El Pulgarcito means “Little Thumb,” a nickname for El Salvador which is the place the cuisine here hails from.
What that mostly means is delicious pupusas, tamales, tacos and more at super-low prices made in this unexpected place that you could mistake for an empty parking lot if you’re not careful.
The confines are modest, but El Salvadoran pride is everywhere. The kitchen can be spied through a small window behind the cash.
Pork tamales ($3!) are handmade out of gently spiced corn flour studded through with pork, potato and chickpea wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.
You can also opt for chicken instead of pork.
Pupusas are made by filling corn flour masa dough, rolling it into a ball, pressing it flat and then grilling.
This gives the pupusa a crispy outer shell and makes the insides molten, cheesy and stretchy. They’re super hot, so they’ll be hard to eat with your hands for a bit at first.
The most traditional, and possibly most delicious, is a filling of seasoned minced pork and shredded cheese. Other than that, it’s basically a mix and match adding in beans and combining those three ingredients in different ways.
Pupusas are most authentically complemented by tomato “salsa” or sauce and “curtido” or coleslaw, every table equipped with Grace hot pepper sauce and El Yucateca.
The traditional accents of the salsa and the curtido have the effect of giving the pupusas a little extra flavour and crunch while also providing a cooling element.
Bottled El Salvadoran soda Kolashanpan tastes a little like cream soda with a touch of root licorice. There are also other Mexican sodas and brands like Inca Cola.
The vibe in here is humdrum and kind of reminds me of old Portuguese restaurants and cafes in the neighbourhood where I grew up, older gentlemen quietly sipping beer glued to a flickering TV. This place is a hidden gem, so sample the tamales, burritos, nachos and quesadillas, but definitely don’t forget to pick up a few of their specialty pupusas.