Tucked away from the bedlam of Mission Street on the less-traveled corner of 18th and Capp streets, Balompié Café is a local favorite for authentic Salvadoran fare.
Since Balompié opened its doors in October 1987, it has promised its customers two things: good food and soccer.
Twenty-four years later it continues to offer just that — nothing more, nothing less.
The cafe is as bare bones as it gets, but what it lacks in décor it makes up for in fine cuisine.
In lieu of white linen tablecloths, pupusas grilled to perfection; instead of elegant candelabras, flaky golden yucca flawlessly fried.
Balompié, which means soccer in Spanish, garners a cult-like following among local “futbol” fanatics.
Team banners adorn the otherwise bare walls, and true to its namesake, soccer games play endlessly on two large plasma TVs. The boisterous men that gather to watch games there have become as much a part of the restaurant as the kitchenware and cutlery.
True to its reputation for authenticity, Balompié gets the basics right. The restaurant is renowned for its plump and savory pupusas, El Salvador’s take on a tortilla.
A traditional pupusa consists of a flattened ball of corn flour dough stuffed with cheese, meat, vegetables or beans, and grilled, and Balompié has the recipe down pat.
If Balompié’s pupusa is the star of the show, the yucca is the award-winning supporting actor.
Yucca, a starchy root vegetable common in Latin American cuisine, is fried until its flaky golden brown crust yields to a soft malleable center.
Served with meat, fish, or shrimp, Balompié’s yucca dishes are the perfect complement to brimming plates of garlic sautéed chicken or steak.
The coupling of delicious Salvadoran food and a lively atmosphere lends itself to the kind of meal that makes one eager to hand the waitress one’s money, but Balompié doesn’t ask for too much of that, either.
Entrees are priced at around $10 to $15, and a pair of pupusas cost around $5. For those on an even more limited budget, the menu features a wide variety of side orders costing less than $4.
The restaurant also has a limited bar, serving wine and beer, in addition to serving a full breakfast menu all day long.
In a time when restaurant gimmicks and outrageous dishes are all the rage, Balompié remains as the place to go for authentic Salvadoran cooking.
It tries to accomplish nothing more than produce the favored food it has been cooking for over two decades.
Balompié is the kind of place that doesn’t aim to please masses of food critics and restaurant connoisseurs, but through honest, delectable food, it manages to do just that.