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On a block stacked with cell phone shops, law offices, dollar stores, and apartment buildings, Bahia’s unassuming, East Williamsburg storefront is easy to miss if you’re not looking closely -- and in a neighborhood full of culinary destinations, why would you be looking for a cheap Salvadoran dinner? One reason: pupusas -- and Bahia is home to some of the best in New York.
For the uninitiated, the pupusa is a traditional Salvadoran dish that can be likened to a gordita or an arepa, depending on your region of culinary familiarity. They’re fully enclosed, stuffed, stone-ground masa tortillas that are griddled and served (preferably) with multiple pupusas piled on the plate. Two of Bahia’s are likely to fill you up, but that doesn’t mean you won’t want four, and at $2.50 a pop, there’s no reason not to order more. There are 10 varieties on offer here (you can try them all for just $25!), among them: cheese, refried beans with cheese, loroco (wild exotic flower) with cheese, and pork or chicken with cheese. But then there’s the revueltas -- the most filling, mother of all pupusas, with pork, refried beans, and of course, cheese.
Bahia serves pupusas with their traditional fermented counterpart, curdito -- which can be likened to kimchi or sauerkraut -- and tomato sauce. (Ask for a side of homemade sour cream.) The vinegary, crunchy cabbage slaw cuts through the melted, rich filling and adds texture, while the tomato sauce adds a second, necessary hit of acidic tang. Antithetical to most of its Williamsburg culinary counterparts, Bahia doesn’t have a wait, and your bank account won’t take a beating -- but most importantly, there’s no pretentious, mustached man to crucify you for drinking a bottle of cheap (Suprema) beer.
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The gentrified climate around Williamsburg's Grand Street L stop is palpable, but you'd never know it just a couple of blocks away at the homey Salvadorian restaurant Bahia. You're here for the pupusas, the street food synonymous with El Salvador. A corn-flour tortilla stuffed with any combination of cheese, beans, and meat, a traditional pupusa is griddled and has a crunchy, grainy exterior with a warm and melted interior. Order three and top them with the provided tomato sauce and vinegary slaw for the perfect combination of flavor and texture. While you could easily make a meal out of these cheesy discs, Bahia's speciality platters featuring beef and tilapia are also worth exploring.