Irene's Pupusas III gives a diner the immediate impression he's in the right place.
Late on a Sunday afternoon, its tables and booths are filled with young families and solo men, everyone looking happy to be there. Spanish is the language of choice, Latin music lends a festive note, and pupusas appear on seemingly every table. With good reason: The crisp, saucer-shaped rounds of corn flour (or rice flour) are delicious. The pockets filled with shredded zucchini and cheese are good; the ones stuffed with refried beans and cheese are even better. But the pupusas I find myself reordering most often are the snacks rich with pork that's been ground and fried with onions, tomatoes and peppers. They cost a mere $1.25, and they come with a little salad of pickled cabbage plus jalapeno and tomatillo sauces. Two or three of the pupusas make a nice meal, and even if you were to throw in a beer, you'd still get change back from a ten-spot.
P.S. There really is an Irene (Cuevas), and her name graces three other family-owned restaurants in the Maryland suburbs.
--Tom Sietsema (April 15, 2007)