before close (6ish). Thought the guy who was walking out looked sorta familiar... and then later wondered if it was you, after seeing something on here But if youve been going for 6 months, probably not.

    I guess the first time I visited was in Spring so that would be more like 4 months ago. My only point was it was a while ago so the menu and hours could have changed. I was there on a Saturday about a month ago so we might well have crossed paths. Be sure to say hello next time (perhaps to a complete stranger!).
  • Post #7 - September 16th, 2005, 4:33 pm
    Post #7 - September 16th, 2005, 4:33 pm Post #7 - September 16th, 2005, 4:33 pm
    I can't wait to get to this Pupuseria--although I'm wondering how I can eat there and fill my fish taco jones.

    That’s a problem I can sympathize with. But if you limit yourself to a tostada and a taco or two, it can be done. If walking across the street hasn’t worked up an appetite, a hike to St Simeon (1 mile on Ewing each way) might do the trick. Or you can walk down 106th to Indiana and back.

    Of course, you can always get takeout. The pupusas don’t travel all that well and you pass up the serve-yourself curtido. The tamales and chorizo don’t suffer quite as much and the budin holds up perfectly.


    You do not pass up the curtido, neither! Ive taken takeout twice now, and both
    times (without me remembering to ask), there has been a plastic bag throw
    in with a fair bit of curtido. Theyre very attentive that way.

    The tamales did travel pretty well - theyre wrapped in corn husks as usual, and
    then theyre wrapped in foil. Very hot still, even up to a half hour later (this
    was the tamale elote). The budin holds up great- thanks for that, BTW, it
    was bloody exellent! Would never have found it, either. Heck, couldnt remember
    the name you had mentioned (just "banana pudding"), was looking all over
    the menu for it, couldnt find it... and then, right at the end, where the paper
    had curled up at the bottom, was a little handwritten "budin 1.25" with no
    translation, only found because it was my third look thru the menu. On such
    pieces of luck is life made complete - it was excellent, and I shall pick one up
    every time Iam there from here on out, even if I pick up nothing else from
    PES (ie its only a TES run).

    I agree - been there only once, for takeout, but it was very well done. Not quick by any means - really slow, actually - but well made.

    However, dont they have a little more room? I went at a very busy time (which is why it was slow)... but the 3 tables, the 3 seats at the counter, and there was that little area right next to where you come in, maybe down a step or two.. I think there was a good-sized table there, with a party of 6/8 people at least.

    I’m happy to hear you enjoyed it. That’s true, you really can’t go if you’re in a hurry. But sitting at the counter, time passes quickly watching them pat out pupusas.

    The way I remember it there are 2 squarish tables in the main room, each seating 4 (maybe 6). The front room has a long picnic table that would hold 6 or 8 people. The counter has only 3 stools (and some of the counter space is taken up by the cash register at one end and warming lights at the other). Maybe there are more tables than I remember but in any case there’s not a whole lot of room at the Pupuseria.


    Thats exactly right - I thought in your OP you had missed the picnic table. Thats
    still there, can seat 6-8 at least. Plus 2 tables, plus 3 seats at counter. Tiny
    place, but also does a fair bit of takeout business I think.

    Second trip, not a busy time - only 2 people doing takeout, not a single table
    occupied. But still it took a long time - they are very slow. However thats
    because the food is made right there in front of you, as fresh as is possible
    to get. The queso pupusa, taken to go, was too hot to eat in the car for
    a while - had to eventually hold it int he foil to eat it, too hot to hold even a
    few minutes later. The tamale was still hot 30 minutes later. You cannot
    get fresher - and a pretty big bag of food for 4 bucks cant really be
    beat (pupusa wrapped up, tamale wrapped up, curtido in the bag, budin
    in a styrofoam container, total bill about 4.20 or some such).

    The queso pupusa was good - but might try another next time (dont recall
    the name, but it has cheese plus other things in it). The tamal de elote was
    decent, but may try chicken next time (have you tried that? Any good?)
    The budin... I shall try and get some more this weekend. But then Ive
    always been partial to bread pudding - dabal ka meetha is one of my
    fave Indian desserts - and I like bananas too, so this is a pitch thrown
    right into my hitting zone.

    Six months, huh? Ok I went to TEP the first time like 3/4 weeks ago, on a Saturday, a bit before close (6ish). Thought the guy who was walking out looked sorta familiar... and then later wondered if it was you, after seeing something on here But if youve been going for 6 months, probably not.

    I guess the first time I visited was in Spring so that would be more like 4 months ago. My only point was it was a while ago so the menu and hours could have changed. I was there on a Saturday about a month ago so we might well have crossed paths. Be sure to say hello next time (perhaps to a complete stranger!).
    [/quote]

    Yes, regretted not doing it right then - was tired, didnt think of it until a couple
    minutes later (and didnt feel like doing the creepy thing, running out the door
    of TEP yelling "oy, oy, are you an LTH-er, huh? huh? huh?")

    BTW, was reading some paper while there waiting for my tacos the last
    time, and it mentioned "Harmony Hamburgers" on 106th, apparently been
    in existance since 1953 or soome such, 79 year old woman running it and
    currently being helped (over summer) by 10-12 yr old grandkids etc. Ever
    tried it? Any good? The only person there I could ask was the 9-year
    old waitress Valerie, and she said she hadnt been - ah, said I, clearly
    a question to be posed to RenooGle, the search engine of the South
    Side.

    c8w
  • Post #8 - September 16th, 2005, 7:33 pm
    Post #8 - September 16th, 2005, 7:33 pm Post #8 - September 16th, 2005, 7:33 pm
    c8w wrote:The budin holds up great- thanks for that, BTW, it was bloody exellent!

    Happy to hear you liked it. I’m not a big dessert fan but I like their budin a lot. One of these days I really must try dabal ka meetha. I remember your posts on it a few months ago and it’s on my list of things to try.

    Budin From Pupuseria El Salvador
    Image

    c8w wrote:BTW, was reading some paper while there waiting for my tacos the last time, and it mentioned "Harmony Hamburgers" on 106th, apparently been in existance since 1953 or soome such, 79 year old woman running it and currently being helped (over summer) by 10-12 yr old grandkids etc. Ever tried it? Any good?

    I haven’t seen the article but will try to find it. Thanks for mentioning it. Two weeks ago I made my first stop at Harmony Hamburgers in years. Nothing has changed, in fact I doubt much has changed in 50 years. I had a long and fascinating talk with the owner and her son who has a law practice around the corner. I learned a lot about the history of Chicago and the East Side (the family has deep roots in the area). Although there are several very old businesses on 106th Street, Harmony is the only one still under original ownership. I managed to find room for a burger, your basic thin, griddle-cooked, old-fashioned burger complete with good (though greasy) grilled onions.

    Harmony Hamburgers, Looking South Across 106th Street
    Image
    This picture was taken in June. Sadly, since then the closet-sized tamale shop has closed.

    Harmony Hamburgers
    3643 E 106th St
    Chicago
    773-731-4615
  • Post #9 - October 24th, 2005, 9:27 am
    Post #9 - October 24th, 2005, 9:27 am Post #9 - October 24th, 2005, 9:27 am
    (This is a continuation of a serial post from here.)

    Image

    How does it happen that you have two of the best things you'll eat this year within a couple of hours of each other? I suppose it happens at Blackbird or somewhere fairly often, but in the $1.95 per item category, much more rarely. Yet that is what happened when we ate our second lunch at Pupuseria El Salvador about an hour and a half after our first at Tacos del Pacifico.

    Image

    Mmm. Let's just look at another shot before we even think about typing words:

    Image

    Do I need to say anything? Fresh, hot off the grill. Bland by themselves (as we found out when we got tortillas, aka pupusas with nothing inside) but wonderful when they ooze cheese, getting little burnt edges of cheesy caramelizositude, divine when what was inside was pork and refried beans. (That's the one not to miss, whatever else you also have.)

    We also got some pretty good chorizo:

    Image

    And this mysterious item, which we each took pictures of without touching, like scientists studying an alien life form. Finally I broke it open and we tried it: plaintain exterior deep fried, cream with plantain flavor inside.

    Image

    Oh, and the kids finally got their horchata because, after all, what is a Salvadoran restaurant without horchata?

    And so ends my serial, thread-hopping tale. Happy ending.
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  • Post #10 - October 24th, 2005, 9:39 am
    Post #10 - October 24th, 2005, 9:39 am Post #10 - October 24th, 2005, 9:39 am
    Mike G wrote:And this mysterious item, which we each took pictures of without touching, like scientists studying an alien life form. Finally I broke it open and we tried it: plaintain exterior deep fried, cream with plantain flavor inside.


    This looks like the Salvadorian equivilant of a deep fried twinkie.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #11 - October 24th, 2005, 9:46 am
    Post #11 - October 24th, 2005, 9:46 am Post #11 - October 24th, 2005, 9:46 am
    Those are empanadas de leche, which I had exactly the same at a pupuseria in Waukegan Friday evening which I reported here.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #12 - October 24th, 2005, 9:50 am
    Post #12 - October 24th, 2005, 9:50 am Post #12 - October 24th, 2005, 9:50 am
    Aha! That explains why I thought I had seen a picture of them but they didn't register for other people as something that had been in THIS thread.
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  • Post #13 - January 18th, 2010, 8:55 pm
    Post #13 - January 18th, 2010, 8:55 pm Post #13 - January 18th, 2010, 8:55 pm
    Places I've been meaning to visit: Stop 1

    Even for someone that gets around here and there, I have quite a few spots that I have been meaning to try forever. So I decided today was a good day to try out a place I have had in mind since the OP was made. I woke up with a craving for pupusas and after getting a few things done in the morning I was on my way down LSD. With all the rave reviews mentioned on here and and it being a ReneG rec'd spot I pretty much knew what I was in for.

    Everything was excellent and the pupusa's were my favorite I've had yet with the chicharron, bean and cheese being my favorite but I also really like the zucchini ones. The chorizo mentioned upthread was easily the best thing I've eaten lately. I thought everything we ordered was wonderful including but not pictured the Salvadoran chicken tamale and, plantains. The cabbage and homemade hot sauce were also a great accompaniment to everything and the crema is as terrific as is talked about.

    Image
    Zucchini, cheese pupusa

    Image
    Housemade chorizo...excellent

    Image
    also available by the lb

    Image
    Plaintain dough filled with cream

    Image
    Hot damn

    Its crazy that this thread hasn't been updated since '05 but I hope it stays in the mix from here on in. Regrettably I never made it to tacos de pacifico which I guess used to be across the street. So I'm glad I finally made it here because its in my city favorites already. I'm not sure how business is but we were the only people in there during our visit and I didnt like that, it was so good and cheap too. The man running the show was nice as could be and brought us the food as it was ready. I knew it was going to be great when after we put in our order he yelled in the backroom and out came an older lady who got down to business making the pupusa's. I hope they can stick around a long time and encourage anyone who hasnt been to do so/ The two of us ate as much as we could (alot) and each had a Salvadoran bottled pop and left a $2 tip and walked out spending $22.

    Pupuseria El Salvador
    3557 E 106th St
    Chicago
    773-374-0490

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