Mmmmmmmmmm… Salvadoran food! Wait, what exactly IS Salvadoran food? Who knows, but Karla and I were excited to check it out! We sat down to a menu of mostly Spanish words. Where are Lakree’s flashcards when we need them? There was some basic use of common sense (Karla figured out one section heading meant breakfast foods), some use of context (I figured out another section was main dishes or special plates). And lots of use of English text under dishes to determine if we wanted them. In most cases, we DID want them.
Unfortunately the great hail storm/flood of 2010 was approaching….
Haha! This looks kinda gross. But it really wasn’t. And I’m leaving it. Click on if you’d like to read more, despite this picture!
I did do some Urban Spoon snooping on Usuluteco prior to our visit. Mostly because if there’s a “must have” dish, you know I MUST HAVE it! When I started reading the reviews I knew it was going to be a “what do you recommend?” kind of meal. And as a side note, I find it especially frustrating when people say, “Everything!” My mom’s a great cook, but I can still pick out some of my favorites of her dishes. I still think most of the rest of the stuff she makes is good, but when it’s my birthday, I pick my favorite foods! Just tell me what your favorites are on the menu!
OK, side vent done.
Based on the reviews, I knew I wanted to try the pupusas. What is a pupusa? Let’s ask Wikipedia! A pupusa is a traditional Salvadoran dish made of thick, hand-made corn tortilla that’s filled. Filled with what? Well, Karla got ground pork and cheese. I got just cheese.
So far so good.
Then Karla wanted to try the empanadas. These aren’t like Mexican restaurant empanadas. They’re plantains filled with custard and beans. Our server (also the owner, I believe) told us they’re sweet. That’s OK, bring ’em on!
I also wanted a pastelitos, which is listed as “chicken pie” on the menu. Wikipedia tells me it’s a cuban pastry filled with sweet or savory fillings. I’m guessing chicken’s savory. I hope so since the empanadas are sweet!
And finally he recommended the chicken tamales de pollo (chicken tamale, even I could get THAT one!). He said they’re different than Mexican restaurants. Sure, we’ll take one of those also.
Karla also got rice and a side of tortillas.
I got Pollo Guisada, which was described as “sauteed chicken, carrots and potatoes.” Which was finally recommended by the server after I was truly at a loss and he realized he wasn’t leaving the table with our order until he decided for me. It was listed right above Carne Guisada, which was described as “pot roast.” I guess it’s the chicken version? When I look in WikiAnswers, I find out Carne Guisada is Spanish for “meat with gravy.” Anyway, it came with salad, rice, beans and tortillas.
Dang, this is gonna be a lot of food!
Meanwhile, it’s down-pouring outside.
Our food finally comes out. The waiter keeps laughing at us. What? Hey, we want the experience. And if that means ordering food for eight people, so be it! He keeps asking “Do you need anything else?” And I think finishing the sentence with “because we don’t HAVE anything else.”
Stupid me didn’t take an overall picture of the table, but I think I got most of the dishes. Here we go!
All the tables were stocked with this habanero sauce Karla was antsy to try. Note: Karla said it was gross (then asked if I wanted to try it… Why would I if it’s gross?)
The tables were all wood. There were wooden booths, wooden picnic tables, and then a bar area you could sit at. Apparently everyone else was seeking shelter…
This is my chicken with gravy, aka Pollo Guisada. It really did taste like chicken pot roast. The gravy may not look amazing in this picture but it was good. I assume it was red seasonings and chicken that made it red rather than the dark gravy I’m used to with pot roast. And the gravy wasn’t heavy at all (which I like). I loved the rice. I’m not a refried beans person, but I tried them. They were OK, but like I said beans are beans to me. The salad had a recognizable flavor Karla and I couldn’t recall, but mostly because people were telling Karla her house was getting holes shot through it with hail. People! We’re trying to have a relaxing meal!
This is my cheese pupusa. From a looks perspective Karla’s pork and cheese one looked identical, but tasted much better. Most of the time I feel like meat’s unnecessary in dishes, but in this case the pork actually added a really nice flavor. And it was really ground up, which I actually liked, even if meat paste doesn’t sound particularly appealing. Oh! And he automatically brought the dipping sauce/salsa/picnate. I think he called them “hot and less hot.” Haha! Awesome! I dipped in both. Karla just dipped in hot. Muy bueno! (Hey, Spanish!)
Karla’s plate of just rice. It kind of looks like fried rice (Chinese, that is). But it’s much lighter. I always think fried rice tastes heavy and greasy. This had the added veggies, which I liked, but not the fried flavor. I personally really liked the rice.
Here are the empanadas. Plantains always remind me of less-sweet bananas. And in this case, that’s kind of what it tasted like. They weren’t bad, but they also weren’t great. I was having a hard time adjusting to the banana + beans combo. And they were also supposed to have custard in them. I think it was more of a weird flavor combo for me than that they weren’t good. I’d try them again if I went back, and maybe I’ll like them more a second time?
Of course this brought up the Joey/Friends quote: “What’s not to like? Custard, good. Jam, good. Meat, good!” Which made me think of my nephew, Luke. Who I think is going to grow up to be the next Joey Tribiani. Awww!
An attempt at a look at the inside of the empanada.
Here are the pastelitos. These looked soooo good! And I LOVED the filling. The outside was very fried tasting to me. Do you know what I mean? Not that they were burnt tasting, just very greasy tasting. It was tasty, but tasted, well, deep fried. Overall, I liked them dipped in the aforementioned salsa/picante sauce. I’d give them a 7 out of 10. But the filling itself is a 10!
The delicious inside of the pastelitos.
Here’s the chicken tamale. Looks very similar to a Mexican tamale. These were wrapped in plantain leaves rather than corn husks. And the outside was more fluffy than Mexican tamales. Which I liked. Karla said she’s not a huge tamale fan. I don’t care for Mexican tamales because the outside always tastes really dry to me. This, on the other hand, was moist, light and fluffy. I liked it!
The inside of the tamale. You can see how fluffy the outside is. And the filling was good.
It sucks the weather rushed us through our meal (only to stand around and wait after we’d paid – they were very nice letting us stay and even made conversation with us as we waited. AND gave us the best way to get out without flooding our cars – which was still a challenge, so I hate to know what the “bad” way was like!).
And next time I want to try soup. And I think Karla wants to try a breakfast item. If anyone’s interested in going again, invite me!