Exploring El Salvadorian Cuisine in Socastee

For Weekly SurgeApril 1, 2013 

Pupuseria Marisol is at 4503 Socastee Blvd. in Myrtle Beach, and the phone number is 293-1392. Operating hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Gut Reaction for April 4, 2013 Setting the Table

For two years the little restaurant that used to be Oink’s Barbecue sat empty, waiting for someone to bring a new layer of deliciousness to the international culinary flair of Socastee Boulevard.

Luckily for Socastee diners the spot ended up being occupied by the Grand Strand’s first and only El Salvadorian restaurant called Pupuseria Marisol. It is owned and operated by Edwin Yiovanni Galvaves, whose day job is cooking at P.F. Chang’s at The Market Common; and his wife, Marisol Chavez-Lopez, who keeps things cooking all day at the pupuseria.

Customers order at the counter, then take seats by the front window to wait a few minutes for carryout orders; or they can sit at one of about 10 tables in the narrow dining area. Most of the tables are two-tops.

A giant chalkboard menu hangs above the slit of a window between the waiting area and the kitchen. Either look at that before placing orders or peruse a paper menu with English and Spanish translations.

Down the Hatch

No, we’re not talking about Pupu Platters – these are Pupusas ($1.75-$2.50), and they’re a traditional El Salvadorian dish where two thick and soft corn tortillas are sandwiched around fillings such as ground pork called chicarron, cheese, beans, refried beans or zucchini. Another filling possibility is loroco, which is an El Savadorian flower thought to be an aphrodisiac. Pupusas are served with pickled slaw called Curtido and either mild or hot smooth salsa.

If you order carryout, the Curtido is placed in a separate plastic bag outside the box containing hot food, so it doesn’t become too warm. I tried both the mild and hot salsas and prefer the hot, which sizzles but isn’t blazing. The combination of flavors and textures between the tortilla, fillings, slaw and sauce is extremely appetizing.

Appetizers are $2-$6.50 and include Pasteles – four mini fried pastries – that can be filled with chicken, rice and beans, or potato, and they come with slaw and sauce. I tried the chicken version, and they’re great dipped in the hot sauce. Crazy Corn is corn on the cob drizzled with mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup and sprinkled with grated hard cheese, and Papas Fritas Salvadorian Style has the fries topped with ketchup and cheese.

Fried Plantains are served with scrambled eggs, refried beans and cream, while Toasted Green Plantains come with slaw and salsa. Yuca is a starchy tuber similar to a white potato, but denser, that can be fried or steamed in thick slabs about half the size of a cellphone. Both come with slaw and sauce, but my Fried Yuca also had fried pork chunks.

A menu section called Plato Tipico, or typical plates, lists Corn or Chicken Tamales wrapped in corn husks for $2 each. I tried the corn version, and while the menu says it’s served with cream, what came on the side looked and tasted more like mayonnaise to me. That was unusual, but I tried it and liked the flavor balance between the sweet and smooth corn similar to polenta and the mild tang of the so-called “cream.”

Two Rigua are $4, and they’re house-made corn tortillas served with cream. Fried Chicken is $8 and comes with rice, refried beans, cheese and tortillas.

My favorite dish is Pan Con Pollo, where an extremely soft white bread roll is split into three sections. Layered on top are slaw, sliced mild radishes and beets, tomatoes, cucumbers and chicken in red sauce, then mayonnaise is drizzled over it. It’s not spicy at all, but you can fix that with some of the house-made sauce or one of the several bottled hot sauces on the counter.

Check, please

Beverages are $1.50 to $2 and include bottled sodas such as Coca-Cola and Sprite, but also Hispanic drinks such as Horchata, Tamarindo (I enjoyed this red fruit punch), Maranon and Fresh Coconut Water served in a cup that looks like a coconut shell.

Desserts ($5) include Nuegados, where you get four pieces of yucca sautéed with cheese and served with pure cane syrup; or four Empanadas de Platano, which is plantains stuffed with “special sweet cream and rolled in sugar” according to the menu.

Becky Billingsley serves up fresh news daily at MyrtleBeachRestaurantNews.com.

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