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East Side Vacation

Every trip to cheerful Salvadoran spot El Petate is an adventure.

You can order this appetizer for breakfast, lunch or dinner, although I imagine it's most appealing in the early morning. And at El Petate, you can also order breakfast at any time of day — you'll just pay $1 more for it after noon.

Breakfasts here remind me a bit of those hearty meals at Honduras Maya in Bellaire, food from a country that shares the same stretch of land in Central America as El Salvador, but with two different oceans along their coastlines. Both Honduran and Salvadoran breakfasts come with refried beans so dark as to be nearly black, tart spoonfuls of starkly white crema and fat, sweet plantains alongside eggs (scrambled or fried, your choice). But perhaps in keeping with its location in a heavily Mexican part of town and Houston's general love affair with Mexican breakfast (you know it's true), El Petate also offers dishes like huevos rancheros and huevos con chorizo in the mornings as well.

And El Petate has more to offer than just pupusas and breakfast: Meat lovers will want to indulge in one of my favorite dishes here, salpicón de res. Found throughout Central America, salpicón is a mess of shredded beef and vegetables — the vegetables themselves changing from region to region.

Plato No. 1 comes with a Salvadoran tamale, two pupusas, fried plantains, beans and crema. And, of course, a giant jar of curtido.
Troy Fields
Plato No. 1 comes with a Salvadoran tamale, two pupusas, fried plantains, beans and crema. And, of course, a giant jar of curtido.

Location Info

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El Petate

7433 Canal St.
Houston, TX 77011

Category: Restaurant > Salvadoran

Region: East End

Details

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Pupusa $1.25
Chilate y nuegados $4.50
Huevos estrellados $4.50
Salpicón $7.25
Plato No. 1 $8
Plato No. 4 $8
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SLIDESHOW: East Side Vacation at El Petate
BLOG POST: East Side Vacation at El Petate: A Guide to Salvadoran Cuisine

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Here at El Petate, the vegetables are raw white onion, radish and cilantro, all of which combine with the soft shreds of salty meat to pop like bright fireworks in the background. As with Mexican salpicón, the beef is meant for tucking inside of tacos or tortillas. Instead of a thin flour or corn tortilla, however, you'll get two of the huge Salvadoran suckers: fat rounds of corn masa that are as thick as ten corn tortillas stacked together. Heap the salpicón inside, top it with cool crema and a squeeze of lime, and you'll have a masterpiece of a meal for only $7.25 (it also comes with plenty of fried plantains and Salvadoran-style dirty rice).

And although the breakfasts are good, it's the evenings at El Petate that are more of a draw — not only because of the pupusas and salpicón, but because of the sense of community found during a busy night in the small restaurant. The tables are mostly laden with dishes served family-style. Everyone watches novelas on the TV that's mounted above the jukebox, while simultaneously listening to the music from the jukebox itself. Rowdier tables spill out onto the patio with their Coronas in hand. Everyone's happy. And everyone orders pupusas.

katharine.shilcutt@houstonpress.com

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3 comments
Omar
Omar

Katherine, glad you found the suggestion to be a success. Been going there since i was a kid and have taken a few different groups of friends there, and they all end up wanting to go back. Don't think there will be a pupusa eruption across the foodie world anytime soon, but have a hard time seeing how anyone could outright say they don't like pupusas. Now hopefully you'll hit up Tel Wink for breakfast sometime and enjoy the best diner breakfast around.

Stusnow1
Stusnow1

Interesting review, as usual. I have lived in the East End since 1953 (I'm 61) and the ethnic mix is only getting more and more diverse. This is the neighborhood where fajitas have their modern origin (Ninfa's) and the only neighborhood where there is (or was) a Chinese menu for the orientals and a different one for non-orientals. (Jin Bo on Lawndale) My wife and I walked in there one evening not aware that it was the Chinese New Year and the place was packed with gamblers! How fun was that!!??? Anyway, Please keep discovering for us, Katherine. My sister visits from northeast TX often and we generally visit places that you point out. No regrets! Really enjoyed Los Corrales.

Lorena Ventura
Lorena Ventura

Ummmm.....que rico! I've been craving nuegados & chilate for the longest time! I can't wait to try El Petate. Gracias Katharine for sharing!

 
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