At Seydi’s Pupuseria & Grill, a Salvadorian restaurant that opened two weeks ago in north Phoenix, the mother and son who run things take extra measures to keep the family recipes secret. “There’s some recipes we don’t share out with employees,” says Jose Flores. Some, like curtido (a slightly fermented slaw) and chicharrón (shredded pork separate from the Mexican pork rinds), he and his mom will cook after hours, once their employees have clocked out and left for home.
During service, Jose manages the fast-casual-style ordering. He can also bun a Salvadorian chicken sandwich or griddle a pupusa if needed.
Fittingly, Seydi Flores, his mom, oversees the Seydi’s kitchen.
Born in Usulután, El Salvador — a city a few hours east of San Salvador — Seydi has been making pupusas, the country’s most famous food, for a long time. Before opening the restaurant, she sold pupusas to raise funds for her church. Jose says they sold faster than his mom could make them. This gave mother and son the inspiration to start a small restaurant. Seydi’s Pupuseria & Grill serves Salvadorian food with an emphasis on meat and pupusas. In a bright, casual space, they plate steaks, fried yucca, banana-leaf-wrapped tamales, and a glorious 12 kinds of pupusas.
You can get shrimp pupusas.
You can get green pepper pupusas.
You can get pupusas with beans, with jalapeños, with nothing but melted mozzarella. Shaped like puffy CDs, each pupusa is molded by hand. Fillings occupy the long, flat hollow inside of the thick masa sheath, similar to the subcategory of gordita stuffed almost like a sandwich. The griddle touches pupusas with color. They also gain a wholesome flavor you don’t normally get from corn, rich and toasted but light, similar to what you might taste from popcorn.
These pupusas are a little soft, but not too soft. They have a supple chew. The ones without meat tend to hold more cheese, and, thoroughly melted, that cheese glops out beautifully.
One of the must-order pupusas here features diced loroco, an edible flower common in El Salvador and other Central American countries. They don’t grow loroco on farms in Phoenix, so the Flores family sources theirs from a Spanish market that uses a provider in Los Angeles.
Tucked into in warm, pliant pupusa, the flowers have an artichoke-like flavor that melds with the melted cheese. Arguably, the heat and vegetal vibes of the jalapeño pupusa harmonize with the cheese and toasted corn pocket even better. Chicharrón is a richer, heartier option, one in which pork steals the spotlight from the melted dairy goodness.
However, Seydi and Jose tiptoe away from tradition some in what sidekicks their pupusas.
A slaw, curtido, peeks over the brim of a tiny plastic cup. This curtido has been spiked with some chile heat. So, too, has the tomato-based salsa roja that comes with pupusas. It gets jazzed with chile de arbol, though even the “medium” version exercises restraint. Jose says that the salsa is usually without heat. “We’re from Virginia, born and raised,” says Jose. “But in the Mexican community, they like a kick to their sauce. People here like it spicy, so we add a little more flavor.”
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Seydi’s is open for breakfast, and fixes a few wide-ranging morning plates. None use the pupusa. Which means if you go in the morning, you’ll have to roll back at a later hour, if for no other reason to pick up a stack of 12 pupusas to go for a mere $28.
“It’s just me and my mother, honestly,” says Jose. “We started like that, just letting people try our food. Little by little, word is starting to get out.”
So check out this strip-mall spot in north Phoenix, and kick back with a pulpy coconut water and put away a few hot, chewy, corn-dough discs made in a guarded family tradition. And there’s more on the Flores menu than the pupusa, a world of entrees and combos, even if the pupusa is the round, doughy, bubbled, brown-burned portal to the rest.
Seydi's Pupuseria & Grill. 2625 East Greenway Parkway, #107; 602-404-7634.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Monday to Thursday; 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday.