I’ve not yet been to El Salvador, but after dining at a local pupuseria, it feels like my taste buds have. Pupuseria El Salvador La Original is a casual restaurant serving delicious Salvadoran and Central American cuisine in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area. I credit it with introducing me to my latest foodie obsession: the pupusa.
What is a Pupusa?
This traditional Salvadoran dish is a thick masa-corn-flour pancake usually filled with a combination of cheese, refried beans, chicharrón (a seasoned pork paste), and/or queso con loroco, a flower that grows in Central America. Traditionally, it is served with curtido, a pickled cabbage slaw made with red chiles and vinegar.
If you are still having difficulty picturing a pupusa, think of it as a cross between a Venezuelan arepa and a savory French crepe — with a heaping portion of cheese in the stuffing.
Pupuseria El Salvador: The Food
My delicious meal began with complimentary chips and salsa and a warm cup of lentil soup. The tortilla chips were thick with a great crunch and served with squeezable bottles containing two varieties of salsa — a mild red and a spicier verde. I only wish there had been a small dish for the salsas to make it easier for dipping. Yet, I have to say the rustic lentil soup was a welcomed touch of hospitality on a cold January night.
Dining with me was a fellow Grand Rapids food enthusiast, and it was a recommendation he had received from a local chef that sent us in search of pupusas and plantains. We ended up ordering a variety of pupusas and a combination plate of yuca frita, plantains, and a tamale to share.
I’m always a fan of yuca, a starchy root vegetable that grows in tropical and sub-tropical regions and is similar to potatoes. I’m especially into yuca frita, when the plant is prepared like a French fry.
Likewise, I also love fried plantains. Seriously, I can’t get enough, and the plantains at Pupuseria El Salvador did not disappoint.
If you also enjoy plantains and yuca, I’d recommend the combination appetizer to share among two or three diners.
Stuffed with beans, the tamale was one of the best I’ve ever eaten. It wasn’t at all dry or dense, and it seemed like a sizable portion, too.
Featuring about two dozen kinds of pupusas on the menu, Pupuseria El Salvador offers a mix of authentic flavors and a couple surprising varieties.
We tried the more traditional pupusas stuffed with pork, shrimp, beans, and cheese. We also added a little variety with the “Mexicana,” stuffed with cactus and jalapeño peppers. To top it off, we ended our incredible and filling meal with a Hawaiian pupusa containing ham, cheese, and pineapple. They were all delicious, but my favorites were the more traditional ones.
Tasting multiple flavors and attempting to guess which ones we were biting into since all the pupusas looked alike until we cut into them was a fun dining experience.
Pupuseria El Salvador: The Drinks
Pupuseria El Salvador is an eatery I highly recommend for the food much more so than the drinks. With that said, I feel like Coke (or Cerveza, if you are going that route) goes best with most Latin cuisine, and it would be hard to find a glass Coke bottle larger than the one I was served.
Pupuseria El Salvador: The Service + Ambiance
Walking into Pupuseria El Salvador, I noticed a TV in the corner tuned to a Spanish station and a mural depicting El Salvador’s coat of arms, but I wasn’t really sure how to navigate the restaurant.
Do you seat yourself? Do you order at the counter where there is a menu posted on the wall? Do you pay at the counter, or does your server collect your check?
Our waitress quickly greeted us, asking if we would be dining in and telling us we could take a seat at an empty table. We were dining a bit late for dinner, so it was rather quiet. Only two other tables were occupied during our meal.
Both of us were rookies at Salvadoran dining, so luckily our waitress offered us some pupusa recommendations. I found both our waitress and the man at the counter, who asked us how our meal was when we paid, quite friendly. As it turns out, you do take your bill up to the counter to pay after your meal.
I will warn you that the small dining room was a bit chilly in the winter, as the storefront is all windows.
Pupuseria El Salvador
- Location: 4639 Division Ave S, Grand Rapids, MI 49548
- Parking: Small parking lot
- Price: Budget-friendly
- Pay at the counter
- Take-out available
- Great for foodies and casual dining with friends or family
Now that I’ve had my first pupuseria experience, I can’t wait to try more!
Nice review! My husband is from El Salvador and we live in Los Angeles (pretty much the Salvadoran capital of the United States). I am glad you can enjoy pupusas close to where you live. That grilled cheese coming out of the pupusa looks delicious,
Thanks, Ruth! Those pupusas were so delicious. Next time I go to LA, I’m going to need to find some pupusas! If you have any recommendations, I’d love to hear them.
The food looks very tasty, the pupusa looks like the indian pancake, Parantha.
Ooh, I’ve never had Paratha, but it sounds like something I’d like.
I’d love to try out these fancy eats! yummy!
Wow..Thanks to you, I now know a bit about food from El Salvador:) Wasn’t aware of the dish earlier..Would like to try out a vegetarian variation sometime.
You could easily find a vegetarian variation of a pupusa! Most are filled with cheese, some have beans, and I even had a cactus and jalapeño filled pupusa.
Mmm. Never had tamales before but they look delicious.
They were very tasty!
So delicious! Tamales are pretty easy to find at Mexican restaurants as well.
Yummmm! Your post just made me crave pupusas. I’ve only had them a couple of times but I would love to go to El Salvador and try the real thing.
Yeah, now I’m ready to eat my way through El Salvador!
Never came across pupusa before and your description really makes it sound interesting. Will keep an eye out for it.
Yucca frita looks awesome. So interesting to find a cuisine experience like this in the mid-west 🙂
I’ve never heard of pupusas before but they look and sound amazing! I’m definitely going to seek them out! Thanks for sharing
sounds delicious! I haven’t had pupusa before but it sounds and looks delicious! It would nice to compare it to pupusa in El Salvador.
My next door neighbor’s family was from El Salvador. Pupusas were on the menu pretty regularly over there! It’s always cool when you can experience culturally interesting foods from home. That’s part of why my wife and I love living in Santa Barbara so much, as we have a really diverse selection of good ethnic food!
OM NOM Pupasas put them in my face immediately! Now I’m craving them, and pretty sure we don’t have an El Salvadorian place around…
Vicki @ MakeTimeToSeeTheWorld
Great to know you can authentic El Salvadorian food without leaving your hometown (it would be nice to go there in person though right?!) Those litre bottle of coke and fanta lookimpressive – and it’s great that they helped you with menu choices. Could you ask them to open a branch in Melbourne, Australia?!
It would be fantastic to go to El Salvador and eat all the pupusas I can find there! I’ll see what I can do about that Melbourne branch. 😉
I love trying new food. This is right up my alley!
What a great place to visit and dine. Great ambiance and the food looks really delicious. Awesome!
This sounds like a fun adventure in dining. It would be a new cuisine for me as well so it’s great that they were so helpful with menu selection. I’ve never had a plantain but it sounds like I need to. The pictures you shared all look tempting and I will definitely want to try it when I am in the area.
I know I have never tried this before, but it looks delicious! Thanks for sharing!
Liz @ Yes/No Films
I don’t think I’ve ever had a pupusa. It looks pretty tasty though. Wish they had a Salvadorian place in the metro Detroit area – do you know of any?
I figured there must be at least one in the Detroit area. I’m glad you found one via Yelp. I might have to review it sometime when I’m on the east side of the state. If you go before I do, let me know what you think!