Pupuseria Katarina for your Salvadoran fix

Ever get in the mood for some Salvadoran food?

Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

What? You don’t?

Well, to be fair, it’s not as common as Mexican or Chinese cuisine but there are a couple of options in Northeast Ohio and those include Pupuseria Katarina at 1409 Brookpark Road on the Cleveland/Parma border.

Now, to put it in Northeast Ohio-speak, pupusas are corn or rice flour pancakes with a savory stuffing (usually cheese mixed with a vegetable or meat). And the pupusas are slightly on the stiff side so they definitely don’t get mushy.

At Katarina on a recent Saturday, I went with one chicken pupusa and a pork one (each $3). They are filling and you probably won’t ever think about having more than three.

The pupusas’ fillings were quite savory (as usual the pork slightly won out over the chicken) and they came with some pickled slaw that added a crunch and tartness and a sauce that looked like a spicy red sauce on a Mexican dish but in this case was more like basic tomato sauce.

In fact, there really was no spiceness at all to these dishes – much closer to Eastern European dishes than Mexican though you wouldn’t know it by looking at a map.

Just like there’s more to American cuisine than pizza (yes, that’s American food now, I’m callin’ it), there’s more to Salvadoran food than pupusas. The menu includes some interesting items from soup to whole fish. And we did have a side order of fried plantains ($4) and another order of beans and rice ($6).

Plantains have only a fraction of the sugar that bananas have but this preparation really brought out the sweetness and we ended up saving these until the end for an impromptu dessert, while the beans and rice were of the traditional Mexican variety.

Katerina’s also offers some interesting drink options. Sure, there’s the usual soft drinks and Mexican beers but there’s also homemade non-alcoholic drinks. I had a Tamarind ($2.50) that was billed as sweet and sour but it tasted more sour to my unaccustomed taste buds.

As for the ambiance, the building was built to be a Mexican restaurant decades ago and was such a restaurant for all those years so there is tile and stucco that does match the Salvadoran motif more than say an Irish pub.

At Pupuseria Katarina, the traditional pupusas are are served with pickled cabbage and tomato salsa. (Jeannene Mathis-Bertosa)
Pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran food, are thick, pancake-like tortillas that come stuffed with savory fillings, either meat or vegetarian options. Two or three are enough to satisfy one person. (Jeannene Mathis-Bertosa)
At Pupuseria Katarina, there are national flags from countires throughout the Americas. But, of course, El Salvador gets the most recognition. (Jeannene Mathis-Bertosa)

John Bertosa is likely out and about sampling the Northeast Ohio dining scene.

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