This place has been getting regular coverage over at New Times and, while I figure there's some relative who works at New Times, I wanted to see if this place was really something special or it was just another shill.
The first sign of problems is that they don't even know their address. Their "real" address is 331 NE 44th Street. NE 44th is also called Prospect Rd, but Prospect only has E and W (relative to Andrews Ave). Their licenses all have the address 331 NE 44th Street. For some reason, they've adopted the address of 331 NE Prospect Rd, which doesn't exist according to Google. So how much business do they lose due to this silly mistake? Who knows.
After finding the place, walking in is a bit of a surprise. Its like you're transformed back in time. There's a single folding table in the corner with a few chairs, a bar with some stools and an old tube TV tuned to a spanish-speaking station.
Menus are printed on a laser printer. I'd seen some staged pictures on New Times of the Papusas and I wanted to try a taco, so I ordered up a Chicken taco and a Frijole con Queso papusa. They make all this stuff by hand, so it took quite a while. A good 15 minutes. Finally it was ready for a grand total cost of $4.87.
Now if you compare this to the staged photos at New Times you'll witness the stark difference between fantasy and reality. They used the word "fluffy" to describe the papusa. Mine was sort of flat. The taco has a lot less stuff. My cilantro was limp.
From a taste standpoint, I was a bit disappointed. The taco had no flavor at all. None. It was the most benign taco I've had in a long while. The papusa tasted better, but I would have liked it better with some black beans rather than the refried or pureed kind. The papusa itself wasn't anything to get excited about. Also included was some curtido, a sort of salvadorian slaw. Typically this is pretty decent stuff; just cabbage, carrots, scallions and chili pepper cooked in vinegar; but there was some spice in this that I didn't like. It was hot, spicy hot that is. But I didn't really care for it.
Now these are nice people who run this place; its truly a little neighborhood family restaurant. They give you decent food at a very fair price. But giving a place like this 8 articles or awards this year alone in a dual county publication is patently absurd. If this was in my neighborhood I might stop in for a taco now and then; but if I have to travel I'm going to Alegria or Dona Raquel.