Pupuseria Katarina: Sunny Salvadoran cuisine in Cleveland

November 4, 2017 GMT

Pupuseria Katarina: Sunny Salvadoran cuisine in Cleveland

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Let’s talk pupusas. They’re dense, Frisbee-shaped corn discs, Salvadoran snacks filled with all sorts of goodies and then baked on a griddle until crispy-edged, lightly browned and as fragrant as freshly made tortillas. They sometimes ooze a little of their filling while baking, creating chewy caramelized amoebas of cheesy meaty goodness.

This may mar the look -- a perfect pupusa is totally sealed, hiding the secret of its many-splendored filling beneath the bland appearance of a hefty corn flour pita, if such a thing ever existed -- but provides a beguiling preview of the good things inside. The fillings at Pupuseria Katarina on Brookpark Road in Cleveland can range from simple Cheese ($2.50) or Chicken ($2.50) to the popular Revuelta ($2.50), a mixture of pork, refried beans and cheese.

If you simply can’t decide, have them all in one crazy Pupusa Loca ($9), a specialty of the house at Pupuseria Katarina. It’s three times the size of a regular pupusa and a tour de force of tastes, replete with the above fillings, plus jalapeno peppers, spinach, zucchini, cilantro, garlic and loroco, a Central American herb, consisting of the the fresh buds and flowers of an indigenous vine. It tastes similar to chard and is an essential offering on any authentic pupusaria menu.


But it’s not just about the pupusas at Pupuseria Katarina. Daisy and Rene Fuentes, who established the restaurant three years ago, and named it for their daughter, Katarina, also provide an opportunity to try most of the traditional canon of Salvadoran food.

Their house-made features include Beef Tongue Tacos (3 for $9). Not to worry if you’re among the usually awkward tongue-tied majority of diners. The meat is cut into such tiny dice that all you’re aware of is that you’re consuming something carnivorous and delicious, mixed in with chunks of fresh radishes, sautéed scallions, cilantro and onions.

Ramp up the taste and texture even more with some of the crunchy jalapeno-laced pickled cole slaw served with most dishes. There’s also an impeccable Fried Talapia ($11.50), crisp outside and juicy within. Excavating all the tender bits from the whole fish is part of the adventure.

Stewed meats are part of the cuisine as well, and Chicken and Onions ($13.00), simmered with strips of sweet bell pepper in a rich fragrant tomato-tinged sauce, provides a comfortable example of its nourishing goodness.

If you’re truly famished, go for one of the all-day breakfasts. Tipico #2 ($11.00), is Salvadoran sausage, mild, but well-spiced with oregano, thyme, and annotto, scrambled with two eggs and served up with fried plantains, queso cheese, sour cream, a pupusa and a tortilla. Consumed at lunch, it will get you at least through breakfast the next morning. Trust me on this.


If your first visit to Pupuseria Katarina is at night, it would be remiss to not offer a word or two of reassurance. From the street, the restaurant front looks a little dire. OK, more than a little. If it was up for a TV role, this could easily be the diner attached to that notorious Bates Motel.

But take heart and carry on. The side entrance is brightly lit with cheerful carriage lights, and inside, Pupuseria Katarina has all the dazzling color and genial charm of a most inviting restaurant.

Lively patterned Mexican tile-topped tables, lush wall murals of famous indigenous mountain ranges and volcanoes, and lots of colorful assorted Salvadoran bric-a-brac complement the lovely food and and solicitous service. As late fall finally turns cold and blustery, Pupuseria Katarina offers a comforting and warm consolation.

TASTE BITES: Pupuseria Katarina

Where: 1409 Brookpark Rd. Cleveland, OH 44109

Call: 216-331-6624

Online: pupuseriakaterina.com

Hours: 12:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 12:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Friday-Saturday 11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. Sunday

Prices: Pupusas $2.50- $9.00; Breakfast (served all day) $9.00-$13.00; Entrees $11.50-$16.00. (note: no desserts)

Cuisine: Salvadoran

Reservations: Accepted.

Credit Cards: All major cards except Discover and American Express.

Kid-friendliness: No children’s menu, but lots of dishes for adventurous tykes.

Bar Service: Full bar and beer, concentrating on Hispanic brands and flavors.

Accessibility: Easy wheelchair access throughout.

Grade: ***