La Flor De Michoacan2339 Northgate Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95833
Kitty-corner from the shocking-pink awnings of a 99-cent store and three doors down from a Pakistan, Indian and Fijian market lies the oasis of La Flor de Michoacan, a Salvadorian/Mexican restaurant on Northgate Boulevard. Outside it doesn’t say Michoacan anywhere. It says La Flor Pupusas. The market, aside from a killer selection of lentils, also has the closest ATM. Flor is all cash, all the time.
Diners are greeted to faux weathered brick-and-adobe walls with fake arched wooden windows above planters chockablock with colorful, well-dusted plastic ferns and flowers. An angled ledge near the ceiling approximates a tile roof overhang, a game attempt to conjure the feeling of a south-of-the-border courtyard. A quaint courtyard with jillions of Jarritos and a killer tamarindo, but no cervezas. A few potted cacti rest in an arched alcove near the register, the place from whence all blessings—and viands—flow. The tabletops are colorful mixes of white, orange and blue 4-by-4-inch tiles.
What invites is the promise of Salvadorian food. Like pupusas. There are all kinds—revuelta, jalapeño and cheese, the less scalding chicken, and ones formed with rice flour rather than the traditional masa. A pupusa is a grilled, fat pancake/big biscuit with stuff inside. If a Mexican food fan, think gordita. At least in the case of the chicken pupusa, when pierced, it oozes wonderful rust-colored grease, an oil slick of which invariably lies across the surface of the finest pozole.
Two pupusas usually do the job, portions tend toward the colossal. The two lay naked on an oval white plate. A plastic jigger of stunningly benign red salsa accompanies. The salsa carries far less wallop than the curtido, fermented shredded cabbage that, for pupusas, is the Salvadorian equivalent of red beans and rice. Curtido has a vinegary bite intensified by some type of chili pepper. Eye-watering, nose-running goodness. Sadly, on a subsequent visit, requesting more of same, Flor’s matriarch informs that it’s an aberration—“the cook got carried away”—and some Salvadoreans, whose tastes apparently don’t hanker for hyper heat, had the temerity to complain.
Even when toned down, the cabbage carries a lip-tingling kick. Indeed, the pupusas end up being dipped into the spirited slaw instead of the salsa. The colloquy with the matriarch over the heat issue does lead her to present a more flammable salsa—still well within Sacramento summer temperatures—with each meal following.
Speaking of meals: Despite it being named “super,” the adjective doesn’t remotely capture the height or girth of La Flor Pupusas’ top-of-the-line burrito. It is, without exaggeration, a brick. Much of the interior is stuffed with rice to the point where the other contents are overwhelmed. Appreciating the adobada requires pulling it, and the avocado slices tucked in the corners, out from the rubble of rice. Given the prodigious portions, better to opt for the rice-less regular burrito accented with cilantro.
There are various Mexican “plates” available, chicken and carnitas among them. The unremittingly gracious matriarch says if really hungry, go for the chicken. After the super burrito epiphany, the yucca with chicharrón seems more prudent. Fat chance. Fat being the operative word, since that will inevitably result from consistently clearing a plate at La Flor Pupusas. Yucca—yes, the desert plant—is deep-fried, yielding that good crispy-outside-soft-inside combo. Not unlike angular tater tots. The yucca, whose blandness demands a salsa swim, is but the foundation upon which the massive meal is built. The pieces are topped with diced tomato, curtido—the matriarch brings an extra molcajete of same—and chicharrón, crisp fried pork pieces.
The matriarch inquiries as to the yucca’s enjoyability. She appears troubled that the plate isn’t anywhere near empty when the meal concludes—as though there was something awry with a member of the family. Careful: One visit inevitably leads to many more.