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Forecasting the Pupusa Trend

Sometimes a good plate of food is just what you need. SometimesI’m crme frache-ed out and over the infusions, when I don’t care about hints and touches. I usually reach this point on Sunday night, cravinga good, solid, satisfyingplate of food. That’s when Iget dinnerfrom La Cabaa Salvadorea and pretend that I have my own abuelita spoiling me with her delicious tamales.

cabanaThe storefront doesn’t look like anything special with a no-frills sign and vertical blinds obscuring the view into the front window. However, the interior iswarmandcozy, and the place is usually packed with groups of people who havecaught on to this hidden gem. Enormous jars of curtidoshredded cabbage, onions and carrotssit on each table for the taking.

The menu is filled with familiar sounding foods like tacos and tamales, but the preparations are distinctly El Salvadorian. Tamales are filled with green olives and chickpeas. Tacos are fried and rolled, and enchiladas are open-faced. Amongthebestdinner platesare the beef stew and thepepper steak.My favorite is theplato tipico,composed of a piece of marinated steak, a tamale,atomato salad,and a pupusaa handmade, corn biscuit-like tortilla stuffed with cheese, pork, beef, or chicken. Nothing on the menu is more than $12, and most dishes are much less.

Mark my words: pupusas have the potential to be the next big thing in food. They’re simple enoughsothat there’s plenty of room for improvisation, and simple and compactenough to become your favoritefood at a baseball game or on-the-go at the airport.(Think a reallygood, savory, and richHot Pocket.)It’s not uncommon to see pupuseriasrestaurants devoted to nothing but pupusasin Latin neighborhoods in the Bronx and Queens. I remember seeing at least a dozen of them in downtown Los Angeles, and if you look on Chowhound, you’ll notice a pupuseria in almost every major city in the country.

Recently, Inoticed what seemed to be a high-end pupuseria getting ready to open in north Harlem.La Cabaa has a full menu of pupusas for as little as $1.50 each, as well as a giant plate of pupusas perfect for a group. Get in on the trend early, and make the schlep up Broadway now.

La Cabaa Salvadorea, 4384 Broadway, New York.212-928-7872.

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