The tacos, tamales and pupusas at La Salvadoreña Restaurant are worth the wait.
And when we tried it for lunch, it wasn’t fast food.
Opened last year near the north gates of LSU, the South American restaurant previously had introduced its Salvadoran-style fare to Baton Rouge diners through its food trucks.
It offers foods often associated with Tex-Mex — flautas, tostadas, tacos and tamales — but with a handmade flair and Salvadoran touches like toppings of shredded curtido, a cabbage relish.
At lunch time, even on a cold, windy day, the restaurant filled quickly. Our waitress hustled to keep up, but it took about 30 minutes to receive our orders, making it difficult for many trying to cram in a quick meal.
But the food came to us hot and freshly made, which was worth the trade-off.
The star of the restaurant may be the pupusas ($2.50 each), traditional Salvadoran corn cakes stuffed with cheese or other fillings. Available a la carte, the 5-inch round cakes taste sweet and fluffy. We ordered two, one filled with cheese and another with chicharrones — pork cracklins — and cheese, salty fillings that perfectly complement the cakes made of masa de maiz.
In addition to my papusa, I ordered a steak taco ($2.50) and a tamale ($2.50). The lightly seasoned steak inside homemade corn tortillas was near perfect. On the side, there was curtido and a pineapple pico de gallo.
The tamale, wrapped in a steaming banana leaf, was made of thick, sweet masa and filled with chicken and onion. If you think tamales only come buried in chili, then try these and enlighten yourself.
One of my guests ordered the flautas ($10), crispy fried corn tortillas filled with chicken and topped with sour cream, a cheese sauce and the cabbage. Without the sauce and cabbage, the flautas are filling — eight come in an order — and crunchy. The cheese sauce was tasteless. My guest preferred the flautas untouched by the sauce and cabbage, which he preferred to cover with the perfectly spicy green sauce on the table.
On the side, the refried beans were pretty soupy. While tough to eat with a fork, they were a perfect sauce for the flautas.
My most daring guest chose the mojarra frita ($10), a tilapia dish that came battered and fried whole.
“The battering, however, covers the eyes, so at least your meal doesn’t appear to be staring at you,” he said.
Although it’s a little more work to get at the meat, the tilapia was flaky and the batter lightly salty. It’s even better with a squeeze of lime and some of the pico de gallo that comes on the side.
Also on the side were rice, a bowl of the same soupy beans and a finely processed slaw that had little flavor and an unpleasant, mushy texture.
But the cons — some items being tasteless or mushy, the long wait — are small when you look at the big picture: La Salvadoreña’s delivers mostly delicious comfort food.
I know I’m making plans to return soon.