If you blink, you might miss it. Inside an unassuming building on Nicholson Drive is a juggernaut of flavors waiting to be discovered.
La Salvadoreña is one of several authentic Hispanic and Latin restaurants that dot the city, but it has very little in common with the competition. Cooking up the unique flavors of El Salvador, this hidden gem is adjacent to LSU and is perfectly positioned to be discovered by a wider audience.
The quaint interior has a mural of the Salvadoran flag prominently displayed along one wall. The affable staff, who answered our questions patiently and inquired about our enjoyment often, allows for an easygoing meal with family and friends.
The menu offers no designated appetizers, but the a la carte section provides small items that can stand in for starters—most notably the authentic pupusas. We chose three types, with one in particular truly standing out.
The cheese, zucchini and loroco (described as a “green flower” on the menu) pupusa was delicately flavored. Being unfamiliar with loroco, I searched the internet for information and found that the flavor is mild with “green” notes similar to chard or squash. We were unsure if we actually detected this nuanced flavor but still found the pupusa very pleasing. A dollop of pickled cabbage served alongside provided a jolt of pizzazz.
We all found the beans and cheese pupusa bland and breadier than the others, perhaps due to the handmade nature of each pupusa. The spicy green sauce on the table helped somewhat but not enough. A better ratio of filling to crust might have improved the dish.
The table favorite was the jalapeño pupusa. Manageable spice along with garden-fresh flavor and a perfect cheese-to-dough ratio forged a dynamo of taste and texture.
Our entrees ran the gamut. Pollo con Tajadas featured two large fried chicken pieces that were incredibly juicy with crisp, properly fried skin and just a hint of salt. The crust was thinner and darker—appearing deep-fried—than traditional crunchy Southern fried chicken, with what looked like specks of black pepper dotting the exterior.
The chicken was accompanied by addictive fried green plantains (the tajadas) topped with a cooling crema that tamed the grease and salt. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, these are not your usual chips. The plantains are sliced on the bias, creating more surface area and, in my opinion, better flavor and texture.
The Chicken Flautas came with cabbage, pico de gallo, house sauce and refried beans. The cabbage, mixed with a creamy sauce, was reminiscent of coleslaw. The crunchy corn tortillas were abundantly stuffed with moist and herbaceous chicken. Though the dish was delectable, my friend left several on the plate and announced he couldn’t possibly finish the enormous serving.
The Rotisserie Pork Taco and Fajita Steak Taco were a mixed bag. My friend found the steak tough and underseasoned. But the luscious, slightly smoky pork taco made up for this with tons of flavor and a whisper of heat.
It’s worth noting that these are in line with traditional “street tacos”: nothing but soft, fresh corn tortillas, meat and pico de gallo. While those used to Tex-Mex food might balk at the absence of toppings like shredded cheese, the simplicity allows the flavors of the meat, highlighted by the sweet corn of the tortillas, to really shine.
The Tamales Salvadoreños were wrapped in banana leaves to retain the moisture. The masa was airy, with bountiful chicken flavor that I’m assuming came from either chicken fat or broth. Perhaps both. The tamale could have used more meat, but the plentiful dough left my appetite satiated. The garnish of pickled onions was very potent, even overpowering. My add-on of fluffy, buttery yellow rice with smooth refried black beans completed the meal.
The restaurant offers two dessert options: flan and Empanada de Platano (breaded plantains fried and sugared). But we were all far too stuffed to even consider ordering one.
When your taste buds become fatigued with our usual Southern offerings, reward them with a dining adventure that will make your belly sing in español. As the menu exclaims: “Ofreciendo la mejor gastronomía Salvadoreña en Baton Rouge, La!” That is to say: “Offering the best Salvadoran cuisine in Baton Rouge, La!”
Eat at La Salvadoreña
3285 Nicholson Drive
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. every day
Find La Salvadoreña on Facebook
The basics: It started as several small food trucks around the city. Now, this family-owned business has a brick-and-mortar location right outside LSU serving up traditional Salvadoran dishes.
What’s a must: The pupusas, for all their fried, cheesy goodness; the Pollo con Tajadas, for a taste of fried chicken with a twist and addictive plantains; and the Rotisserie Pork Tacos, for a fresh, filling and simple dish similar to street tacos.
Our food critic’s name may be false, but the credentials are not. This gastronome has studied the history, cultivation, preparation, science and technology of food for more than 30 years.
This article was originally published in the May 2017 issue of 225 Magazine.