There may be nothing more glorious than a humble pupusa, El Salvador’s griddled masa treasure. To those who know it well it’s a universal love language. For some, that translates to Love Field’s Guzman’s or El Salvadoreño. For others the source is La Campina in Oak Cliff. On a late-night comfort run, the font is Carroll Avenue’s La Pasadita, where mounds of pork chicharrón sizzle furiously on a flattop down the first aisle of a convenience store, where a line squeezes single-file between packages of Doritos and peanuts. Among those many, though, few have the weekend charm of Pupuseria Lilian.
Pupuseria Lilian lies in the middle of nowhere, or feels that way, seeming to be stranded down a rambling stretch of Miller Road in Garland. It is not nowhere. The spare but cozy dining room with a mural of fields and mountains is known for its all-day breakfasts and, more specifically, its pupusas.
On a Saturday, you want the caldo de res, full of beef knuckles, with plenty of fat and cartilage, corn on the cob, carrot, potato, big petals of cabbage, and chayote squash, caches of flavor. You squeeze lime into the savory broth. I could seek it out daily to soothe and comfort. The breakfast plates are simple, with comforting pools of crema and refried black beans, maybe scrambled eggs—one version with bell pepper, onion, and tomato, which could be more delicate—oily, fudgy fried plantains, and a slab of funky, pungent, salty, hard cheese. Drinks, like the Salvadoran version of cream soda or marañon (cashew fruit) juice, accompany the weak coffee that is the stuff of imagined roadside stands or morning breakfast tables.
But, oh, for the pupusas, get the plato tipico. The palm-size griddled discs tend to be stuffed far more generously than at other places, with a heft of cheese and those crispy littorals where it has oozed out and met the griddle. The revuelta has lots of fried chicharrón, pork finely chopped and caught in the deluge of cheese. I favor the loroco, featuring a common Salvadoran vegetable, like spinach, but stronger and paired with a pungent farmhouse cheese. Top them with the cabbage slaw curtido, its tangy freshness welcome. On the side are hefty batons of fried cassava, craggy and dense, and a steamed tamale—the chicken is tender, the masa falling-apart soft and rosy-hued from spices that give it a wonderful aroma.
The room is full and bustling. As soon as you rise from your table, someone else quickly slips in. Politeness reigns. But everyone is waiting for pupusas.