Hole in the Wall: Pupuseria El Salvador, Logan, UT

On a corner near Utah State University there sits a popular fast casual latin-American restaurant called Cafe Rio. Take a right turn and you’ll pull right into a Taco Bell. These are the “go-to” spots for college students and stoners, respectively, looking for some south of the border flavors in a way north of the border town. But ask any local foodie if good Latin American fare exists in Logan, and they’ll direct you to a beat up looking strip mall between the popular Cafe Rio and well trafficked Taco Bell.

This is Pupuseria El Salvador. Yea, it’s your classic “Hole in the Wall,” but it’s also damn good, and after conditioning myself on “fake” latino flavors for far too long, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the cuisine of countries like El Salvador based on a recent trip to Pupuseria El Salvador.

This place is totally dope. I mean, if you’re the kind of pretentious diner who loves hanging out in trendy American restaurants with waiters named Todd and menus sporting “sustainable” proteins that tell you everything short of the animals individual name, then you are going to hate this place. But if you get off on trying new things in a one room, family run eatery that makes everything fresh to order, then this is your place. But first things first: what the heck is a Pupusa? Fear not, Wikipedia is for senor gringos like me:

El Salvador’s most notable dish is the pupusa, a thick hand-made corn flour or rice flour tortilla stuffed with cheese, chicharrón (cooked pork meat ground to a paste consistency), refried beans, and/or loroco (a vine flower bud native to Central America).

I never even heard of these things before arriving at the tiny place, but was expertly walked through (in English) the menu by a well spoken young lady, who also had the patience to play along while I tested out my very weak spanish. Wanting to get the full effect of Salvadorean food, I decided on two different pupusas: revueltas con chicharron, queso y frijoles (combo with pork, cheese and bacon) and the Chicharron con queso y loroco (cheese with loroco). I also got a chicken tamale. Grand total for the meal? All of $4.50 before tax.

While the kitchen worked to make my meal, the woman at the counter brought me two types of hot sauces and a large container of cabbage. A fancy presentation it was not, but I sampled the cabbage on its own and loved it. It had a nice tang and crunch from being marinated in some kind of vinegar, and wasn’t heavy with mayo like an American coleslaw. It took maybe 10 or 15 minutes for my order to come out (and I was the only one in the place) but it was well worth the wait.

The best way to describe the pupusas is like a savory, plump pancake. I really liked the texture of the homemade tortilla. I don’t think I’ve ever had homemade tortillas with real masa before, and it has an amazing texture and subtle taste that’s nothing like the off flavors of the store brands. They were a bit oily from the griddle, but I didn’t mind, and liked the soft exterior combined with more crusty pieces that had been burnt.

The fillings are the star here, and make for a great combination of flavor. The cheese is perfectly melted in both cases; a warm and gooey combination that reminds me of a Panini filling. The pork was juicy but not overpowering, while the beans had great flavor and texture. I really enjoyed the pupusas con loroco though. I don’t know how to describe the flavor, but if you’ve never had loroco, I’d encourage you to try it.

These were great on their own as well as with the cabbage, which gave a nice crunchy contrast to the gooey fillings, and helped to “lighten up” the whole dish. The ‘hot sauces’ were actually quite mild, but being a relative spice wimp I wasn’t too disappointed. As for the tamale, this was a real treat. The dough is soft and was flavored by banana leaf and seasonings, while the interior chicken meat was incredibly moist and flavorful. For just $1.25 it’s a great addition.

Pupuseria El Salvador is the kind of place I love because it’s the kind of place where you can see the passion and the pride of those who work there. It’s great food at a great price, no doubt, but a trip there is also an adventure and a learning experience. If you’ve ever needed a reminder that sometimes the best food is found in some of the most unlikely settings, this is it. How about you? Has anyone had Salvadorean food before? And do you have a favorite “hole in the wall” that’s serving up great ethnic fare in an unlikely setting?

12 comments on “Hole in the Wall: Pupuseria El Salvador, Logan, UT

  1. Ryan says:

    There’s a Mexican/Salvadorean place in a tiny strip mall in Gaithersburg, MD called Acajutla. My first experience with pupusas was there and I seek them out regularly. Good stuff (and super cheap).

    Now I’m after pupusas for dinner :)

  2. Keith says:

    I’m finding Salvadoran restaurants showing up more frequently; many are disguised as Mexican places, but you’ll know they’re Salvadoran when you get there and papusas are on the menu. Tamales are usually the best too at these places.

    I’ve introduced many co-workers to papusa at some local little places just like this. I love hole-in-the-wall restaurants and I regularly eat lunch at a few places in my town that a lot of folks shy away from – probably because they’re not in a less “ethnic” part of town and aren’t advertised during the Super Bowl.

    I’ll always love Grub Grade’s review of chain restaurants and fast food so it’s something I can actually try (or avoid) in my local area, but this is a good one.

  3. rob says:

    The large sign saying “In God We Trust” is kind of scary, I would prefer “In Modern Sanitation Practices We Trust.”

  4. SkippyMom says:

    Oh, I miss my Eddie’s. It is a place in Arlington VA [not called Eddie's but that was the gentleman who owned it] and it was a little corner Salvadoran grocery. Eddie and his family ran it and the pride was so evident – and they are the friendliest people I have ever met.

    The food was spectacular and so, so, so fresh – made out of kitchen about as big as a small walk in closet. Heck, the whole grocery is about as big my living room.

    Their pupusas are fabulous – and they make their sauce fresh every day, which is great because depending on which person makes it you aren’t sure how spicy or mild it will be.

    They are still there, I am sure, but since my husband no longer works in Arlington we haven’t been in a few years, but I have NO doubt they would welcome us back as old friends and a warm, yummy pupusa.

    Thanks for the memories – I could’ve written tons more [like about their imported glass bottled pepsi's and the fresh chicken] but it’s your blog :wink:

    Thank you Adam.

  5. SkippyMom says:

    PS – sorry – I have a few verb tenses going on in that comment. lol

  6. Q says:

    Ah, I love having the occasional pupusa. I always pronounce it wrong despite knowing the spelling to the bemused confusion of my order taker. I keep saying, “Pu-pas-sah.” I really don’t know why.

    I just describe them to people as flattened, fried tamales with slightly different fillings such as cheese and what not.

  7. Jack Reynolds says:

    Love those Salvadoran pupusas. The masa is light and custardy as compared to denser Mexican tamales. Depending on the restaurant, Salvadoran pupusas also have tasty extras in them like chick peas and green olives.

  8. Jack Reynolds says:

    Love those Salvadoran tamales. The masa is light and custardy as compared to denser Mexican tamales. Depending on the restaurant, Salvadoran pupusas also have tasty extras in them like chick peas and green olives.

  9. Jack Reynolds says:

    I meant *Salvadoran tamales.

  10. Jesse says:

    I’ve always found pupusas kind of bland, but they’re an okay diversion once in a while.

    And I’m pretty sure the pork paste is made of ground pork skin (pork rinds). As that’s what chicharón is.

  11. Sara Froelich says:

    I love the food from this place! The first time I had their food was at the farmer’s market in Logan where they had their own food tent set up. The pupusas were new to me, and were absolutely delicious. The vinegary cabbage slaw mix was a great accompaniment to the pupusas (and that is saying something, since I do not like cabbage), and the rice and beans were some of the best ones that I have had from a restaurant outside of the hole-in-the-wall Cuban joints in Florida (where I am originally from). My husband and father-in-law (who are also from Florida) share the same opinion of the food. If you are looking for REAL Latin American food, this is a great choice.

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