Pupuseria Usuluteca #2 puts it all on the window displays, showing off the Salvadoran delights you can have inside the former Vietnamese eatery, right on Jefferson Street in Downtown Lafayette. But the picture menus raise more questions than they answer about Lafayette’s first Salvadoran restaurant. What exactly is Salvadoran food — besides dishes from El Salvador? What does Usuluteca mean? If this Pupuseria Usuluteca #2, where is #1?
The interior has not changed one bit since its former life as Pho’Tastic. But the Salvadoran flavor is a complete departure, even if the tastes are more familiar than you’d think. Restaurant owner Juan Lova explains that Salvadoran cuisine is similar to Mexican food. Expect to see comforting favorites like tamales, carne asada and, of course, pupusas, all served up in heaps.
Usuluteca offers up a delicious and affordable menu — every plate is under $13.
Pupusas are often treated as nibbles. This isn’t that kind of joint. Come with an appetite.
When it comes to the staple, stuffed corn pancakes, Usuluteca sticks to the basics, serving its pupusas with a range of stuffings with pickled cabbage and salsa roja on the side. Traditional options are beans and cheese, pork and cheese or chicharrones. For the more adventurous, take a dive off the menu for Lova’s personal favorite: cheese and loroco. A type of Central American flower, according to Lova, loroco compares nicely to okra.
This is comfort food. And it’s great after a long night out. Think chicken empanadas and huevos con chorizo, two items that do a body good when it’s worse for wear.
“You need a hangover cure? We have huevos all day,” Lova says. Usuluteca’s sopa de gallina India has homeopathic qualities, according to Lova. It’s made with gallina Indias, a breed of hen popular in Latin cooking. His brother brings gallina into town from a ranch near Austin, Texas.
“It tastes very different from the chicken you buy from the grocery store,” he says. Usuluteca is driving in all of its ingredients from Texas, Lova says. He is currently looking to source a local farm and poultry supplier from the Acadiana region.
As you can probably guess, Pupuseria Usuluteca #1 is in Austin. Lova opened that one three years ago. Lova is originally from the Usulutan region of El Salvador, hence the name Usuluteca, but lives in Austin.
So how did he get to Jefferson Street?
“My girlfriend is from Lafayette,” Lova says. “And when we would come to visit her family, we could never find a Salvadoran restaurant. So we decided to open one.”
Pupuseria Usuluteca #2 is at 431 Jefferson Street