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La Praviana

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Denver's ethnic eateries sneak up on you. La Praviana (first reviewed in Westword on May 20, 1999) is a stand-alone joint facing Broadway that in a previous life was a breakfast bar called the Omelet House. Then Hector and Maritza Gil took over, and today it still does three-a-day service with lots of eggs, bacon and potatoes for breakfast and dollar cups of coffee -- but the lunch and dinner menu reads like a greatest-hits collection of every culinary standard south of Brownsville and Laredo. There's a bistek encebollado served just as it is at Los Cabos II (see review), platanos fritos con crema (fried plantains or bananas with sour cream), fried yucca, burritos, carne asada, tortas, Salvadoran-style chicken tamales, fried tilapia and cheeseburgers. But most folks dropping by this small spot -- its dining area complete with gold-upholstered chairs that look like they were picked up at a Caesars Palace garage sale and a big Rowe-AMI jukebox without a word of English on it -- 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 two pupusas are enough to constitute a full meal for any right-thinking person.

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