el salvador, close to home

clockwise from top: curtido, salsa, pupusa, elote tamal, and bistec plate

Having planned the New Mexico trip very close to the New York trip, I'm in that awkward position where I need to save money but I also don't want to go grocery shopping since I'm leaving town in another couple days.  So last night we ended up somewhere very close to home (and cheap!) that we've somehow never been to: El Zunzal!  Located right across the street from the 7th Street HEB, we've passed this Salvadorean joint countless times, and always meant to go.


As we took a seat and began to look at the menu, we were greeted with some chips and salsa immediately.  Salsa was muy bien-- chips a little dry.  They also gave us a bowl of limes and C said these were probably for squeezing onto the chips (and into his beer, profusely).  I think I discovered a new favorite: lime squeezed on tortilla chips + salt sticks to lime= yum!!

C and I started off with a sweet corn tamal, wrapped in a banana leaf.  It was amazingly light and tender!  Not sure if this is because they are prepared differently in El Salvador, but it was one of the best tamales I've ever had!  It came served with a light, cool crema which perfectly complimented it.  We also got a pupusa as well, and of course I ordered the most unfamiliar looking kind (because.. why not??), which was made with cheese and loroco, a green flower native to El Salvador.  I'm sure it must've come from a can, but it was delicious nonetheless!
bistec plate with rice, beans, and salad

Now, I'm not sure if it was supposed to come with the pupusa or just on the side of whatever you order, but they also brought us a little bowl of spicy cabbage salad that was just scrumptious!  I now know that it is called curtido.  Not only did it give an unexpected, quasi-Eastern European kick to the food, but it also made me feel a little better about all the cheese I was consuming.

Next came the entree we were to split-- the bistec plate (basically a skillet steak with some sauteed onions). C orders the same thing at Los Comales (which he has this weird devotion to-- I, on the other hand, am surprised that place is still open).  This steak definitely kicked the Los Comales' steak's butt, AND came with a super fresh side salad and veggie rice!  (and limes, por supuesto!)  Everything was so tasty and FRESH!

And the craziest part was the refried beans!  Normally, I can only take a bite or two of them- I normally expect that they'll be super lard-heavy- but these were just addictive!  I'm SURE these have lard too, but something about the way they were prepared was just right..

On the way out, I noticed that they had a big selection of different Latin American beers in a cooler by the entrance.  I will definitely be back, and can't wait to try their breakfast as well...wish it didn't take me so long to discover this new 'hood favorite. :)