Salvadoran feast

It’s easy to feed the whole family without spending much dough at El Salvador Restaurant.

It’s easy to feed the whole family without spending much dough at El Salvador Restaurant.

Photo By Brandon Russell

Being a recent college graduate, I am at a stage of life often referred to as “broke.”

I live on a minimal monthly installment from my parents, dwindling student loans from the government and my generous girlfriend’s passion to explore new foods.

We have tried a good sampling of what Reno has to offer in the way of international foods. For this meal, we searched out a local Salvadoran spot. I’ve found that Salvadoran cuisine is often similar to Mexican, but with a Central American twist.

Although our regular Mexican stops like Beto’s, Mi Ranchito and Miguel’s will never get old, this new take on a familiar theme will likely become a hot spot on our summer eating agenda.

I know this has been said before, but walking into the El Salvador Restaurant, across the street from the Satellite, is like leaving our little corner of Northern Nevada for an exotic expedition south of the border.

Large, scenic photographs of the palm trees and Mayan ruins of El Salvador decorate the walls, and the back of the restaurant doubles as a hostess desk and trinket store, selling candy, flashy DVDs about El Salvador, CDs of Salvadoran dance-party music and figurines of Catholic personalities such as Jesus and Mary.

Although there were other English-speakers present, our waitress, Doris, wasn’t one of them. Her commentary on the menu, we soon found, would be unnecessary, though, as the menu is offered with English translations and a picture of each entree.

We started with drinks. I ordered a horchata Salvidoreña ($1.25), a milky, iced drink made of rice and cinnamon that tastes similar to a Chai Latte on ice. Very sugary and refreshing. My girlfriend, Jen, ordered a chocolate milkshake ($2.50) piled high with whipped cream and a bright red cherry, which could hold its own with any hamburger joint in town. With lunch, I ordered a typical Salvadoran beer called Pilsener ($3) which proved to be nothing I hadn’t tasted before.

For eats, we chose from the Salvadoran selections. (There were Mexican options as well.) I had the Salvidoreño tipico ($7.99), a sampling of typical Salvadoran favorites such as pupusa (a thick corn tortilla filled with cheese, beans and pork), a pastelito (a chalupa-like casing with shredded chicken inside), well-cooked pork, white rice, beans, a small, dressing-less salad and an empanada (a fried banana coated in sugar and filled with cream).

The portion was enormous. Although it was extremely tasty, I could only eat about two-thirds of the meal. I would recommend the sampler as an introduction to Salvadoran food, but, when I return, I will stick to our favorite item, the pupusa, which includes a side of rice and beans.

Jen ordered the chicken enchiladas Salvidoreños ($5.99). Although they were pictured on the wall, we figured they would be similar to Mexican enchiladas. Not even close. The Salvadoran enchilada was a mixture of shredded chicken, refried beans, lettuce, carrots and tomatoes piled high onto a crunchy, thick, corn-based shell—more similar to a tostada than an enchilada. The portion was too large for her to finish.

If you like Mexican food but are looking for something a little different, try the food at El Salvador. It’s a spicy alternative that comes with a reasonable price tag.