QUESTION: Where in the Greater L.A. area can you go for real pupusas?
And no, pupusas filled with Monterey jack don’t count.
—Jack M., Los Angeles
ANSWER: On the East Coast, “real” pupusas can be a problem. There is
apparently something like a Northeastern Pupusa Cartel that manufactures the
Salvadoran snack treats in an undisclosed New Jersey location and flings the
doughy saucers in unmarked freezer trucks throughout the entire Mid-Atlantic
region. If the Salvadoran restaurants in Brooklyn are any indication, it is
apparently as risky to make a pupusa from scratch as it was for competitors
of the Corleones to import their own olive oil, if you catch my drift.
But here in balmy Los Angeles, home to more Salvadorans than any city but
San Salvador itself, a request for pupusas is almost always followed by the
comforting slap-slap of dough being thrown around in the kitchen, and there
must be 300 decent places to get your pupusa on. When a pupusa is good, it is
very, very good, crisp-edged, fragrant, oozing salty, melted cheese. Like a
roadside hamburger, even when a pupusa is bad, it is still pretty swell.
At Atlacatl, which is on the swank side, pupusas mostly serve as appetizers,
though pretty much everybody here seems to get one or two, and they’re great,
especially the revueltas, stuffed with milky, salty cheese and caramelized roast
pork. Texis No. 3 belongs to the most reliable of the chains, and the pupusas
are a little careful, almost tender rather than crisp, with a mild smack of
corn. And I remain fond of El Amanecer, whose pupusas are on the soft side,
with neither crust nor crunch, but with a certain richness that may change the
way you think about pupusas. Atlacatl, 301 N. Berendo St., L.A., (323) 663-1404;
Texis No. 3, 698 Seventh St., at Vermont Avenue, L.A., (213) 387-8890; El Amanecer,
3059 W. Eighth St., L.A., (213) 382-2591.