Central American Food in Mexicantown!

I’ve lived in Southwest Detroit, AKA Mexicantown, for most of my life. When my family first moved here that name rang true; the overwhelming majority of Hispanic people in town were either of Mexican descent or fresh immigrants, with a few Puerto Ricans mixed in. People from Central America, like myself, were rare. But slowly, there has been an increase in the visibility of Central Americans, particularly of people from El Salvador and Honduras. When I went to the Cinco de Mayo parade two years ago, I even saw an Honduran flag or two amidst all the Mexican and Puerto Rican ones. However, as far as I knew there still weren’t any Central American restaurants in Mexicantown, until very recently.

The first one that popped up (as far as I know), Pupuseria Mama Tita, specialized in that quintessential Central American food, the pupusa, which is basically a tortilla stuffed with your choice of filling, usually topped with pickled vegetables not unlike kimchi. The most common ones are pupusas with beans, cheese and loroco (a type of plant), or a mix of beans and pork. Unfortunately, Mama Tita didn’t do too well, and went out of business after a year or maybe less. My family and I had gotten used to being able to eat fresh cooked pupusas, so we were upset. Goya does make some you can buy frozen, but it’s not the same (though they are good). Where were we to get our pupusa fix?!

Fortunately I spotted a teeny weeny ad in the free weekly La Jornada Latina (formerly La Jornada Detroit) for La Cuscatleca. I don’t know when they came to the neighborhood, but I’m glad we found them! La Cuscatleca is actually a combined restaurant and market. Their products mainly come from El Salvador, but they also have some Honduran products. Likewise the food has a Salvadoran lean, but it’s very similar to Honduran food. And best of all, they serve a wide variety of foods, not just pupusas. Their tamales, pupusas, and platano frito (fried plantain) are absolutely Delicious! There’s also this desert, Atol de elote, which is like a puree of sweet corn with cinnamon, served in a gourd bowl. The Quesadilla Salvadoreña is also to die for. (Note that this quesadilla is not at all like the Tex-Mex food most people know; instead it’s a bread with Parmesan cheese baked in.)

Atol de elote in the foreground, tamal in the background.

Atol de elote in the foreground, tamal in the background.

If you’re interested in going, please be advised that this is not the usual “restaurant” atmosphere. I don’t know if the people there speak English, since they specialize in catering to the Central American minority, but I think it’s safe to assume they know some. If you speak Spanish, though, even better.

La Cuscatleca is located at 6343 Michigan Avenue in Detroit (48210), a few steps west of Livernois.

¡Buen provecho!