A culinary tradition dating back to the Pipil tribes that migrated from Mexico to modern-day El Salvador in the ninth century continues today in Hamilton. Two miles from historic downtown, Restaurant Y Pupuseria Mari specializes in traditional pupusas, stuffed Salvadoran corn cakes. A cousin of the Venezuelan arepa, instead of being stuffed open-face style, its dough is shaped around the filling before hitting the grill. The result is a round of chewy dough with crisp edges that perfectly contains your choice of cheese, beans, pork, chicken, or loroco, the unopened buds of a native Salvadoran perennial that taste like a cross between broccoli and squash. Each order comes with a side of curtido, or slaw, and you want the spicy (the mild was bland even by my spice-intolerant standards).
The pupusas are worth the trek, but familiar Mexican-American fare like burritos, quesadillas, fajitas, and tacos guarantee there’s something for everyone. The puffy gordita shell has a nice crunch, and the fried plantains had just the right amount of caramelization. If we can resist more of those pupusas on a future visit, the tlayuda (Oaxacan-style tortilla pizza) and huarache (masa flatbread) top our list of what to try next at this little piece of El Salvador.
Restaurant Y Pupuseria Mari, 2521 Grand Blvd., Hamilton, (513) 883-2210