El Salvador Cafe
text MICHELLE CASTILLO
Just off North Sunrise Way in Palm Springs, California, you will find a tucked away mom & pop diner of a gem serving up the best authentic Salvadoran food our desert offers. The eatery is locally owned and operated by two generations of the Ayala family. What started as a catering business has turned into a restaurant that cultivates Salvadoran culture, community, and a passion for sharing their love of cooking with others. Currently, there are only three Salvadoran restaurants in the Coachella Valley, and El Salvador Cafe was the first one to emerge in 1990. 26 years later they are still going strong with the same concept of serving their customers traditional Salvadoran cuisine made only from scratch.
As I walked into the cafe, I was met with a myriad of delicious smells from freshly cooked pupusas, platanos fritos (fried plantains), to the subtle scent of quesadilla Salvadoreña (pound-cake-like sweet bread). The ambiance inside reminded me of a grandmother’s kitchen, cozy, quaint and familiar. The tabletops are covered in postcards and photographs of their hometown San Pedro Perulapán. Two generations of owners Brenda, “Lizzy” and their mother Betty sat with me while their dad Hector “Tito” took care of the kitchen and bustling customers.
An hour or so quickly passed by while the ladies shared their stories about the political, social, colorful and beautiful landscape of their hometown. In between their laughter and smiles; I started to see how this place was not only a restaurant but an experience crafted by family, warmth, and pride in their cultural roots. While listening to the stories of the sisters growing up inside of the restaurant it reminded me of my close-knit family. Something incredible starts to unfold when you bring food and people together, I felt a similar sentiment while sitting and conversing with the Ayala family. Not only did they share a slice of their culture with me but after spending time with them, I felt like a long lost family member. “It’s a family run place that considers cooking a way to make everyone feel like at home. We have snowbirds and regulars who have been coming here for years; it has been a joy to see their families grow,” said current owner Brenda Ayala.
In the future, El Salvador is making plans to create an extension for an outdoor patio. If you haven’t been to El Salvador Cafe yet, you are in for a pleasant surprise. Tell em’ Michelle sent you!
Must Try Items: (Vegetarian & Vegan friendly) *Pupusas (V) *Plato de Antojitos *Pastelitos de Carne *Platanos con Crema y Frijoles (V)
where: 1759 N Sunrise Way, Palm Springs, CA