Kirk is back with pics and stories about Vietnam and Cambodia. Cathy and others are out eating and snapping photos, but today ed (from Yuma) wants to share a recent find.
*** I am saddened to write that Pupuseria Cabanas is no more. One of the few cases of a restaurant doomed by its success. At least as I have heard it, the landlord was getting complaints from the towing/repair shop next door that there was no place to park during the day because the pupuseria had too many customers. Lucia was not allowed to be open weekdays, and then on Nov. 1, the restaurant was empty with no sign about another location etc. I will update if (I hope, when) she has relocated *** :-(
At the end of last month, a friend and I were exploring Calle Ocho (8th St) in Yuma looking for interesting taco stands and such. After a campechana at Juanita's and some empanadas from Mariscos el Nayarita, I spotted a lit-up open sign in the window of this new pupuseria:
After finding a parking place, Tina and I walked into the small family restaurant (3 booths, one bench and table set, and one larger table that could hold maybe 8 people), and as soon as I started speaking the little bit of horribly gringofied restaurant Spanish that I know, every head in the place turned to look at us as if we were los Migras. I suspect we may have been the first native English speakers to come in looking for a meal.
Since there is no menu and no white board, some conversation is required to find out what is available and to place an order. Fortunately for us on this visit, a friendly young man who spoke perfect English instantly switched the conversation into a language that both of us could understand. He seems to be there on weekends. During the week, ordering becomes more problematic since my poquito español de comida Mexicana is only marginally useful, and the nice ladies' English is only slightly better than my Spanish. Nonetheless, crossing that language barrier is worth it to me.
On our first visit, I ordered pupuses, and soon the two women in the back of the kitchen started patting out thick corn tortillas, much like the woman on one of the wallhangings that decorated the spare restaurant:
Pupusas are two corn tortillas grilled together with a thin layer of filling between them. We ordered bean and cheese, cheese and some Salvadoran green veggie, and pork. They are served with a tomato flavored, marginally spicy red sauce and a large jar of Salvadoran coleslaw, mildly tangy shredded cabbage with shredded carrot and an occasional slice of jalapeno. My first efforts at decorating the pupusas led to things that looked like these:
It's hard to beat hand-made corn tortillas, and they are the primary element in a pupusa. The thin smear of filling inside adds a flavor note, rather than a dominant taste. At first, I luxuriated in the honest flavor of the tortillas, and I used the sauce and coleslaw as accents. Since then, however, I have learned that I like my pupusas more heavily dressed. Starting with a plain pupusa, I cover it with sauce, and then I pile on the coleslaw:
This way, the pupusa is salad, filling, and starch all together. Also, at $1.75 apiece, two properly decorated pupusas make a good $3.50 lunch.
While the pupusas at Cabañas are what first got me hooked on the restaurant, other things keep me coming back over and over. For example, they serve very interesting - in fact downright amazing - Salvadoran agua frescas ($1.50). The first one I ordered contained mango, pineapple, and some mystery Salvadoran fruit:
Unlike any Mexican Agua Fresca that I have drunk, this place serves a handful of diced fruit in each glass. Although I believe I am served a straw each time, these are meant to be drunk without one. That way, each gulp is a mouthful of sweet liquid and chopped fruit.
I have no idea what this critter that looks like a yellow cherry is called, but it does contain a pit somewhat like a cherry:
I have two small concerns about this place. It calls itself a pupuseria y taqueria, yet I have seen no evidence of any taco on the premises. Certainly no one has offered to make me one. In addition, the last time I was eating there, it was over 90 degrees outside, and the tiny wall-mounted 1960s AC in the restaurant was having no perceptible effect on the internal temperature. I may not want to hang out at Cabañas when Yuma gets to 115.
Nevertheless, this little place has quickly become one of my favorite restaurants in Yuma - and I will keep coming back, at least until I can't stand the heat and have to keep away from their kitchen. It is not just that the pupusas and the homemade drinks are outstanding, but the place also has served me some of the tastiest and most unusual soups of any place in town. The soups and other treats will have to wait for part two. Consider yourselves properly teased.
Pupuseria y Taqueria Cabañas, 3405 8th St, Yuma AZ. Phone #? If they don't have a menu, maybe they don't have a phone either.