The traditional Salvadoran dish known as a pupusa is a thick corn tortilla that comes stuffed with cheese, pork, beans, or other fillings. On top of that goes tomato salsa and a spoonful of curtido (cabbage slaw with vinegar and chiles). Below are our five favorite pupusa makers in the city. By Jessica Allen.
El Nuevo Izalco serves its specialities from a bright restaurant in Woodside, Queens, staffed by lovely servers who’ll wait patiently as you scan the longish menu. Pupusas come in several flavors, including frijoles (beans), chicharron (pork), queso (cheese), and revuelta (which combines all of the above). Some come with a side of chorizo, some with a side of plantains. To drink, we usually opt for a fruit beverage such as a marañón (cashew apple) or tamarind juice. Everything gets made fresh to order, so expect a bit of a (absolutely worth it) wait.
El OK Salvadoreno Restaurant is better than OK—hence its appearance on this list. Indeed, the Jamaica restaurant is clean, charming, friendly, and veritably bursting with good, old-fashioned Salvadoran food. You can get tamales, enchiladas, tacos, and sopa de mondongo (made from diced tripe), as well as pupusas, perfectly formed concoctions of filling surrounded by perfectly grilled corn-masa pancakes. We like the queso con loroco, an edible vine mostly grown and consumed in Central America.
You can’t talk about pupusas, or even Salvadoran food, without mentioning the seasonal Red Hook Food Vendors. Among the best is , a big winner at the 2013 Vendy Awards. In 1988, proprietor Carlos Ayala decided to feed hungry soccer players and their fans. His sisters came on as cooks, making their mother’s traditional recipe on a single portable grill. Twenty-something years later, the operation has expanded, but the good food remains. Go ahead and pay them a visit come spring.
For many years, Jackson Heights, in Queens, was known as a go-to destination for Indian food. In recent years, however, it’s become equally known for its Latin American hot spots, including Mi Pequeño El Salvador Restaurant. This place takes great pride in its cooking, offering such Salvadoran delights as mariscada (seafood and rice), and, of course, pupusas. Those here are stuffed with beef, cheese, pork, beans, or a combo. Bonus: follow the restaurant on Facebook for clever quips like “in a relationship with salsa.”
Like El Olomega, Solber Pupusas caters to the crowds at the Red Hook Ball Fields, and has both the lines and the Vendy Award to prove its deliciousness. The husband-and-wife team (“solber” is a portmanteau of their last names) has also been known to cook up a pupusa storm at Brooklyn Flea, Smorgasburg, and on tv. We like the ginormous sample platter, which includes pupusas, tamales, sour cream, jalapenos, tomato sauce, spicy chorizo, curtido, and maduros (sweet plantains). It’s cheaper than a ticket to El Salvador, for sure.