I love ethnic hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and so should you. Their food is honest, the prices are affordable, and the people are friendly and appreciative. Wichita has many of these hidden treasures, one of which is the newly opened Restaurante Antojitos Salvadoreno. As the name implies, it specializes in treats from El Salvador.
The restaurant is on East Central just west of Grove, and while it may not look like much from the outside, inside you will find some serious eats. The dining area at Antojitos is small and tidy with pictures and flags from El Salvador adorning the walls. There is also a television that always has a futbol game on. I recommend choosing your table with a clear line of sight to the kitchen area because that is the only place the menu is listed.
The star of the menu is the humble pupusa. Those who are unfamiliar with pupusas are missing out on some great comfort food. Small amounts of filling are stuffed into masa dough, flattened into a round disk, then cooked on a griddle until the outside is crispy. Antojitos has several varieties to choose from, including queso, frijoles, pork and shrimp. There are also fried plantains, empanadas, fried yuca, steak, chicken and daily specials. A pupusa can be had for $1.75, while entrees run in the $10-$15 range.
We started each of our two visits with a glass of homemade horchata and a sweet juice drink made with tamarind. Both were delicious. We sampled several different pupusas, including the queso, pork, frijoles and shrimp. They were all excellent because of their tender masa shells and impressive amount of fillings. A large jar of curtido – a lightly fermented cabbage salad – and basic salsa are served on the side to further enhance the pupusa experience. We also tried fried patties of mashed yuca. They were dense and somewhat bland, but a warm molasses dip helped add flavor.
You can certainly make a meal of the pupusas alone, but the restaurant’s entrees warrant a mention as well. The simple grilled tilapia is a treat for those who appreciate their fish served whole. You forget how much flavor tilapia can have when it is served bone-in. Avocado, rice and a stack of warm tortillas are served with the dish.
Antojitos also offers soups on occasion, and we tried the chicken and beef varieties. The soups are served in an intimidatingly large bowl, so bring your appetite. Both varieties consist of a rich stock filled with veggies – including a quartered ear of corn – and meat. It is a very traditional presentation and quite unique for Wichita. Our only qualm with the soups was that the beef was served bone-in and some of the chunks could have been trimmed of connective tissue/fat better.
Our server on both occasions was friendly and happy to walk us through the menu.