The Alameda is a mixed boulevard of shops, sprawling market and, for some reason, it’s a block with an extreme over representation of hardware and paint stores. There must be 12 in an eight block stretch. Once the hardware stores and wrenches peter out, somewhere on the more northerly point, within shouting distance of the San Jeronimo ruins, sits the Pupusa palace, El Sapo y La Rana.
Guatemalan food is vast in variety and hearty in its finish and Yolkobsens enjoy finding new places that offer expressions of Central American cuisine in a cheap and cheerful formulation. At El Sapo y Rana, which means the toad and the frog, you’ll find a dark green interior, daubed with hints of yellow, well, like its reptile namesakes. What frogs and toads have to do with Pupusas my primitive and croaking Spanish questions were not able to penetrate. But cheerful is definitely the operative word here. And Pupusas have a long history of filling people up with delicious food, at a very low price. This establishment’s prime product is no exception.
The Pupusa is actually an El Salvador tradition, but its importation to the Alameda is a welcome one. This is true mainly because the family that owns the pupuseria and works there is exceptionally gracious and welcoming to all who enter, including two clueless gringos. And, because they are Salvadoran, they offer free of charge the special brand of hospitality for which their country is famous.
For the uninitiated, a Pupusa is basically two good size corn tortillas seamed together, with cheese as its central mortar. Then, depending on taste and/or whimsy, you can leave it plain or stuff it with a variety of fillers. Then stand back, while its slapped onto a hot griddle that presses all the ingredients together in a way that a panini can only envy. For this reason alone, Pupusas have always had a place in our hearts and on our waistlines.
In fact, when Yolkobsens are back in their hometown, Toronto, we often head to the papuseria on Kensington Market‘s Augusta Street. There you will find another Salvadoran family serving the line ups of people hankering for one of their El Salvador’s signature and golden fast foods. Back home, our favorite was the spicy pork filling. But at our Antigua Guatemala papuseria, we give full marks to their chirizo incantation.
If spicy chirizo sausage is not to your liking, the Pupusa stuffing menu rounds out with chicken, jalepenos, sweet ham, roasted pork, and refried beans. All of the Pupusas come with coleslaw, in spicy and very spicy velocities, which complements these griddled wonders perfectly. Two will do nicely if you’re girl with a medium appetite, three if your a regular guy. Our bill, which included two beers and five Pupusas came to the equivalent of what you would pay for a double espresso with a shot and a listless bun at your local Seattle-based coffee shop. No kidding.
Our two visits to this Pupusa temple had us waddling out, happily reinforced in our faith, but alas still in need of that single but perfect Santa Lucia blessed wrench.
El Sapo y Rana is located at Alameda Santa Lucia Norte #11