Pupuseria El Buen Gusto: 10012 Main St, Fairfax, VA 22031; (703) 218-3489; elbuenguesto.webs.com
We’re running an errand around here and decide to initiate ourselves into the world of pupusa. We know that reviews of this place at Yelp are mostly positive, even if the average rating there isn’t very high. Also, it was the subject of a Washington Post article, so we figure we’ll get in on the action.
For pupuseria initiates, like us: A pupusa is a corn tortilla grilled with savory ingredients inside. Typical fillings include beans, cheese, and the Salvadoran vegetable loroco. I’m not really looking for a meal, just a snack, and I want to wade into this pupusa thing kind of cautiously… If it doesn’t work out, I don’t want to be long a stack of pupusas — the failed pupusa mogul of northern Virginia. So I order just one, with beans and cheese. The waitress looks at me as if no one has ever ordered just one, and maybe no one has.
It comes with a side of some yellow vegetable that vaguely resembles sauerkraut. We have to look it up: curtido, or cabbage slaw/relish. Its unique flavor mixes well with the savory beans and cheese, which are delicious, and help balance and thin out the doughy tortilla. We fold the slaw into the tortilla at first, but the whole thing quickly loses structural integrity; that delivery method must be aborted. We switch to a knife and fork, so maybe we’re doing it wrong. Either way, it fills us up.
So the experience answers a couple questions but raises others. Such as, why is the range of ingredients for the filling so limited? There’s no option for pulled chicken, say, or ground beef in there. We will be told that the tortilla can only hold so many ingredients and maintain its consistency, or something, but the thing drooped and fell apart anyway. It wouldn’t have done so any faster with two ounces of chicken or chopped onion inside. If they can prepare them with pork inside, which they do, then we vote for pulled chicken as an option.
Also, there were three pupusas cooking on the grill when we came in, and we think the one that we were served was among them. If so, we strongly support this system: Get ’em started before they’re ordered, reduce the wait time. Or maybe the bean-and-cheese was scheduled for delivery, originally, and they served it to me to get me out of their quicker, as I practiced my (terrible) Spanish. If so, we strongly support that system, as well.
The price for everything in that pic is $2.50 plus tax. They say two or three of these are considered a meal, typically. And the gusto (taste) is buen. So it’s good value and we look forward to going back for lunch or dinner. We’ll try the tacos and tortilla next time. You can get chicken in those.