Pupusería Mama Blanca sits on a corner of residential East Boston that you'd never pass if you didn't live nearby, or weren't using the gated, Eastie-residents-only back entrance to Logan Airport. You might mistake its unprepossessing exterior for a private home. Its humble interior, with counter service and 21 seats, wouldn't raise your expectations. But then you'd sample the food, and think, "Aaah, this is why I seek out new restaurants."
The focus on pupusas signals this is a Salvadoran, not Mexican restaurant, but unlike many worthy competitors, its menu includes English translations, and the chef/owner is a friendly, funny host who speaks excellent English. Every plate is made to order, and the tacos and pupusas are shockingly good. In fact, Mama Blanca's taco of chicken, beef, or beef tongue ($2.00) might be the best I've had in years: two layers of griddled masa tortillas very generously filled with diced meat, lettuce, and tomatoes, with a wedge of lime to squeeze on top. They're eminently fresh, bulging, and a tiny bit greasy: just superb, and a great value.
Pupusas ($1.75 each) — the fat, griddled, stuffed masa tortillas of El Salvador — are similarly outstanding, with fillings of rich chicharrón (fried pork skin with some fat and meat left on, finely minced), quesillo (a mild white cheese), mashed black beans with cheese, or revueltas (a mix of the three). Each is served with curtido, a rough vinegar-dressed slaw, and salsa rojo, a simple tomato-sauce condiment. Originated by El Salvador's indigenous Pipil people, pupusas are a hearty peasant-fare wonder. One makes a light lunch, two a good dinner, three a nap-inducer.
Gut-busting entrées are served with rice, beans, salad (dressed with bottled Wish-Bone Italian), and tortillas. Typical examples include the aptly named plato gordito ($12.50) of grilled steak, shrimp, and chicken and the camarones con coco ($12.50), a sauté of fat shrimp in a coconut-based gravy. Saturdays feature sopa de res y mondongo ($10.50), the offal-rich beef/tripe stew beloved as a hangover cure. The Sunday menu offers sopa de gallina ($10.50), a similarly restorative giant bowl of chicken soup. Drinks include sodas like El Salvador's sugary Kolashanpan ($1.50), watery fruit smoothies called batidos ($3.00), and canned tropical-fruit juices ($2.00). Given how well one can dine here for under $7, Pupuseria Mama Blanca epitomizes the kind of happy surprise that dedicated cheap-eats prospectors live for: the little pan of gold uncovered in an out-of-the-way streambed.
Pupusería Mama Blanca, located at 389 Maverick Street, in East Boston, is open daily from 11 am to 9 pm. Call 617.567.5511.