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Food

TLO Restaurant Review: Pupuseria Mi Chalateca

8:59 AM EST on February 9, 2021

The old house that sits at 2416 NW 23rd Street is something of an aged relic from my blemished past. You see, for a couple of years in the late 1990s, a high-school acquaintance of mine turned the place into a coffee shop and I hosted an open mic night for them. While I had no idea what I was doing, at least I made a few friends and always had a few cups of coffee when I was there.

Returning to that same address last week, I didn’t really know what to expect from the now-christened Pupuseria Mi Chalateca, but, as I entered the storefront and found a seat in the small building for myself, I somehow returned to that old coffee shop as the waiter brought me a steaming cup of El Salvadorean brew—and it was simplemente maravilloso.

As a small child used crayons a table over from me, I looked over the menus—one in English and one in Español—as the chef in the back was shuffling things around, cooking take-out orders. I already knew I was going to get a pupusa—a thick corn-cake often stuffed with the best things in life—but, at the bottom of the menu was the Pupusa Loca O Especial ($6.99). I had no idea what that was but had to try it myself.

As two more customers came in, I was brought out the first of my order, the Pollo Dorado ($9.99), or, as it’s known on the English menu, the Deep Fry Chicken. After helping myself to a few cups of homemade salsa verde and blackened jalapenos from the open salsa area, I dipped the perfect pollo in the salsa for taste and lapped it up like a perro hambriento.

Sided with a bowl of black beans, perfectly cupped rice, a large-ish side-salad and two of the thickest tortillas I’ve ever held in my malditas manos, I could have—and probably should have—stopped there, but the waiter gently sat a plate of my next choice on the table, Pastelitos Salvadorenos ($5.99) or Salvadorean Deep Fried Cakes.

A trio of heavy meat and heavier vegetable cakes—this is the kind of cake I want for my birthday, by the way—each one was scalding hot as the steaming grease dripped down my labios hinchados, but I didn’t care, as I had to have bite after bite of this incredible treat.

With each taste of the Salvadorenos, I silently cried to myself in a mixture of blinding joy and burning pain, a mixture of tastes and emotions that were totally worth it. To be fair though, I did wait a few minutes before sampling the second one, my culinary sadomasochism only going so far.

Even though I was already more than satisfecho, I figured that it would be no problem to have a few small bites of my pancake-sized pupusa, the one meal I actually came to Chalateca for. I choked on my coffee though when the waiter brought out a pizza-size pupusa; the black-marks from the flat-grill sending up signals to Paraíso that, if now’s my time, at least let finish this meal.

I gently cut the corn-meal casing of the monstrous meal into a few slices, the well-cooked meat, vegetables and God knows what else gently spilling out of the gaping wounds of many flavors. As I had a slice of this pupusa gigante, I closed my eyes to favor and savor the eats, mourning the loss of the coffee-shop but thanking God that Chalateca is now there. Cómpralo ya!

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 Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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