Out on the Town: Chelsea Pupusa Festival

Trying new foods is endlessly exciting to me, and discovering pupusas was no exception. Despite this El Salvadoran dish’s decent representation in Greater Boston, I hadn’t heard of it until a few weeks ago. When I discovered the Pupusa Fiesta happening in Chelsea, Mass. this past weekend, I knew I had to get off campus and try them.

The Chelsea Pupusa fiesta is a chance for Chelsea’s local pupusa restaurants to strut their stuff. Ambassadors from each eatery offer pupusa samples for those willing to wait in line at the festival. Having never tried them before, I thought that a sampler would be a great introduction, so I left campus for Chelsea this past weekend to see what I had been missing.

I took a long, arduous bike route to get there, one that I would not repeat. Fortunately, there are ways to get to Chelsea with public transport. While the route is convoluted, one can take the 80 bus from Boston Avenue to Lechmere, followed by the Green Line from Lechmere to Haymarket and finally the 111 bus to Hawthorne St. Regardless of one’s preferred route, Chelsea has a distinct feel from the rest of Greater Boston. While I was there, I saw many catering and distribution companies, as well as the Teamsters and Laborers Unions. The whole area felt industrial.

Sidling up to the Pupusa Fiesta, which was located at a rented space, I witnessed a line stretching out the door and down the block. I stood in line outside for about 10 minutes, before being allowed in free of charge with a stamp on my wrist. To my dismay, the line continued inside, with hungry visitors waiting at each of five tables to obtain their samples. The atmosphere, on the other hand, was very pleasant. The walls had been decorated with flags from various Central American countries. Music blared in Spanish over some loudspeakers. Out of curiosity, I Shazam’d one of the tunes, which was aptly named “A Mi Me Gustan Las Pupusas.” Those who had received their samples hung out in the center of the room.

The afternoon seemed very much like a community event. Everyone had a smile on, and I was greeted by a few strangers. Someone at the front was even willing to look after my bicycle, which I couldn’t find any parking for in the immediate area. The positive energy here made it a great place to eat, and eat I did. After another 30 minutes of waiting, I finally received my first sample, which I devoured. It was delicious! Sandwiched between a round of flour tortilla-esque dough was a healthy dollop of melted cheese. The wait was worth it. After eating all my samples and soaking up the atmosphere a bit longer, I returned to campus, satisfied with my new knowledge of a piece of El Salvadoran culture. For those interested, Chelsea has some quality pupusa restaurants that will knock your socks right off if you give them the opportunity.

In the future, if you, the reader, know of some food you’d like me to try, let me know! I’m always on the lookout for food I’ve never eaten.