Courtesy Monse’s Taste of El Salvador
Monse Hines has never owned a restaurant before, but she’s established her new pupuseria, Monse’s Taste of El Salvador
, on well-tested recipes. Since she and husband Tim moved to Colorado from El Salvador in 2011, she’s been producing pupusas as a wholesaler. Locals may know her frozen pupusas from Natural Grocers and certain Safeway stores in northern Colorado, as well as Whole Foods, where a UPC code change has temporarily caused her products to be pulled from shelves.
At first, Hines says she planned to use the space to increase her production. But the city’s lack of a brick-and-mortar pupuseria (all respect to food truck Sosa's Pupusas
) weighed on her, and she decided to use the former Venue32 as a restaurant. And based on her soft opening on January 12 and 13, the customer base is there.
“We had 20 to 30 people out waiting — some people were waiting two hours to get inside,” she says.
For those unfamiliar, pupusas are a Salvadoran specialty, essentially an extra-thick corn tortilla stuffed with meat, cheese and vegetables. Hines has been making them since she was very young, learning from her mother “the rustic way.” Hers are all gluten-free (corn flour is good for that), stuffed with organic ingredients, including specialty peppers grown in Pueblo. For the soft opening, she offered three vegetarian options with cheese and three cheeseless vegan options.
“We learned a lot with the soft opening, so we’re going to add more flavors,” she says. She plans to offer a full menu of Salvadoran cuisine, featuring dishes like curtido, a Salvadoran pickled cabbage salad. The grand opening for Taste of El Salvador will be on Wednesday, Jan. 31.