Over the past year or so, I've found flyers from two pupuserias in Vallejo on the windshield of my car getting back from work in SF. I never thought much of it, but when I found this website and found an old Melanie post of two other pupuserias in Vallejo (Latino's and Pupuseria Y Tacqueria Mercy), I decided to break my pupusa "virginity" and try these relative newcomers to the area.
I ordered two pupusas at each place - one chicharron (pork and cheese) and one revuelta (pork, beans and cheese.)
Taqueria Y Pupuseria Los Gallitos: This was my first stop after my morning workout. The place is located in a mini-mall across from what I like to jokingly call the Seafood City metroplex.
The interior is a little on the tiny side, but it's nice enough. The space is crammed full of posters, statuettes, etc. related to Mexico and El Salvador. Next to the refrigerated beverage cabinets, a old-style jukebox played some Mexican music, and a picture menu of what seemed like mainly their Mexican dishes was prominently displayed on the opposite wall.
I had a really nice moment after I placed my order. Directly behind me, the owner Jorge was having breakfast with what looked like one of the residents from a nearby apartment complex geared toward senior citizens. This man, who sported a World War II Veteran hat and was seated in an electric mobility scooter, asked me if I was Filipino. After acknowledging that I was, I proceeded to have a great talk with him about his experiences (he survived the Bataan Death March and helped liberate Manila near the end of the war.) He and the owner Jorge had become great friends; in fact, Jorge and his wife has hosted several veterans get-togethers at their retaurant and helped sponsor a float for them in the local Memorial Day parade here.
Both he and Jorge were very pleasant people. In that same talk, Jorge mentioned he had bought the place from the previous owners almost two years ago (that's perhaps why I hadn't ventured back for this long - I had tried a burrito from the previous incarnation and was definitely not impressed.) He mentioned that he was Salvadoreño while his wife was Mexican, that he delivered for no charge if you needed a party catered, and that they had mariachis perform at their restaurant every other Saturday night (next week was their next scheduled performance.)
Now for the food: don't know if it was the relative early hour, but the chips and salsa were forgettable. The chips were room temperature and a touch stale, and the salsa was kinda' bland and not terribly spicy (the bottles of La Tapatio and Bufalo sauces at the table were much better.)
The pupusas, though, were pretty good. They had a nice golden brown color and were a touch thicker than the ones I had later in the day. The fillings were tasty and nicely seasoned; however, you did have to strain a bit to taste the cheese. What really accentuated these pupusas was the curtido, which was quite crisp in terms of vegetable-texture and tart in taste (it includes jalapeños, which from what I know isn't a common addition.) The sauce was also fairly tangy, easily beating out the salsa in that aspect.
For such a small space, this restaurant has a large selection of items available, both in terms of food (including some steak and seafood selections; the Molcajete, described as "beef, chicken, pork, sausage, nopales, mild salsa, green onions, rice, beans and tortillas served over a hot volcano stone," sounds like something you should eat with a friend) and beverages (sodas and quite a few brands of beer were available, as well as not-usual restaurant offerings like Gatorade and energy drinks.)
It also seems like a place that would get a diverse clientele simply due to its location - I wouldn't be surprised if they got as many non-Latino as Latino customers.
El Emperador: This place opened up a few months ago in a blue-collar and unincorporated area of Vallejo.
The interior is actually quite nice, but probably isn't the first thing you would think of when you enter a restaurant such as this. Occasional Pacifico Claro and Spanish-language posters and memorabilia were on the walls amidst fancy tilework and mirrors, ceiling fans, and track lighting. Even the knicknacks I found lining the white picket-style barrier which divided the room reflected the mish-mash of the interior - amongst these items, I found a Virgin Mary statue and candle, a polynesian-style carving and cup, and two jade carvings (a stack of elephants and a frog.)
The chips and salsa were much better than Los Gallitos' - the salsa was tangy and fresh, though not particularly hot, and the chips were warm and not greasy. The pupusas here were a touch skinnier than Los Gallitos but had a similar light golden brown color. If anything, these were much better in terms of the cheese, especially with the revuelta pupusa where I got that nice, melty feeling in my mouth.
However, the curtido was on a little on the sweet side for my taste and the mix of vegetables weren't as crisp as the Los Gallitos version. The sauce reminded me of mere tomato sauce and added nothing to the experience.
This definitely seems to be a place that is frequented mainly by Latinos and blue-collar types, again due to its location/neighborhood. Big bowls of caldos/soups seemed to be popular with the folks while I was there. While the menu is maybe not even half the size of Los Gallitos', I did find an interesting selection related to a recent thread - Barbacoa, which here is described as "steamed goat meat with spices."
Both places had only one waitperson, but they were both friendly and provided competent service. The tab for both dishes worked out to just a little over $5 each (which included a soda.)
Overall, I think these two places are fine if you need to have your pupusa cravings satisfied (I may have to have a light dinner tonight judging from how full my stomach still is.)
Melanie's Old Vallejo Pupuseria Thread
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Recent Barbacoa Thread
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Taqueria Y Pupuseria Los Gallitos
480 Redwood St, #32
Vallejo, CA 94590
541 Benicia Road
Vallejo, CA 94590
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