Great pupusas and prices at Restaurante Yesenia
THE PLACE: The Americas are represented, culinarily speaking, in that small center at the northwest corner of East Moana and Kietzke lanes.
For North America, we’ve got Knockouts Sports bar. For South America, there’s El Tumi Peruvian. And in between, representing Mexico and Central America, there’s Restaurante Yesenia, which serves Mexican and Salvadorian (El Salvador) food.
Among other things, Yesenia is a girl’s name is Spanish.
Address: 581 E. Moana Lane at Kietzke Lane, northwest corner
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Wednesday through Monday
What’s $10 or less: All à la carte items, pupusas, tacos and lunch combination plates (includes two sides)
THE LOOK: Behind the restaurant’s smoked storefront glass, you’ll find a spacious dining room with plenty of tables.
On the walls, the family owners have hung the flags of various Latin countries, a Wolf Pack banner, bits of art and framed Salvadorian money, and travel images of El Salvador, including one of the loroco plant whose buds are used in pupusas (more on those in the moment).
Ceiling fans turn overhead.
THE MEAL: The other afternoon, my friend and I take a break from the end-of-year work rush and nightly holiday parties to have lunch at Restaurante Yesenia.
She’s late, and while I wait, I make quick work of a complimentary bowl of chips, good and thick, backed by salsa with a vinegared bite. Another bowl arrives just as she does.
I get straight to the pupusas, the stuffed tortillas that are a national dish of El Salvador. Unlike many pupusa places, Yesenia offers more than the standard soft cheese, refried beans, seasoned ground pork and loroco fillings.
In fact, you can stuff your pupusas at Yesenia with the same ingredients that you top your tacos: chicken, asada, pastor, buche (pork stomach), shrimp, chorizo, vegetables, about a dozen choices in all.
A plate of pupusas — cheese, bean, pastor — touches down, served with traditional curtido (cabbage slaw) and thin salsa roja. These pupusas are thicker, brawnier than some I’ve had locally; they’re very satisfying.
But there’s more lunch coming.
I order an enchilada combination plate (one chicken, one carnitas) with refried beans and fries on the side (among other side options are queso fresco, sautéed vegetables and casamiento, or black beans and rice).
My companion composes a plate of two tacos (chicken, marinated pork) and a chicken tamale made from a wonderfully creamy, savory dough. Like many Salvadorian tamales, it’s cooked in a banana leaf.
My friend and I spend a relaxing hour variously grazing on chips, pupusas and our main courses before returning to the holiday hustle.
KUDOS: Service is family friendly. One of the owners emerges from the kitchen to ask if everything tastes fresh (it does). The pupusas alone provide a reason to be on East Moana Lane.
And prices are extremely reasonable: For three pupusas ($2 each), an enchilada combination plate, a tamale, two tacos (also 2 bucks each), and a soda, our bill is $23 dollars after tax.
QUIBBLES: Not a quibble but an FYI: A traffic divider prevents left turns into Restaurante Yesenia’s center if you’re traveling east on Moana Lane, so travel south on Kietzke Lane, then make a right onto Moana and a right into the center.
ALTERNATIVES: Taco, flautas or pupusa combination plates with two sides; build-your-own combo plates; à la carte items like gorditas, quesadillas and tostadas.
RETURN TRIP?: Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley, I mean Yesenia — and had a huge plate of pupusas!