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The 13 Best Pupusas In Los Angeles, By An L.A. Salvi

Nearly half a million Salvadorans reside within L.A. County. This article is for the diaspora by the diaspora; a list curated with a lot of intention and thoughtfulness and a current snapshot of some notable places across the ever-changing food landscape here in L.A. as of 2023.

2:25 PM PDT on August 30, 2023

    Pupusería Baia de Jiquilisco

    Pupusería Baia de Jiquilisco

    Pupusas are the first thing to come to mind for most folks when talking about El Salvador. As the iconic culture bearer of Central America's smallest country, this dish has become synonymous with L.A. Salvi gastronomy. I’m going to skip the part where I describe what a pupusa is because this article is for the already initiated. Nearly half a million Salvadorans reside within L.A. County. This article is for the diaspora by the diaspora.

    This allows for sensitivity and insight, unlike when the L.A. Times had a non-Salvadoran write a “Where to Get Pupusas” article in 2015 that thanked the Civil War for pupuserías in Los Angeles. Thanks to Salvi journalist Daniel Alvarenga for catching that before they went back and edited that line out. This is also not meant to be an all-encompassing best of the list, but rather a current snapshot of some notable places across the ever-changing food landscape here in L.A. as of 2023. This is a list curated with a lot of intention and thoughtfulness, without much further ado. 

    KOREATOWN

    Photo by Vladimir De Jesus Santos for L.A. TACO.

    El Salsabor

    Karla T. Vasquez, from SalviSoul, recently said to me, “The best pupusa is the one closest to you,” and I agree. This restaurant is closest to where I live in Koreatown, and I’ve been a regular for some time. The pupusas are filled to edges with silky beans, gooey cheese, and crispy rendered pork fat, and if you get revueltas. There’s always a soccer match on one of the many TVs or a Dodger game if it’s relatively empty. The señoras are curt and direct, which is how they should be in any respectable pupusería. They also have great desayunos tipicos, traditional Salvadoran breakfast, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you can get pupusas revueltas for $1.75 each. I recommend you take advantage of that great deal as their pupusas are my go-to whenever an out-of-town friend wants to go to a sure-fire spot. 

    2262 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90006. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 33 and 207 - “Venice/Western.”

    El Salvador Community Corridor

    Photo by Vladimir De Jesus Santos for L.A. TACO.

    Pupusería Baia de Jiquilisco

    Doña Transito Padilla is from Oriente, the eastern part of El Salvador; specifically, she is from Usulutan, where my parents were born and raised. This touch of home for me makes me biased towards her pupusa spot alongside 11th Street. Her curtido is sweet, tangy, and spicy while also giving you the option to put on some extra spicy escabeche. Everything from the masa to the chicharron is made from scratch. So is her Salvadoran horchata that she toasts and grinds to make a silky and chocolaty-nutty concoction that pairs well with all the acid, salt, fat, and heat of her pupusas.  

    Corner of Vermont & 11th. 1101 South Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90006. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 204 - “Vermont/11th” or Bus Lines 28 and 754 - "Vermont/Olympic."

    Photo via Los Molcajetes.

    Los Molcajetes

    This place is an institution to all L.A. Salvis, especially those who settled in the surrounding neighborhoods of Pico-Union, MacArthur Park, and Koreatown when first seeking refuge from the Salvadoran Civil War in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. The front of the house is filled with people of all ages coming together to eat comfort food made by Salvadoran señoras in the back. Everything they make here is amazing, but their pupusas are the centerpiece. They are large and made with expertise, utmost quality, and love. Their curtido and salsa de tomate are what I measure others against. I eat my pupusas the old-school way, ripping the top off to let the insides cool, lots of curtido and salsa, then tearing at small bocadillos until I need a napkin. A bite into these pupusas, and you feel like you’re back home, even if you’ve never been. They’re expanding into a larger space just up the street in the coming months with a lot of similar elements that have made them a long-standing favorite.

    695 S Hoover St, Los Angeles, CA 90005. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 66 and 603 - “Hoover/8th.”

    Photo by Vladimir De Jesus Santos for L.A. TACO.

    Jaraguá

    Among L.A. Salvis, this place has a reputation for being the “fancy” sit-down spot where you can spend an evening with company you want to impress or show that you’re willing to spend a little more money on them. In all honesty, this place deserves all the accolades it has. I went in for one pupusa, to see what it would feel to have a casual experience here, and it more than delivered. Crispy edges, quality cheese and choice chicharrón y frijoles. You can’t really ask for much more, but then the curtido y salsa de tomate brings it all together like it does each and every time. This pupusa left me feeling rather light and not too heavy afterward.

    4493 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90004. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 14 - “Beverly/Hobart” or Bus Lines 207 and 210 - "Western/Beverly."

    Historic South-Central

    Photo by Vladimir De Jesus Santos for L.A. TACO.

    Santa Rosa

    This pupusería lives within a strip mall built like an “L” with limited parking. Once you make it inside, you’re welcomed with a giant mural of Monseñor Romero and El Magico Gonzales, two men who fill el pueblo del Salvador with pride. You’ll be sitting in good company while you enjoy a fresh pupusa with everything working just right. The day's accouterment brings the acid needed to get you through this crispy, hot, and delicious slice of a hard day's work. It feels good to be in here because you’re amongst other Salvis, and you’re thinking you will have a cup of coffee con un pan after you’re done with your last bite.

    4307 Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90037. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 105, 204 and 754 - “Vermont/Vernon.”

    Photo by Bryan Cantero for L.A. TACO.

    La Flor Blanca

    When my mom and older brother bought a house in South Central almost six years ago, I was excited to try this neighborhood classic. The entire restaurant is as tiny as a studio apartment, is cash only, and you’re greeted with two corbos (machetes) above a sign that reads, “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone” as soon as you walk in. Come in on the weekends to hear older Salvadoran men talk about the fútbol injuries that still plague them, loud cumbias over a subwoofer at its limit, and the assuring sound of pupusas being shaped by hand. Pupusas are the cherry on this imitated but not often reproduced atmosphere. 

    320 W Vernon Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90037. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 45 and 105 - “Vernon/Broadway” or Bus Line 81 - "Figueroa/Vernon."

    Photo by Morris Carillo for L.A. TACO.

    Don Lencho Restaurant

    Located in an unassuming yellow building alongside a mixed residential and industrial street in South Central, Don Lencho’s evokes a neighborhood pupusería from back home. It has a tin roof and all. You’ll have to be patient for a solid pupusa with great curtido and salsa de tomate. The salsa is bright, tangy, and spicy, not in the heat but in seasoning, and it cuts right through their crispy chicharron and stretchy queso—a great spot to bring a date.

    6119 S Normandie Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90044. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 110 and 206 - “Normandie/Gage.”

    Photo by Vladimir De Jesus Santos for L.A. TACO.

    Sonsonate Grill

    A couple of restaurants all over the city share this namesake, and I am here to tell you that this one in South Central is the best. The service is excellent. The options are vast. And the accouterment, the curtido y salsa, are top notch. I love how much jalapeño is in the curtido, and if you ask nicely, they’ll give you an even spicier and thicker salsa roja that cuts right through how savory the fillings of the pupusas are. They also offer much more complex and involved dishes, but I haven’t yet made it past the pupusas. Cash only; bring a friend interested in learning more about Sonsonate as they have a large map of the departamento painted in the center of the room.

    5011 S Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90062. Closest Metro line and stop: Bus Line 207 - “Western/51st.”

    Bell Gardens

    Photo by Vladimir De Jesus Santos for L.A. TACO.

    Pupusería Comalapa

    This place is one of a kind even though it is the third restaurant owned by the same family. Renowned L.A. Poet and my homie, Yesika Salgado, put me on to this pupusería because her family runs it, and she swears she never has pupusas anywhere else! I went with her, and we had the Morenita #1 plate, named after her Tia Delmy, who runs the spot with her two sons. It came with two pupusas revueltas, one tamal de pollo, casamiento, platanos, two pastelitos, and a piece of queso duro blando. It’s a lot of food, for when you want a lot of food, and it comes down to $15, which I think is an absolute steal for how much quality Salvadoran cuisine you enjoy. These pupusas are small, like they are in El Salvador, offering a true taste of the pupusas from the motherland. It is filled to the edges, with great curtido and spicy salsa de tomate, which is always a plus for me.

    6320 Florence Ave, Bell Gardens, CA 90201. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 110 and 111 - “Florence/Garfield.”

    HIGHLAND PARK

    Photo by Carmina Calderon for L.A. TACO.

    Las Cazuelas

    Highland Park has experienced intense gentrification over the last two decades. There are still remnants of the Avenues' historied working-class roots, with Mexican jugo spots still sprinkled throughout, old school Tex-Mex sit-down restaurants, hood burger joints, and taco stands that cater to the working class and not just the petite-bourgeoisie of the artist class. Amongst the rapidly fluctuating vein that is Figueroa, there still stands a neighborhood staple serving up Salvadoran food. I have Salvi friends and loved ones that live nearby and this is our go-to when we’ve had a few too many the night before and need a heavy desayuno to ground us or a nice spot to hang out on the weekend and get a great pupusa with superb beans, cheese, and crispy pork or veggies if you’d like. They also make pupusas with Vegan cheese to accommodate all dietary needs.

    5707 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90042. Closest Metro lines and stop: Metro A Line - "Highland Park Station" or Bus Lines 81, 182 and 256 - “Figueroa/Avenue 57.”

    North Hollywood

    Photo by Vladimir De Jesus Santos for L.A. TACO.

    Pupusa Street by Alex Chef

    Chef Alex makes not only makes everything from scratch he’ll also teach you how you too can make your own pupusas, and many other dishes, on his YouTube channel. He makes his own quesillo blend, grinds his own chicharron, and imports fresh loroco all to make his incredible pupusas. He’s also the only male pupusero I’ve encountered so far who can hold his own alongside the strong matrilineal institution that is pupusa-making. These pupusas are the perfect size and filled all the way through with the aforementioned ingredients right in front of a Target parking lot in Burbank. Don’t confuse him with another stand on the opposite end of the street. Look for his big banner with all his social media handles and an extensive menu of other Salvadoran specialties. 

    11015 Victory Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91606. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 90, 162 and 164 - “Victory/Vineland.”

    WEST LOS ANGELES

    Photo by Vladimir De Jesus Santos for L.A. TACO.

    Panadería Y Pupusería Los Cocos

    This place is much written about and truly lives up to the hype. The folks who make pupusas here are from Ilopango, east of San Salvador, and they import their quality cheese and beans directly from there. These pupusas are filling, well made, and worth the trip to the West Side of L.A. Personally, the two types of curtido, purple and white cabbage, regular and spicy, make this place unique and stellar, maybe even the best pupusas from a dedicated panadería in all of Los Angeles. Also, the single T.V. in the center of the wall that is permanently on Univision, the fold-out chairs & tables, audible caliche, and older Salvadoran folks eating pan make this place feel as if you’re in your tía’s living room. 

    4804 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066. Closest Metro line and stop: Bus Line 108 - “Centinela/Braddock.”

    HONORABLE MENTION

    Photo Courtesy of Koreatown Directory

    Atlacatl

    Atlcatl was a myth used by the Spanish for nation-building in El Salvador, and ironically, this place brought LA Salvis together away from our native lands. Since this restaurant is permanently closed, I wanted to reserve the last spot on this list in memoriam to a Los Angeles legend. This restaurant was built inside an actual house, and it felt like a community when you were within those walls and carpeted floors. I remember coming of age and being able to order my first legal beer there, although I still opted for their Salvi horchata. Great pupusas and a great overall vibe that has yet to be replicated, even though the same owners run Jaraguá a few blocks down, they do a great job. This last spot on the list is also for all the spots that spring up and go away in this ever-shifting food landscape of L.A. 

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