Pupuseria El Cuscatleco: The best of Central American cuisine
A fantastic Central American restaurant in Upper Darby serves classic dishes from El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico.
Situated in an unassuming location just a block away from the 69th Street Transportation Center, Pupuseria El Cuscatleco offers an authentic (and truly excellent) taste of Central American cuisine. At the heart of the menu is the pupusa, a traditional Salvadoran dish consisting of a thick corn tortilla stuffed with a savory filling. The most popular filling at Pupuseria El Cuscatleco is la revuelta - a mixture of mixed pork, cheese and beans.
“When we started in 2010 we were one of the first restaurants in Philadelphia to serve pupusas,” explained owner Diana Martinez.
Martinez runs the restaurant alongside her sister, Maricela Mancia. Her mom, Jacqueline Martinez, cooks the dishes and her husband, Carlos Via, helps prepare the meat dishes. Together the family wants to provide delicious tasting food not only for the Latino community in the area, but for all Philadelphians.
“We are a family-run restaurant,” said Martinez. “The food we make is made with love. We always look for the best product. We never buy something cheaper just to save.”
In addition to the pupusas, the most popular dishes on the menu are the baleada and the pollo con tajadas. Both are classics from Honduras that are rarely offered at restaurants in the city.
The baleada is composed of a flour tortilla filled with refried beans, sour cream and parmesan cheese. There are several extra fillings you can add, such as eggs, sausage and avocado. The dish is relatively simple, but delicious.
The pollo con tajadas is a more complicated affair. The elaborate dish consists of fried chicken on a plate of green bananas, cabbage, tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. The chicken is unbelievably tender and the bananas add a rich, sweet taste.
“Many people come from all over to try this authentic food from Honduras and El Salvador,” said Martinez. “Once they try it, they realize and come back.”
The restaurant’s widespread success has led to the creation of a second location in Southwest Philadelphia (opening sometime in November) in order to be closer to their many clients who live in South Philly.
“We thought it would be better to be nearer to the large Central American community in South Philadelphia,” said Martinez.
The opening of a second restaurant marks the culmination of Martinez’s success story as a Latin American immigrant in Philadelphia. She came to the city when she was 16 years old in search of better opportunities. To support herself she found work as a waitress at Konak, a Turkish restaurant in Old City that is no longer in business.
"That was my first job in the United States,” said Martinez. “That’s where I learned how to treat clients.”
When she was 21, she saw an opportunity to open her own place in Upper Darby when a Mexican restaurant was closing down and was looking to sell its equipment. She took over the place with her mother, the expert on Salvadoran cuisine, and started selling pupusas.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Martinez.
Shortly after the man who is now Martinez’s husband came in and was struck by her work effort.
“I walked in and was amazed by how hard she was working to make a restaurant a success,” said Via.
The restaurant is truly excellent. I would say that it is one of the best Latino places in the city. The highlights are the pupusas, baleadas and pollo con tajadas, but the horchata and nance juice drinks are equally delicious.
To learn more about Pupuseria El Cuscatleco, check out their Facebook page. They deliver in the Upper Darby area (minimum $20), but will travel throughout the city with large orders. Address: 29 Garrett Road Upper Darby, PA 19082 (5 min walk from 69th Street Station). Hours: Monday to Thursday - 11am to 10pm, Friday - 11am to 11pm, Saturday and Sunday - 10am to 11pm. Prices: $2.50 - $15.