150 posts. 3 years. Quite the milestone for Mastication Monologues. It seems like yesterday I was just back from New York City, and finally decided to follow my parents’ advice to chronicle my food adventures for all the world to see. Since then, I’ve been to a lot more new places and dined with some familiar and some novel faces. I’m always up for trying new things, so I ended up going to Taco Real. It’s located in Villa Park, IL in a very nondescript strip mall. However, the extraordinary food I had inside belied its modest exterior.
Upon walking in, it was very similar to any typical small taqueria in the Chicagoland area with brightly colored walls and a couple flags representing the different cuisines served. In this case, Mexico and El Salvador. A majority of the menu was in Spanish which I coped with quite easily as they had many standards like tacos, burritos, and tostadas, and they also had a good portion of El Salvadorian options. I decided to go with the signature pupusas. You could pick your flavor which included, but were written all in Spanish on the menu, pork (puerco/chicharron), cheese (queso), grated peppers (rajas), or loroco which is a vine with edible flowers that grows in Central America. While I was mulling over my options, I saw a plate of them going past us. They looked like very thick, grilled corn cakes at about 4-5 inches at the widest.
They reminded me of arepas which are similar flour flatbreads that are stuffed with ingredients like the pupusas but are native to Venezuela and Colombia. Eventually, I knew what I was going to get and went up to the counter. I went ahead and just followed suit like the people in front of me and ordered in Spanish one arepa with cheese and pork ($2.09) and another one with the loroco ($2.09). They also had free tortilla chips with green salsa, red salsa, pickled jalapeno peppers, and a mixed pickled vegetable salad. They came out soon after, and I was pretty excited to try these new little pancakes. They recommended I put some of the mixed pickled vegetable salad on top of the pupusas to eat, so I naturally obliged. I wasn’t sure which was which, and I struck loroco on my first bite of playing Salvadorian roulette. Inside the pupusa, there was plenty of rich white cheese and light green pieces of loroco. However, I didn’t really taste much of the flowers, but the grilled and fried dough was crispy and not greasy at all. The pickled salad also really jazzed up the pupusa with a slightly tangy hit to each bocado (bite). The next one, pork and cheese, was a lot more flavorful since the pork was slightly seasoned which blended well with the smooth flavor of the cheese. After finishing both of them, I was full but not stuffed like the pequeno flatbreads.
Even though I never tried the Mexican options, I would highly recommend Taco Real as a wonderful and simple place to try Salvadorian cuisine.