Pupusas, those Salvadoran street snacks made with thick corn tortilla that’s stuffed with cheese, meat, and other savory fillings, are every child and hungry drunk’s dream.
With only a handful of pupuserias in San Francisco, it’s possibly not surprising that one of the best in the city would be found inside a liquor store. Liquor Express is a small mini-mart and Salvadoran restaurant on Geary Boulevard in the Inner Richmond. Without knowing it serves food, it would be easy to pass it off as just another corner store. Once the smells of a plancha frying oily homemade tortillas drift to the street, though, further investigation is unavoidable.
Beneath a big lit sign reading, “Salvadoran Food • Beer • Wine • Grocery,” the front door is propped open. The register is to the left, between an ice-cream cooler and a back wall covered with bottles of liquor, with a little kitchen beyond. A chalkboard menu lists seven or so pupusa options, all for $3. Each comes with gooey cheese plus whatever other filling you choose, like chicken, pork, or vegetarian options like beans and zucchini. Served on tiny paper plates, each pupusa is topped with an acidic cabbage slaw and tomato salsa. The cold, crunchy cabbage blends harmoniously with the molten innards, creating a perfect balance of temperature and texture. If you’re lucky, your pupusa may even have a puncture wound, allowing the cheese to leak and ooze out while still on the flattop, resulting in a crispy coating. After ordering one pork, I’ll usually grab a bottle of Sol from the cooler in the back, and my journey through the Richmond continues.
A pupusa is the perfect example of something that feels familiar when eaten for the first time, but after that first bite, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at its uniqueness. At first glance, this snack looks like a plump quesadilla, and although similar in it’s concept, the execution is very different, another example of how traditions connect us all. Whether something belongs to your heritage or not, it’s our job to preserve and celebrate our differences by enjoying the delicious food that brings us together. ¡Larga vida a la pupusa!
Liquor Express & Deli, 4715 Geary Blvd., 415-386-3600, no website.