To the outsider it seems as if Carpe Durham’s mission is to find tasty food in the most unlikely of places. While El Salvador Restaurant is located in neither bookstore nor bus, its position on a relatively undeveloped stretch of Geer Street, next to a laundromat-convenience store was off the beaten path by my standards.
Bluebird and Painted Velvet
As might be fitting, the unassuming storefront gives way to a restaurant with salmon-colored walls, mismatched tables, a mirrored bar, and a television easily four feet wide. The dining room is outfitted with the typical assortment of beer adverts and plastic bluejays. Perfect for spring. Our musical selection varied wildly, ranging from quiet to blaring to an impromptu concert by a patron with a guitar.
The menu encompasses many Central American favorites, including that Salvadorian specialty pupusas. Those pupusas were, in my opinion, the highlight of our lunch. Of the two varieties offered, pork and cheese, I sampled the former. Although I’m no pupusa expert, these far surpassed the somewhat greasy and bland rendition at Coma Rico. Like a good tamale, the pork flavor had permeated into the doughy coating. Slightly crispy on the outside, pillowy, very tasty. The salsa and vinegary slaw also helped to cut the richness.
Slightly frustrating was the fact that the restaurant was out of a few items. A couple types of beer listed on the menu were absent—don’t try to get a Negro Especial, my fellow diners cleaned them out—and the yucca with chicharones and the tamales were also 86’d. We even asked nicely.
Pupusa and Combination Platter
I selected a combination platter and quite enjoyed it. A bit of marinated if somewhat thin steak, a bit of chicken breast, three large shrimp, half a sausage, rice, beans, a chunk of cheese, and a couple slices of avocado. Not exactly cheap at, like, $11, but it was a lot of food and certainly shareable. I also got the chance to sample a somewhat confusing rendition of pollo encebollado. This is supposed to be chicken stewed, or at least cooked with, onions. What we received was strangely dry, as if it had been pan-fried, and onion-free. It tasted fine but wasn’t really what we were expecting. Perhaps the language barrier was the issue and they brought something else. Oh well.
All in all, not somewhere I’d go out of my way to go back to, but if I was in the area I’d definitely stop in for a pupusa or three.