Cafe Society

Tacos Acapulco serves up Salvadoran and Mexican fare

Ten blocks east of Taco Mex, a much smaller joint attracts its own big crowd of eaters. During busy hours, you practically need a shoehorn to get into the microscopic front room that's barely got space for four counter seats and the window where you order; even during off-hours, it's unusual to find an empty seat. This is Tacos Acapulco, which Roberto Lopez opened a few years ago. He hails from Mexico, his wife comes from El Salvador, and Tacos Acapulco hawks dishes from both countries: tacos and burritos as well as authentic Salvadoran pupusas.

I've been a fan of the pupusas — two griddled rounds of corn masa that sandwich meat, cheese, beans or loroco, a Central American flower bud — since a pair of friends who've made Tacos Acapulco a regular haunt took me there late one night a couple of months ago. We ordered a half-dozen, then took them out to the car, where we covered the pudgy pouches with a pickled-cabbage coleslaw called curtido and doused them in a watery tomato salsa. Each had spent enough time on the flat-top that the outside was crispy and golden and cheese oozed out of the sides. The heat created a particularly satisfying mess of tastes and textures with the pupusa revuelta, which featured chicharrón (finely ground marinated pork, in this case, rather than fried pork skin). Every bite was a delicious mix of spicy, juicy pig meat, stretchy white cheddar, soft, sweet cornmeal, tart-sour curtido and tangy salsa. In contrast, the loroco pupusa was almost spartan but just as good; the flower tasted faintly like asparagus, its bitter vegetal characteristics mitigated slightly by the cheese. After stuffing myself with those two, I hardly looked at the boring-by-comparison pupusa of refried beans and cheese.  

 Since that night, I've had frequent Tacos Acapulco cravings. And on a visit a few weeks ago, I caught sight of the rickety spit in the back of the hallway-esque kitchen and quickly added tacos al pastor to my order.

 The cook carved a chunk of pork off the roast, crisped the meat on the grill, then loaded it onto corn tortillas and topped each one with fresh cilantro and onions, as well as two fat ribbons of fresh pineapple. The tacos came with a little cup of green salsa, which was mild and somewhat sweet and played up the peppery pork. But I wished the meat had seen a little less heat: It was dried out, and no amount of salsa could hide that.

 I ordered an extra pupusa as consolation.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk