Under $10: Sarita’s Pupuseria
You may have spied it while stumbling drunkenly to your car after that last, unwise shot of Patron at La Cita. Peering over the roll-down bars, you’d spy a cavernous, basement-like structure, quiet in the late night hours that envelops Downtown Los Angeles. But visit during the day, and you’ll find a bustling market full of food stalls selling a wide variety of yummy ethnic fast-food, cheaper than the dirt they were grown in produce stands, and a variety of random vendors selling everything from mole by the pound to necklace charms depicting Jesus on a cross (with your sweetie’s name engraved underneath, natch).
Grand Central Market has been around since 1917. Across the street from the also historic, now out of commission Angel’s Flight, Angelenos would take a penny-ride to the open-air market which met the needs of newly immigrated families from all over the world. It’s been remodeled many times throughout the years, but it still has that old-world feel to it, which is a nice contrast to the high rise buildings and power-suited yuppies just a few blocks away in the Financial District.
During the past eight months, which I have spent as an office drone in the aforementioned yuppie-filled Financial District, Grand Central Market has become my weekly haven (biweekly, if I’m having a particularly shitty day). It’s a sweaty walk past Pershing Square from my office; down dirty sidewalks, past bored looking pedestrians – some waiting for a bus, some walking swiftly by, lost in their own thoughts. Once I reach the sanctuary of the Market, I’m relaxed, despite the busy bustle of the lunch crowd. On sawdust covered floors, I make my way past the always-crowded China Cafe, down the stairs and past a produce stand, a Japanese food stall, a “checks-cashed” store front whose neon sign is in dire need of repair, and work my way through the maze to my very favorite cheap lunch in all of Los Angeles.
I can’t remember how I stumbled upon Sarita’s Pupuseria (in fact, I didn’t even know what a pupusa was before I found Sarita’s) but I’m forever thankful that I did. The florescent bulbs keep all kinds of yummy (and a few gross) looking offerings warm. The stew always calls my name with its mix of meat and vegetables. The tamales look dry, but I can imagine they’re delicious with a generous pour of hot sauce. I’ve tried the plantains once, when I brought a friend here for lunch, but an order would be too much for myself, and I usually come here alone.
No, the thing that’s kept me a regular are the pupusas. For $2.60 (including tax!) a huge variety of combinations are available (beans and pork, squash and cheese, broccoli and cheese, etc.), but I go for the basic beans and cheese every time. Watch through the glass as a woman behind the counter, who’s probably made more pupusas than imaginable, grabs a fistful of thick corn tortilla dough and expertly stuffs it with whatever ingredients you chose. Flattened into a pancake shape, it’s then slapped onto the hot grill, and left to brown to a crispy goodness.
When my number is called, I like to grab my plate, two bags of the pickled cabbage traditionally topping the pupusa (called “curtido”), and a tub of the hot sauce that burns your tongue just a little, but tastes oh-so good with the cooling cabbage, and head back through the maze to outdoor patio on Hill St. There, I’ll read my book between bites, watch the colorful array of locals walk by, and almost fool myself into thinking that I don’t have to go back to work that day.
Stay tuned for more under $10 eats around town!
» Profile: Pollo Master