What’s not to like about pupusas? A handmade corn tortilla stuffed with cheese, beans, veggies, or meat, this Salvadoran staple is easy to find in Mission District restaurants, where you’ll hear line cooks slapping masa dough back and forth to make rounded disks. They come with a delicious side of curtido—a refreshing, spicy cabbage slaw that most people use to top the pupusas. There’s usually a bowl or bottle of hot sauce nearby to add another layer of flavor.
A great pupusa keeps the fillings inside (no spillovers!), offers the right filling-to-masa ratio as well as a crisp exterior, and includes quality ingredients. Popular fillings include revuelta (a combination of chicharron, cheese, and beans), cheese, and loroco, an edible flower with a slightly bitter, vegetal quality that plays nicely against the richness of melted cheese.
Here are the top spots in San Francisco that Chowhounds recommend for pupusas. Try them all—in one night if you dare—and report back (in the original thread, if you’d like).
Los Planes de Renderos [Excelsior]
12 Persia Avenue, San Francisco
This Excelsior restaurant is the gold standard for San Francisco pupusas according to a few reviewers. “Hands down, best in SF, IMO,” says Civil Bear.
Balompie Cafe #3 [Bernal Heights]
3801 Mission Street, San Francisco
Many hounds agree that #3 in Bernal Heights serves better pupusas than the other outpost of this local chain. carfeng recommends Balompie’s shrimp pupusas.
Antojitos Salvadorenos Aminta [Mission District]
2578 Mission Street, San Francisco
mariacarmen loves the cheese- and loroco-filled pupusas at this Mission restaurant. She says they’re “just right, a little charred, kinda smoky, never flour-y.”
La Santaneca — CLOSED [Bernal Heights]
3781 Mission Street, San Francisco
“Gold standard for curtido,” says Robert Lauriston, who always orders a double portion.
This article was updated on December 7, 2017 to reflect a restaurant closure.