In the neighboring cities of El Paso and Juarez, a border region where Mexican and U.S. cultures intertwine, divided and connected by the Rio Grande, you can find a great number of authentic cuisines, from the typical U.S. burger and fries to homestyle Mexican tacos and enchiladas.
Although this variety is satisfying for Borderlanders, it often leaves me craving “pupusas” and “tamales de hoja de platano,” two dishes common to one-half of my ethnic background which is Mexican and Salvadoran.
This means I usually need to wait for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays to satisfy my Salvadoran taste buds, when my Mexican-born mom cooks up traditional Salvadoran dishes she’s mastered since she married my Salvadoran dad 25 years ago. Hopefully, one day someone will open a Salvadoran restaurant on the East side close to home.
I know I am not alone. El Paso is now home not just to Mexican Americans, native born Mexicans, African-Americans and other ethnicities but also to military families that hail from diverse Latin American backgrounds – Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, etc.
I know they experience the same frustration I feel when I get a craving for plátano frito with black beans and sour cream and the more concentrated horchata found in San Salvador and there is no local restaurant that prepares these dishes.
However, I am grateful that I have identified a few establishments that are attempting to satisfy my desire for a taste of Latin America comfort foods beyond Mexico. Among them are:
1. CULTURAS CAFÉ, “Comida Latina con sabor caribeño”
Located in East El Paso, Culturas Café says it serves the following traditional dishes from Puerto Rico and Cuba, including mofongo, (smashed plantains with lots of garlic), yucca frita,(similar to a potato deep fried), arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas), tostones (dried fried plantains)and sancocho(pork stew serve with meat and vegetables).
This dish includes pechuga al ajillo, habichuelas negras, and arroz con gandules. Pechuga al ajillo is chicken seasoned with garlic and onions. Habichuelas negras is what borderlanders call black beans. And arroz con gandules is rice with pigeon peas accompanied by fried yuca.
Location:1651 N Zaragosa El Paso, TX 79936
Phone Number:(915) 855-5055
2.“Maracas,” Shake up your taste buds
This restaurant located in Canutillo, TX, across the street from the Outlet Shops at El Paso. This New York-infused Puerto Rican sandwich shop not only serves regular sandwiches but also Puerto Rican food on Fridays from 11 in the morning to 6 p.m. Their most popular dishes include; arroz con gandules, arroz con pollo, habichuelas, and tostones to name a few. The restaurant website says it serves fresh bread and vegetables and U.S.D.A choice meats and grade A cheeses.
Location: 900 Talbot Avenue, Canutillo, TX, United States
Phone Number: 915-877-7307
3. La Casa del Choripan Argentino (Food Truck)
And if you are into Argentinian food, this food truck will satisfy your taste buds. The food truck, La Casa del Choripan Argentino was located in a shopping center parking lot at 5360 N Mesa. However, according to their Facebook page they now only do catering for events. Their most popular dish is empanadas filled with one of three types of meats (brisket, turkey or beef) or with chilorio (pork) along with cuitlacoche (root vegetables). They also serve a pork rib sandwich and beef sandwich with chimichurri sauce.
To contact “La Casa del Choripan Argentino (Food Truck)” you may reach them at (915) 691-6506 to make your special event a copado,which means cool.
Although, these restaurants do not satisfy my need for Salvadoran food. I am hoping these options can satisfy others in the borderland. This shows how El Paso has adopted other cultures into the Mexican-American city and hopefully someday not too far from now El Paso can have a Salvadoran restaurant.
If you have tried other Latin American local restaurants that you may recommend please share in the comments.