Right towards the end of our time in Chicago, Sarah and I got addicted to pupusas in a serious way. Pupusas hail from El Savador, and done right they are killer comfort food. Made out of cornmeal, they occupy a delicious middle ground between tamales and tortillas. You can fill them with all sorts of goodies, from cheese or beans to fancy meats and herbs. Throw a little curtido (a Salvadoran version of cole slaw) and hot sauce on top, and you will be dazzled at how good such a simple dish can be.
Needless to say, when we came to Tallahassee we entered a period of mourning for the foods we had lost. When we travelled out of town to larger cities, one of my first inquiries was always, “Can we get pupusas here?” Well, luckily I don’t have to ask this question anymore, because now we can get the good stuff at El Viroleño.
El Viroleño has a convenient location on Tennessee Street right next to campus, with abundant parking in the back, but they still don’t seem to draw much business. Most likely, this is because it looks, from the outside, like someplace you might go to transact a drug deal.
But as soon as you step inside, all of that fades into the background. The staff is charming (although they have limited English), and the owners have redesigned the interior space, which is now pleasantly bright and airy.
Now to the important details: What should you eat? I’m glad you asked. I’ve enjoyed most of the things I’ve eaten there, but you should definitely get the pupusas, which come with many different filling options. The revuelta, which is filled with a mixture of pork and refried beans, is fantastic, as is the loroco, made of cheese and edible flowers, and their jalapeño filling is awesome if you like a little heat. You should also try some of their appetizers. We like the fried yucca and chicharron (crispy pork skin), as well as the platanos fritos, which consist of sweet, caramelized plantain slices, savory beans, and delicious Salvadoran crema.
My one major complaint is that the service could be faster, especially at lunch time, when many customers are in a hurry. But if you have enough time for a leisurely lunch or dinner, and you are either already addicted to pupusas or willing to try something new, this place is well worth checking out.