Local eatery serves taste of Salvadorian culture


Cody Casares / The Adovcate

An employee sweeps the area around the front door of La Bamba Restaurant at 12345 San Pablo Ave. in Richmond, near Interstate 80 on Monday.

By Dylan Collier, Assistant Scene Editor

RICHMOND — If you are looking for unique and authentic El Salvadorian food with a twist, go to Taqueria La Bamba at 12345 San Pablo Ave., one block north of Barrett Avenue.

Their hours are Monday through Wednesday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday through Sunday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The chefs churn out pupusa after pupusa and can be heard singing Spanish songs talking among themselves while working in the kitchen. With a kitchen crew of up to 10 employees, they stay busy around the clock with waves of customers swarming in to get everything from a carne asada burrito to a Chile relleno plate. Chile relleno is a dish that comes straight from El Salvador and the employees at La Bamba cook it the same way with bell peppers.

The Chile relleno meal that comes with a choice of pinto or re-fried beans, rice and lettuce with tomato and avocado, is topped off with two pupusas. The inside of the green bell pepper is filled with mouthwatering extravagant and juicy pork with onions and carrots, and melted cheddar cheese and sour cream on top. If it’s a hot day I would suggest adding a horchata beverage. Horchata is a sweet drink, originating from South America, and La Bamba uses a Mexican recipe consisting of rice milk, cinnamon, sugar and vanilla.

I paid approximately $16 for a lunch and horchata, which was so much food I didn’t need to eat dinner that night. I enjoyed the relleno because it gave me a chance to eat the way I would if I were visiting El Salvador. There are minor differences in the food and how it’s eaten in the United States and El Salvador.

In El Salvador, the Chile relleno is usually filled with vegetables and more people eat pupusas with their hands than with a fork and knife.   

Be sure to go on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon because you can see many families dining together and catch a soccer game on the one television La Bamba has facing the door out onto San Pablo Avenue.

There are seven tables on the inside portion of the restaurant so space can sometimes feel limited. Pupusas and coleslaw are one of the most traditional dishes in El Salvador, going above and beyond your average tortilla. The pupusa is a thick handmade corn flour or rice flour tortilla filled with cheese, refried beans or lo roco, which is a vine flower bud native to Central America.

Pork and cheese pupusas are a few of the most popular items on the menu. However, you can also get pupusas filled with cheese and jalapeno, but lo roco is an ingredient woven into all of the pupusas. La Bamba uses corn for all its pupusas.

La Bamba cooks are conscious about the amount of oil they use, so all chefs only use water on their hands when forming the pupusa patties because they already use a little oil on the grill.

All employees pride themselves on efficiency and authenticity, which is apparent when ordering a burrito over the phone because it takes 20-25 minutes before they are ready for the customer to pick up. The texture of the grilled chicken, specifically, complements the rest of the rice, pinto beans, sour cream and onions to form a burrito full of flavors that will trickle down your arm because they’re never dry.

Another aggregate that sets La Bamba apart from other restaurants with similar food is they don’t pre-cook any of their food. It’s all prepared with fresh ingredients from the moment you order.

La Bamba employees pride themselves on serving all people in an efficient manner.