Just like Tom Thumb’s blues
“Mi Querido Pulgarcito” is the name of a small restaurant serving Salvadoran and Mexican food in Sparks. My command of Spanish being woefully inadequate, I used modern technology to translate the phrase, “My Dear Tom Thumb.” Further crawling along the interwebs reveals that a 20th century Chilean Nobel laureate referred to El Salvador as “Pulgarcito de America,” i.e., the, “Tom Thumb of the Americas.” Salvadorans view this as a term of endearment, equating the smallest country in the continental Americas with a tiny storybook hero who accomplished big things.
With dine-in capacity for just under 40, the name could be used to describe the room itself. Small without feeling cramped, the room is clean and inviting with comfortable seating. We were presented tortilla chips and salsa, the former out of a bag and the latter a very good housemade pico de gallo with plenty of fresh herbs and lime. If the worst thing that can happen is to be served store-bought chips, I’m OK with that.
Made-to-order items like pupusas take time, so my wife and I were prepared to sit a while. If you order this Salvadoran favorite and don’t hear the unmistakeable sound of masa being hand-formed in the kitchen, you shouldn’t eat there. Surprisingly enough, our first items arrived less than 10 minutes after choosing a table. Two tacos al pastor ($1.50 each) and a torta lengua ($3.99) both included sliced radish on the side and lime wedges for the al pastor. The tacos were quite good, but the torta was something else. My wife is squeamish about eating tongue, but she agreed that the sandwich was transcendent. The roll was both crisp and soft, and the veggies and seasonings were so good I didn’t want it to end.
Before we’d had a chance to bask in the beauty of round one, a couple of pupusas revuelta hit the table ($1.99 each). The bean, cheese and pork-stuffed corn discs were on the large side and fried just crispy enough. The curtido slaw had the right tang, and the traditional sweet tomato sauce was fine, although this condiment isn’t my favorite. Having been conditioned toward spicier sauces, I usually like to substitute some salsa with the curtido. Along with more of that good pico, we were provided a zippy hot sauce and a milder green sauce loaded with cilantro. I combined them for ultimate effect.
The thick, elongated tortilla of a huarache carnitas was piled high with plenty of beans, veg, meat, and at least half an avocado ($2.99). This item alone was a meal by itself. Speaking of meals, I ordered a single combo plate of gorditas pollo in order to taste the refritos and arroz on the side ($6.50). Fluffier rice than expected and you could really taste the lard in the beans—in a delicious way.
As we reviewed the fruits of our affordable bacchanal, a plate of yuca frita showed up that we’d forgotten having ordered ($5.50). Served with fresh jalapeños and a pile of curtido, the yuca (cassava root) was crispy with a fluffy interior, and the chicharrón (pork belly) was savory and hadn’t been fried to death. Definitely one of the best examples of this dish I’ve experienced.
We purchased enough high-quality food to feed at least four hungry people for less than you’d spend on fast food. The service was quick and friendly, and we thanked the staff as we took home at least a couple of pounds of leftovers for the next day’s lunch. Even while enjoying items that made it home, I couldn’t help but daydream about that amazing sandwich. Tom Thumb apparently knows how to whip up some tasty tongue.