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Quick Look: Pupuseria El Excelente

By Melissa McEwen in Food on Apr 30, 2015 6:25PM

Pupusas (Photo by Dennis Lee)

The name Pupuseria El Excelente (1758 W. 18th St.) is an accurate one, as it roughly translates into The Excellent Pupuseria. If the last word perplexes you, you're in for a treat. Imagine the best gooey grilled cheese you've ever had crossed with a tamale. Pupusas, which originate in El Salvador, are exactly that. And they are served at pupuserias like this one in the Pilsen neighborhood.

Soup (Photo by Melissa McEwen)

Pupusas are made with masa, which is then filled and grilled until the outside is dappled with a golden crispness and the filling is soft and warm. While you are waiting for them to be served fresh and hot, the aroma of toasted corn wafts through the restaurant as you sip on some simple savory noodle soup.

Curtido (Photo by Dennis Lee)

Pupusas are typically served with curtido, a lightly pickled cabbage and pepper slaw. Here it's crispy and bracingly tart, made from thinly sliced fresh vegetables and vinegar. It's a perfect foil to the fattiness of the pupusa fillings.

It can be hard to choose from the fillings: gloriously fatty braised pork, simple melted cheese, creamy refried beans or cheese with lorco, a type of flower blossom that tastes a bit like a nutty asparagus. We recommend you try all of them, especially at only $2.25-$2.65 each.

Fried plantains (Photo by Dennis Lee)

But it's not just pupusas here. There are a wealth of other options, some worth trying even though they can't really beat the delicious pupusas. If you are looking for something sweet we can recommend crispy fried plantains, a salty-sweet treat served with cream and fried beans for dipping. And then there are the sweet fried empanadas, churro-like concoctions dusted with powdered sugar and filled with sticky condensed milk or beans.

Sweet fried empanadas (photo by Dennis Lee)

Whether you already love pupusas or are looking for a new delicious dish to try, check out Pupuseria El Excelente.