el salvador pupuseria y restaurante / city heights – san diego, ca

The day we decided to go here we had originally planned on going to Slater’s 50/50. But we looked at the long line outside and I said, “Never mind. Let’s do something else.” Jake and I decided it was high time to finally go to one of the places we’ve driven by tons of times and this place popped into mind – El Salvado Pupuseria Y Restaurante. It’s a pretty nondescript building – kind of looks like it used to be a pizza hut back in the day. Not very pretty to look at, but oftentimes little hole in the wall places will really surprise you.

[peek at one of the pages of their menu]

They had a pretty large menu – this is just one of the pages. On the other side of the menu they have more familiar sounding items, such as tacos, burritos, tortas, tostadas and the like. I was here to try the pupusas and with their nice pricing point (just $1.99 for one pupusa) I decided to splurge a little and try a few of them.

[pickled cabbage, salsa and chips]

We were given chips and salsa for start off with. It’s a tiny bowl though and we managed to polish those chips off lickity split.

The other bowl was a condiment to use with your food – I read on Yelp it’s a pickled cabbage slaw to be used as a condiment for your pupusas and other food. I had a tiny taste of it – very vinegary with a slight sweetness. Not my bag at all – I don’t like cabbage or pickled anything so I didn’t use this again.

[this is what’s to come!]

I’ve been doing this “above the table shot” thing lately. I think it looks kind of neat.

[beef enchiladas plate – with beans, rice and salad – $6.99]

Jake went with a safer bet and got the beef enchiladas to try. The red sauce they use is a little different from what you’d get at a Mexican restaurant. I think it’s a little bit more sour tasting than what I’m used to – I only had a bite or two before I retreated back to my own pupusas.

This plate also came with some homemade tortillas – you had the choice between the homemade or “the other kind” (aka, Mission flour tortillas) and Jake wisely choice to get the homemade ones. They taste like like the pupusa does if it doesn’t have any “stuff” in it – and quite a bit thicker than a normal tortilla. Very tasty!

[pollo asado plate with rice and beans – $6.99]

For Jake’s son, S., we got him the pollo asado plate. The pollo asado was very nicely grilled with a wonderful flavor and seasoning on it. The chicken was very moist and juicy with a nice char from the grill on the outside of the meat. I kept eating a few pieces time and time again. I kind of wished they put this kind of chicken in the pupusas instead…

[stack of pupusas – all pupusas are $1.99 each]

Since I had never had a pupusa before this trip, I didn’t know what I’d like the best. So I ordered three kinds. It’s an experiment to try new things! Pupusas are sort of like calzones – but with a flatter surface like a tortilla or a stuffed quesadilla – but fully enclosed.

[oozing with cheese – cheese pupusa]

We’ve been back a couple of times now and I can say for certain that the plain old cheese pupusa is my favorite. They also have one with jalapeno and cheese that is good a little kick of flavor, but the plain old cheese is my hands down favorite.

Oozing, gooey, delicious cheese. God. How could not be happy with a delicious vat of cheese like this?!

When you order these, you can hear them making them in the back as they swish the dough back and forth in their hands. The dough is so chewy and golden delicious.

I think I could eat one of these every day.

[mixed pupusa – with pork, cheese and beans]

I also got a mixed one – with pork, cheese and beans. Though you can ask them to pretty much make any combination you want. The menu is just a guide, really.

I did like this one too – the mix of pork, cheese and beans made for a very flavorful and messy snack. I could do without the beans myself, but they were still kind of tasty in there. The pork had a good, rich flavor and I thought it could have used more cheese…

Yeah, I’m in love with cheese. I hope you already knew this.

[pupusas de pollo – chicken pupusa, lifted a little to show more of the innards]

This is the chicken pupusas – they use a really flavorful shredded chicken for this – its got a little bit of kick from the flavors and spices, but it’s not spicy hot. This was Jake’s favorite of the bunch. I liked it, but you know… no cheese… so… yeah.

[tamal de elote con crema – corn tamale with cream – $1.99]

On that first visit I also got a corn tamale. Just plain corn with crema on the side. The tamale was so moist, soft and sweet – I couldn’t believe how moist it was! Apparently this is how they do it in El Salvador – making a softer type of tamale than the Mexican version. This was almost like a dessert since it had a slight sweetness to it. Very tasty. I preferred it without the crema.

[tamales de puerco – pork tamale – $1.99]

On a return visit, I decided I had to try a different tamale with “stuff” inside of it. These tamales are wrapped in banana leaves compared to the usual corn husks that they use for the Mexican version. These are almost “wet” – extremely soft and tender. The pork was left in very large chunky pieces though, which I did not care for. I was expecting it to be more shredded – like the chicken used in the pupusa. Since the pork was so chunky it was just about dried out, in stark contrast to the very wet outside.

Oh well – I liked that corn one a lot!

[two different kinds of horchata]

During our first visit, after talking to our waitress we discovered that they make two different versions of horchata here. An El Salvadorian version and a Mexican version. Can you tell the difference?

The El Salvadorian version is on the left in the photo above – a darker, almost chocolate milk like appearance. This one is made with a different type of rice and the rice is browned before they use it to make the horchata. It ends up being a richer, more intensely flavor drink than the Mexican version which tasted really watery in comparison.

[ensalada closeup – $2.00]

We also ordered this one after seeing the waitress carrying it around. We asked her what it was and she explained to us that it was Ensalada – it had pineapple juice and a mixture of cut up fruits at the bottom. Intrigued we ordered one glass to share and it ended up being another one of my favorite things! It’s sweet and light and the mixture of cut up fruit adds a fun texture of the drink. It’s not overly sweet either – it tastes more “all natural” than anything else. Really delicious!

This turned out to be a really great and fun find. Very affordable with some really delicious options, this one is already on our regular rotation. Mmm, cheese pupusas for the win!

El Salvador Pupuseria Y Restaurante
3824 University Ave.
San Diego, CA 92105
(619) 282-3018

El Salvador Pupuseria on Urbanspoon

6 thoughts on “el salvador pupuseria y restaurante / city heights – san diego, ca

  1. hi mary – this is one of those places i’ve been meaning to try but haven’t yet…

    i really like pupusas…my favorite is the revuelta (mixed with pork, cheese and beans and loroco).

    your food photos are fantastic and i love the “above” shot!

    you should also try el salvadoreno (on imperial ave)…i’m sure you’d like their stuff there too.

    1. Hi CC – Mmm, pupusas are maybe my new favorite thing. I totally want to check out a few other places! Thanks for the tip! I read about one in Golden Hills, too, I think but don’t remember the name of it… I think I saw it on Yelp.

  2. sometimes you can get pupusa in the mexican markets. one of my friends got some in northgate (don’t remember which one), and they also sell it at the food window at mercado internacional 2000 (in CV).

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