As we neared Las Fiestas Patrias, we wanted to see what our best option out there would be to fill up before El Grito. Now we could have gone with your typical tacos, pozole and tortas (just to name a few of our favorite dishes), but we opted for something Mexican with a twist.
We ended up breaking “pan” at the Pharr location of Las Pupusas del Itacate.
Pupusas are of Salvadoran descent and might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Mexican Cuisine. This establishment’s story began around 1985 when the matriarch of the family Doña Bertha moved from Monterrey to Chicago and became friends with her neighbor a woman from El Salvador who taught her how to make pupusas. Over the years Doña Bertha added her own special touches and twists to the recipe and taught her daughters her technique. The first Las Pupusas del Itacate opened in 1995 in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. Their fan following has allowed them to open up a second location in Pharr, Texas, just a bit over a year ago.
Las Pupusas is found on the southside of a small plaza in the heart of the very busy, South Jackson Road. From the looks of the outside, we would have never imagined what we would be stepping into. A combination of a dine and dash, mixed in with a casual atmosphere, lead to a more than 2-hour stay. Their two main walls are a vibrant red. One has a pattern of their mascot, a rooster, while the other says in bold calligraphy, “El que es buen Gallo donde quiera Canta” (He who is a good rooster can sing anywhere). As you make your way to the counter, you find yourself staring at the back wall full of black and white patterned tiles with some greenery. Once again, something that we did not expect.
We were greeted at the counter with a friendly smile and were asked for our order. We and our posse must of looked really confused because our server asked us, “Can I explain anything to you on the menu?”
Gaby: I recognize some things, but what exactly are pupusas?
Server: Do you know what Mexican gorditas are?
Gaby: Besides looking in the mirror each day? Yes, I know what they are.
*server looked puzzled*
Trisha: She was joking. It’s cool. You can laugh.
*after a second of some relief, our server laughed*
Server: Well, pupusas are like gorditas, but they’re sealed as opposed to open from one end.
Gaby: I am sold! I’ll take some pupusas and oh, what’s that and that?
Trisha: You’ll have to excuse her she gets distracted quite easily. I’ll take the Tacos Plancha aaaand….ooohhh….Mostachon, please!
If you are as indecisive as even just one of the two writers on this column, our best recommendation would be to order un Numero 9 el Atácate. This dish can definitely cause you an attack with all the yummy goodness found on this plate. El Atácate has one piece of each of the restaurant’s specialty, including a pupusa, a Taco Lloraras that will literally make you cry because it is stuffed with a giant jalapeño. Everyone’s orders came out quick and piping hot.
Trisha: By the looks of it, I think we may have ordered the entire menu.
Gaby: That’s fine by me! That means I can have a slight bite from all the dishes!
Trisha: You are certainly dedicated to your craft!
Gaby: What can I say? I do it all in the name of research.
laughter (and perhaps some eyerolls) erupt from the table
The Tacos Plancha just dissolved in our mouths with their melted white cheese and creamy avocado wrapped in a perfectly toasted, yet still homemade-soft tortillas. Flautas, ovnis and more tacos made their way to our table. And although we probably shouldn't have, and you definitely should, we devoured that sweet, heavenly concoction of whipped cream cheese and sugar blend in a Graham cracker and nuts crust mostachon, topped with fresh fruit.
If you work around the area, make sure to take advantage of Las Pupusas lunch specials served Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Each day a different plate is offered a low cost, nothing about $6. Can you say “Ca-Ching!”? They also have Food Happy Hours, Taco Tuesdays and of course, (Draft Beer) Happy Hour Monday through Friday 5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., $2 per pint.
Las Pupusas del Itacate can be found at 807 South Jackson Road, Suite 6, Pharr, Texas 78577. Their hours of operation are Monday through Saturday 11:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m. and Sunday 11:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m. For more information you can reach them at (956) 715-8024 or follow them on their social media platforms @pupusasdelitacate.
Gaby Jones and Trisha Watts work hand-in-hand with the service industry. Jones is in charge of craft and imported beer for L&F Distributors-South Texas and Watts is a freelance writer specializing in the marketing of the service industry. Each week they will have a new adventure and provide an opinion on multiple locations throughout the Rio Grande Valley. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org