La Cabaña was my salvation for a dozen happy years – the family go-to restaurant for fast/filling/flavourful for a van load of teenage boys en route to the field/gym/arena. We’d usually call ahead and place an order. By the time the minivan pulled up to 848 Merivale Road, our pupusas had been fried up and packaged.
Pupusas are Salvadorian culinary marvels, corn tortilla pouches stuffed with all manner of things and griddle-fried. My sons didn’t care much for the curtido that came alongside, so the cups filled with the lightly fermented cabbage-carrot salad all came my way. Suited me.
Those days are largely over, and it’s been a few years since I last sat down at a La Cabaña table, but I’m delighted to find nothing’s changed. The sign looks a little weary, but the restaurant is still kitted out with colourful distractions – a television, a banner mural of pupusa making women, travel agency posters of El Salvador (now with Christmas baubles dangling from the ceiling). Pre- or post-pupusa you can wander through the neighbouring food shop, La Tiendita, for Latino supplies.
My choices for pupusa filling at La Cabaña are usually ‘Mixed’ (cooked pork, chicharron, with cheese and refried beans) and ‘Cheese & Loroco’, a Salvadorian perennial with edible flower buds. The soft, fresh cheese finds its way to the edges, oozing out and crisping up the packages.
If memory serves, back in those hockey arena days, pupusas were two bucks. Ten years later, they cost $2.75, with a minimum order of two.
If you eat in, they come with a Mason jar of the house-made curtido, speared with plastic tongs, and a diner dispenser of the house tomato sauce. An order of pupusas smothered with sauce and cabbage slaw will likely fill you up. But if you can’t resist fried plantain – and who can? – order it. The Platanos Fritos will come with Frijoles y Crema (refried beans and sour cream), which you will find useful to cut the caramelized sweetness.
Plantain with beans and cream, $6.50. Pupusas, $2.75
848 Merivale Road, 613-724-7762