Ahh, the pupusa.
I love the textures when you put that marinated chopped cabbage slaw on top, and then pour on a little hot sauce. Yum.
Yesterday I tried the place on the corner of Santa Monica and Vine. It’s a panaderia and pupuseria, so there were a bunch of cookies and pastries in the display case. It’s a small place, and the lady was very nice. I really wanted to like it, but it was not my favorite. I got the pupusa with frijoles y queso, but there was very little queso. It was fresh and hot, but somehow it was a little too firm on the outside for my taste. And the beans were just too much.
The pupusas at El Pajonal on Vermont, just north of Santa Monica, are my least favorite. They just don’t taste fresh, and that’s why I get pupusas. El Pajonal has a great combination grill plate, though.
A good place for pupusas is the one on Echo Park Blvd, just north of Sunset. I think it’s called La Paz. They no hablo the Ingles there, but I’m becoming quite bilingual in my gringo ordering. Through a series of sign language, pointing, and knowing a few key words like “dos pupusas con queso y frijoles,” I manage to get along just fine. I sometimes stop by this place on my way home from church Sunday mornings. I’m usually the only customer, and the ladies there are super nice and friendly. The pupusas are really good, too. I get them to go, and they include a bag of the cabbage slaw and another bag of the hot sauce. When I get home, I just plop the pupusas into a frying pan to heat them up, and whew, these are really good.
There’s also a lady who runs a pupusa cart over by Olvera Street on the weekends. There are actually about 6 pupusa carts, along with various hot dog carts, fresh fruit carts, flower carts, and the guys selling counterfeit DVD’s. It’s on the corner of Spring and Cesar Chavez. I like how there always seems to be a festival over there on Sundays. A couple weekends ago was the Dia de Muerto festival. And last weekend there was a huge health fair. Anyway, one of the ladies there is a total riot. She’s probably 60 years old (although she looks 90), and she makes the best pupusas. She makes ‘em up and stacks them on her grill. When you ask for one with frijoles y queso, she methodically digs her finger into the already prepared pupusas to determine which one fits the bill. When she finds the right one, she plops it onto a paper plate and gives you one napkin. You can then put on the slaw and hot sauce. Despite the seeming grunginess of having gramma’s finger in your lunch, these are really good pupusas.
But the best one I can remember is the one in the Grand Central Market downtown. I think there are more than one pupusa places, but the one I like is on the North aisle, about 1/3 of the way in from the back. It has a clever name like “Pupusas.” It's across from the fresh fish place. It takes them some time to make your pupusa because they make it to order. At lunch time, it can really take a while; but if you go at an off time, they get it to you in about 10 minutes. The sucky part here is that they only have about 6 seats, and at lunchtime, there are easily 10-20 people at any one time ordering pupusas. So you have to be kind of patient. The pupusas are really good, though. They are bigger than the other ones, and they taste very fresh. The slaw is good, too.