BEST TASTE OF EL SALVADOR - 2006
When Hector and Maritza Gil took over a former omelet house, they kept breakfast filled with eggs, bacon, potatoes and dollar cups of coffee but added a lunch and dinner menu that reads like a greatest-hits collection of every food standard south of Brownsville and Laredo: bistec encebollado, platanos fritos con crema, fried yucca, carne asada, tortas, Salvadoran-style chicken tamales, fried tilapia. But most folks dropping by this small spot are after pupusas, El Salvador's most recognizable contribution to world culinary culture. Made with flat-grilled cornmeal-flour patties stuffed with anything from pepper-spiked queso to chicharrones and beans, the pupusas come with marinated cabbage, carrot and chile salad (called curtido), as well as a liquid salsa made from stewed tomatoes and chiles. Toss in a cold can of Jumex mango juice from the cooler or perhaps a cold beer, and you've got a quick trip south of the border.