The person who enthusiastically told me about the pupusas at El Zocalo also warned me the service would be sloooow. No kidding. It is ALMOST an exaggeration to say I could have bought a ticket to El Salvador, ate and flew back quicker.
El Zocolo has the two types of pupusas ... corn based and rice based. While nothing beats Rincon Lationo for the corn pupusa, the rice pupusa at El Zocolo is pretty darn good.
I got the soup with two pupusas $6.75. Huge El Salvadorian menu.
The curtido or slaw was wilted and one of the most mild. It was almost halfway on it's way to being saurkraut. The salsa almost tasted like a thickish tomato juice.
The corn tortilla with lorocco was nicely grilled and oozing buttery cheese. I give up on ever getting any idea of what a loroco tastes like. I think they just put them in the pupusa for color.
The rice tortilla has the crisper, crunchier skin yet there was a pleasant chewiness to it. The flavor, if not the texture like dim sum items. The pork, bean and cheese filling was similar to La Palma, but a more generous.
Where this excelled was putting the pupusa and condiments together. Rice pupusa, curtido, sauce ... separate ... nice ... together it just worked. This was really somehing ... good.
I had suspected that the only reason for curtido was to mask the flavor of a bad pupusa, but at El Zocolo it I discovered how these condiments enhance the dish.
Lovely chicken soup with big chunks of carrot, potato, rice and a huge piece of chicken breast had a rich, deep chickeny flavor. Adding a squeeze of lemon kicked it up a notch (sorry).
They seem to have good soup.
The sopa de camarone de Rio has fresh water, head on, prawns. The sopa de camarones de mar is a headless prawn soup with egg. They also have Sopa de pescado (Gagre) or catfish soup.
The melon and pina aqua frescas were excellent. THe pina had the essance of a perfectly ripe pineapple with a hint of sugar. Not an in your face mouth puckering pineapple drink.
I finally tried the empanada con leche which turned out to be a fried plantain stuffed with custard. Hice, but not what I imagined.
The only disappointment were the chips which were greasy and chewy instead of crisp.
Other good sounding dishes were
prawns stuffed with crabment, wrapped in bacon and deep fried
Trout cooked on the griddle then stuffed with shrimp meat, topped with onions and tomato sauce.
They had a better description of chilate con nuegadse which was described a a hot dish made from corn meal, ginger and allspice and served with a preserve made from yams and plaintains. I want to try this next.
Don't know about the Mission Street location, but I almost felt like what I imagine it is like to be in El Salvador ... almost all the customers were Salvadorian.Ther were all age groups from families with small babies to older couples, the women's grey hair swept up into buns and held with decorative combs. Long wait but it was lovely gazing out the window at the mountain (be sure to sit so the cemetary is blocked from view). A break from the standard money/soccer decor. The motif was parrots and baskets.
As for trying more pupusas ... I'm pooped. My arteries are now lined with cheese and tiny loroco seeds are spourting and wrapping around my heart. Time to lay off the cheese for a while. I have a feeling for what a good pupusa is and what standard Salvadorian food is.
Here's the order from best to worst
Rincon Lation (tie -corn pupusa)
El Zocolo (tie - rice pupusa)
El Zocolo - corn pupusa
Los Planes de Renderos in SF
La Pechangueria taco truck (yuck)
How many pupusarias ARE there in the city? There are sometimes three on the same block. Did EVERYONE leave El Salvador?
Yep, no more for a while. The pupusa stops here ... but then someone told me about Don Pico ...