In the gentrifying heart of the Inner Mission District — near the corner of 16th and Valencia streets, where longtime bookstores, markets, bars, and restaurants have all been forced out by rising rents in the last year or so — a simple Salvadorean restaurant has continued to thrive by serving one dish, pupusas, to customers old and new.
Panchita’s Pupuseria is a wonderfully unassuming little restaurant that spills out of its own doors on busy weekend nights, with its family members joining the street food vendors on the sidewalk flipping these tasty treats, as they’ve been doing in a series of Mission locations over the last 24 years.
“My grandma and mom started it there with a bunch of my uncles,” Doris Vargas tells us of the original location on 17th Street that has since closed. She and her family don’t mind the challenging evolution of the Mission, with its influx of high-paid tech workers. “It has expanded our customer base. My mom loves that pupusas have been exposed to a larger crowd.”
The pancake-like pupusas are served right off the grill with hot sauce and curtido, a slaw-like mix of cabbage, carrots, and spices soaked (the word actually mean “soaked” in Spanish) in a vinegar that Vargas’ namesake mother makes herself, infused with pineapple, something she learned before emigrating from El Salvador at the age of 25.
Simple, delicious, family-run — and a survivor appreciated by us and the large crowds of newbies that have begun to discover it.
3091 16th St., SF