Good food, great prices makes up for low quality atmosphere
Driving up to an orangey, rust colored house type building had me wondering if I had gotten lost during my drive and ended up at a neighbor’s house versus La Salvadoreña, but there stood the restaurant’s sign oddly placed at the edge of the roof. This did not stop me from entering, as the smell of the food they were cooking lured me in.
First thing to note: beware the stairs; they are misshapen. Second,:this is not Mexican food. Don’t expect Mexican food. You will not get Mexican food; this is Salvadorian food. Last thing to note: there are no fancy tables or chairs or decorations (they do have these things they just aren’t fancy); there is just good, cheap food.
My go to appetizer is chips and dip because I figure if a place messes up chips and dip, I’m out of there. As the waitress brought me my appetizer, I was not disappointed— a hearty bowl of salsa and a small bowl of queso with a side of thick corn chips made from scratch.
I am not a fan of salsa on most occasions, but every once in a blue moon I find one I like, and at La Salvadoreña, it was delicious. Thus, I had to mix my salsa with my queso to get a good blend of flavors and cheese. Don’t judge me; it’s how I like my dip if the salsa is good. After I devoured the chips with the help of my partner, I was ready for my main course.
I ordered a shrimp and cheese pupusa and a lengua gordita somewhere during my devouring of chips. The pupusa is a bready tortilla looking thing that the food is baked inside, and it is flattened. There is no way to get to the food inside unless you rip the pupusa open and when I did, the cheese strung from one hand to the next, making a super cheesy, super savory bite of pupusa. I had no complaints except that it is served with a side of cabbage. Why cabbage? I honestly don’t know, but when I tried a little on my pupusa the vinegary flavor just stepped the taste up a notch, and I was pleasantly surprised.
The gordita, as described by the menu, is a “fried tortilla stuffed with lettuce, onion, cilantro, cheese and your choice of meat.” Basically, I got this wonderfully crisp tortilla about the size of my palm that was stuffed with all the ingredients mentioned. Taking a bite was not easy but worth the effort as the flavors complimented each other in a way that’s not easily described but delicious nonetheless. And though it was small, it was filling.
I must note that I am a person that requires my cup to never be empty during a meal, if it gets empty my waiter or waitress is not doing their job well. I almost ran out of my drink but the waitress caught it just in time.
My whole meal with appetizer cost $10. I would recommend this place for lunch, as long as you call ahead ,otherwise plan on waiting 30 minutes for your food, especially if you getting one of their specials. They do have dollar days on Tuesday (Pupusas) and Wednesday (Tacos) and Thursdays they have lunch fajitas for $7. The pupusas are great to refrigerate and eat days later if you want to get full value out of dollar days. This is definitely a restaurant that won’t leave you broke.
It’s a cooker not a looker
La Sal doesn’t look like much from the outside—a small house-like building, hardly any parking and a sign out front to let you know that in fact this is a place of business. Upon walking in, it is small and homely, exactly the type of place that you look for to house wonderful food.
I sat down at a table in the back by the TV, which is always playing something on the Spanish channel; today was soccer. A waitress was promptly at the table to take drink orders, I ordered Jamaica (pronounced HA-My-Cuh), a sweet drink made from hibiscus, a favorite of mine. With the drinks, chips and salsa were brought out. The salsa isn’t very hot and the flavor is OK, nothing too special; it is complimentary, and what do you say about corn chips? They were crispy as they should be, and I suspect they are fried in house, though I did not ask.
Once the chips, salsa and drinks came I had enough time to look over the menu and order. Normally, I would order a couple pupusas (a thick corn “tortilla” filled with a savory filling) and a gordita (a thick fried corn shell cut open and filled with meat and cheese), but today I wanted something different.
I ordered what I considered one of the more strange items on the menu which had intrigued me in the past, and is one of the most expensive items on the menu, the Cubana Torta (a sandwich filled to the brim with ham, hotdog, American cheese, mozzarella cheese, eggs, fried beans, avocado, tomato, onions, jalapeno and mayo). Wow, what a sandwich!
It took almost twenty minutes for my order to come out of the kitchen, kind of slow I’ll admit, but it was worth the wait. The sandwich filled the entire plate, each half was the size of a large sandwich; needless to say, I could not finish the whole thing. Each bite was filled with all the items listed above, which may sound a little weird but it worked very well together— the saltiness of the ham and hotdog paired with the sour and spicy from the jalapeno, and the cheese helped mellow out the heat from the jalapeno. I left full and happy with a whole meal to take home; the food was great and the prices are low. This is a great place for a college student on a budget.
Jamaica: $1.99 w/ one free refill
Torta Cubana: $7.49
Total: $10.43 including tax
La Salvadoreña, located at 416 S Knoxville Ave. got a 9/10 only because of the slow service, my advice call ahead!