Being a food lover means that you're willing to try new things and new experiences. Of course, not all of these new things and new experiences can be high caliber, top tier, star chef. You have to try that weird restaurant that has it's Christmas decorations tucked in a corner and a television blasting a foreign soap opera that you wish you understood. Welcome to La Cabana - a Salvadorian restaurant on Merivale Road near Carling.
When Dima and I arrived our host gestured that we could take any table we wanted. Once seated we were given menus and then approached by a waitress who presumably wanted to take our order but we couldn't understand her Spanish and she couldn't understand our English. We were then passed on to an older man who spoke a little English and helped us through the menu. Our first hard decision was deciding on what to drink. They had several juices and pops on their menu and when asked if he could suggest anything to us he mumbled a few words and said that he'd get us a sample. He brought back two small glasses of a creamy brown liquid, it tasted nutty and sweet - we later found out it was horchata, a drink made from rice milk, almonds and spices. Dima quickly ordered a tall glass while I stuck with a bottle of Carona.
After the drink debacle was over we started to create our meal strategy. We wanted to ensure we tried a wide variety of things but we also wanted to focus on what La Cabana was known for and that is their pupusas. A pupusa is a thick tortilla that is filled with cheese, meat, or both. It is usually served with a loose salsa and a curtido (fermented cabbage cole slaw). To start I ordered the sample plate (shown above) that had a pupusa, tamale, slice of feta like cheese, refried beans and fried plantain. As you can see the food isn't pretty, with the fried plantain and refried beans well.. it doesn't quite looks so appetizing. But trust me, the refried beans were delicious and nothing like what you would get at Mexicali Rosas or any other American Mexican restaurant. The plantain was sweet and I savored every forkful. The pupusa was delicious and I enjoyed piling it up with curtido and salsa and then trying to figure out the proper way to eat it. On top of my sample plate we also ordered four additional pupusas that were stuffed with cheese and pork - so delicious!
On top of the pupusas and the tamales Dima ordered a steak dish. The dish came with fresh salsa, yellow rice and a seasoned steak. I don't recommend you stray from the house specialties section of the menu - the pupusas, tamales, refried beans, soups - all excellent but there is nothing special about this dish. The steak is of poor quality and the only redeeming feature is the rice and salsa. Of course, if you're looking for a cheap steak dinner, this is it.
Once you've had your fill of pupusas and you're ready to leave make sure you stop and take a look at the adjoining store there are a few interesting things there. Whether it's the always delicious Jarrito soft drink, candy or interesting spices it's fun to explore. It's also fun to check out the bakery racks around the main entrance of La Cabana. You can find interesting things from bags of dried fish to delicious Semita (kind of like a coffee cake filled with preserves) to Tres Leches cake (cake soaked in 3 kinds of milk). Most of the baked goods and presumably the dried fish are brought in from other bakeries in Montreal but they are very fresh.
If you are looking for a new experience and willing to experiment with how you eat your pupusa, go to La Cabana, order a tall glass of horchata and 3-4 plates of pupusas and start piling on the curtido!