Talk to Salvadorans about their national dish, the pupusa, and they are likely to tell you the griddled corn cakes are much easier to buy from a street vendor than to make at home. Traditionally stuffed with ingredients such as cheese, chicharron and beans, pupusas are time-consuming and tricky.
“In all honesty, it took us a while to really do it,” said Jeannette Katz, who grew up in the small El Salvador town of Santiago Texacuangos, but never truly mastered the art of shaping and cooking the iconic food. She did, however, inherit the family tendency to practice entrepreneurship, a trait that serves her well as a restaurateur who’s had to adapt her business to suit the times.
Jeannette, 53, and her husband, Ken Katz, 52, are the owners of La Bodega Market & Pupuseria, a southwest Atlanta walk-up located in the MET Atlanta development, that serves traditional pupusas, as well as new-fangled versions stuffed with Buffalo chicken; barbecue chicken; and pesto, mozzarella and roast chicken — as well as a menu of sandwiches, pastries, breakfast dishes and coffee drinks.
Their willingness to try new things scored them big points with customers at Buenos Dias, where they tweaked the menu to accommodate vegan and vegetarian eaters. One popular item was the Everything Blend, a 100 percent natural juice drink made from 12 different fruits and vegetables — “no ice, no sugar, no water.”
As for pupusas, Ken said they are the perfect hand-held fare, which makes them ideal for a walk-up spot. He’s given up trying to make them, though. “I‘ve been trying for 10 years, and I cannot figure it out,” the Bronx native said. He likens the craft to shaping meatballs or matzo balls. “It’s a distinctive hand movement that you know how to do from repetition. If you do it 10,000 times, you’ll have the muscle memory to do it.”
By Wendell Brock / For the AJC; Photo by Wendell BrockGo Back