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Richmond: The El Tazumal connection - Joya de Ceren – Sopa de chipilin & garrobo pupusas


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Richmond: The El Tazumal connection - Joya de Ceren – Sopa de chipilin & garrobo pupusas

rworange | | Oct 25, 2006 01:30 AM

This little Salvadoran market & restaurant was opened by family members of El Tazumal Restaurant in San Pablo. Some of the people who cooked at El Tazumal cook here.

The market is the most Salvadoran market I have been to. They make their own Salvadoran chorizo and have both Salvadoran and Mexican butchers.

There are some groceries I rarely see at the other local Latino markets like Brave soda or Sour Orange marinade bottles next to bottles of Real Lemon. This was the only place I’ve noticed choltaleno humodo cheese. There is a small, but really nice produce section. I bought a stellar-fresh bunch of mint and two limes for $1.49.

They have a little bakery and I was told they only had Mexican pan dulce today, but on Wednesday they have Salvadoran baked goods. When asked what bakery they bought from, I was told they have a Salvadoran woman baking things for them.

So, of course I have to fit in one more stop on the chorizo crawl because ... well ... real Salvadoran chorizo tied with corn husks made by a real Salvadoran butcher. Gotta try that, right? Will report back on the chorizo.

The restaurant had sopa de chipilin today which I forgot I ordered at El Tazumal.

This is a salty pork vegetable soup with pieces of carrot, chayote, pork (some on bone), rice and chipilin leaves, a Central American plant that is high in iron, calcium and beta carotene.

It comes with two thick hot Salvadoran pupusas and some lime to squeeze in the salty broth.

Even better though was the loroco pupusa which is the same as the pupusa at El Tazumal with that great curtido, hot from organo and full of carrots and cabbage. The red tomato sauce seems a little better than El Tazumal ... a little thicker with pieces of tomato.

Like El Tazumal, these have the taste of loroco which I’m starting to get. It is not a strong taste but it ups the whole pupusa experience. Topped with the great curtido and tomato sauce, it was a great dish.

I had a nice Mexican horchata full of cinnamon. They also have the drink with the fruit salad in it, but were out of it today. If you read the El Tazumal post, they pretty much carry most of that menu.

One of the BIG benefits of Joya is that the owner, Omar, speaks great English and will answer all questions that you might have. My pupusa actually was free.

I was talking about pupusas and asked if the loroco was fresh, canned or frozen. He said it was too difficult to get fresh loroco past customs. I said that most pupusas didn’t have any loroco flavor and the only place that did was El Tazumal.

That’s when he told me he was one of the family and some of the cooks were from El Tazumal. He insisted I have a free loroco pupusa and even pulled out a bag of frozen loroco for me to admire and smell.

When I sighed after finishing the pupusa and said it was great, Omar said of course it was ... it was the same as El Tazumal.

I asked if garrobo was on the menu. He said he was the person who put garrobo on the menu at El Tazumal.

He talked about the goodness of garrobo and he thought it was tastier than chicken. They don’t wan’t to get in direct competition with El Tazumal. The two are working together. Garrobo soup is El Tazamul’s specialty and is going to remain there. He said that you could order a garrobo pupusa at El Tazumal. It isn’t on the menu, but if you ask they will make it for you. It is an extra charge.

The restaurant also sells the Salvadoran chorizo from the market next door.

The market is clean and sparkly. The restaurant is a work in progress that is about as bare bones as it comes. They are still working on the menu. Only one is available that is dog-earred with hand-written notes on it and only held together by a plastic cover.

However the warmth of Omar and the staff makes up for the humble restaurant. Omar invited me to sit near the tv and played some videos about Salvador and Guatamala. It was just not me that Omar was great to.

A homeless guy stopped in the market. Some merchants are mean to the homeless. Omar treated this guy like the human being he was. When I told him how nice that was, it turns out that Omar got to know this guy. When he is down on cash, Omar will give him something to take with him to eat. When the homeless guy gets some money, he insists on paying Omar back.

There are times when I think that Chowhound has been fun but it is time to move on. Then something like Joya de Ceren comes along and I am so grateful to have a place to tell someone about a market and restaurant with great people that has good food.

There are a zillion places to report about the hot new upscale place in town. And there are enough places to chat about popular food like burritos and pizza. Chowhound is the only place I know that you can report on a place like this that falls under all other food radar.

And sure, there are places that you can report this stuff. Chowhound is the only place I know where a few people might actually be interested. I was on my way to another place for lunch today and a parking place opened up in front of Joya de Ceren. It is not fancy, but it is interesting and tasty ... an otherwise overlooked unpolished jewel.

Joya De Ceren
12545 San Pablo Ave (one-half block from Pup Hut
)Richmond. CA 94805


Daily: 8 am – 10 pm (they are new-ish so don’t count on real early or late)

Info about the Salvodoran ruins, Joya De Ceren, which like Pompeii in Italy was covered in volcanic ash and then excavated, revealing life at the time of the eruption.