The pupusas have landed in a far-East Dallas neighborhood with the opening of Casa Linda Salvadorian Cuisine, a charming family-owned restaurant specializing in the cuisine of El Salvador.
The restaurant recently opened at 11255 Garland Rd., in the same shopping center as Home Depot, in a former martial arts studio, on the eastern edge of Dallas. It's a clean, bright space with doting service and friendly hours that include breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Husband-and-wife owners Manuel and Blanca Garcia realized a long-held dream with Casa Linda, Spanish for "beautiful house."
"This comes after years of planning together, it was a goal we've had for years," Blanca says. "We've both worked for restaurants and saved up and decided it's time to open our own."
Although the couple is Mexican, the menu is strictly Salvadorian, with recipes culled from their Salvadoran cook and from a relative by marriage.
"We've had Mexican guests wanting to order Mexican food, and since we're both Mexican, they wonder why we aren't doing a Mexican place," Blanca says. "But there are good Mexican restaurants all around the area. We wanted to open something different and not common. There's no place nearby that sells pupusas, and we've already had customers who are happy about that."
Pupusas are the delicious corn cake, like a super-thick tortilla or a stuffed pancake, with a filling in the center, grilled until warm. Casa Linda has three filling options: beans and cheese; pork and cheese; or loroco, the green flower with a slight pickled flavor that's native to El Salvador. An order gets you your choice of two, with rice and beans, for $9.
Entrees include steak, grilled chicken breast, and seafood such shrimp diablo and shrimp tossed with garlic. Most entrees are $12.99 except for the steak and lobster combo, which is $22.99.
Carne asada is served with rice, beans, and fried cassava root, aka yuca fries. Theirs are extra-thick rectangles, fluffy in the middle, with crisp crunchy edges, and can be ordered as an entree "con chicharron" — with pork — for $9.
Three noteworthy soups include mariscada, a shellfish soup of Portuguese origin with crab legs, mussels, shrimp, and tilapia. For the other two soups, you need to go on the weekends. There's a chicken soup served on Saturdays and Sundays only; and a vegetable stew with beef tripe, reminiscent of menudo called mondongo, that's available only on Sundays.
There are two kinds of tamales. Chicken tamale comes wrapped in a banana leaf, enclosing masa; an entree-size hunk of white meat chicken; and a slice of tender potato. Flavored with sweet and mildly tangy guajillo chile, the masa has an orange-y hue with a texture that's pudding soft and extra moist.
A sweet corn tamal comes stripped of its corn husk wrapper. The masa is dryer, and sweet as advertised, though not sweetened — that's just the sweetness from the filling, a mixture of ground corn and cream.
Their signature dish — and a good gateway to what they do — is the sampler, with one pupusa, one each chicken and sweet corn tamal, fried yuca, and an exemplary rendition of fried plantains, tender and without grease. It's $11.99.
Breakfasts include all sorts of great egg combos, including huevos estrellados, which pairs eggs and fried potatoes. Beverages for now consist of bottled sodas or house-made aguas frescas done Salvadorian style, including a horchata enhanced with cashew milk.
"We may get a liquor license down the road," Blanca says. "It's a little expensive to apply, so for now we're BYOB. We were just eager to get the place open."