Houston has its fair share of Salvadoran restaurants. A bunch hover just outside the Loop around Bellaire, a couple more are up by Crosstimbers, and there’s a sprinkling of them northwest of 610. If you’re seeking a great pupusa, you can find one in 25 minutes.
So is there room for another place? Melita’s Restaurant and Bar, a stalwart for more than 10 years in Spring Branch, recently opened a second location off 290 at 34th Street. The menu is similar to its sister; most of the fare here is Salvadoran with smaller Honduran, Mexican, and Nicaraguan influences. It’s within three miles of four other Salvadoran restaurants (including one of the three pupusa buffets in the city), so it has its work cut out for it.
But, look, if we can get more people to eat pupusas and chicharron, then all these places can thrive.
Now, you may know the Salvadoran pupusa, but if you don’t, it’s a circular, enclosed soft tortilla stuffed typically stuffed with cheese, or meat, or beans, or all of those things (or even other things!). Pupusas are regularly served with pickled cabbage and vinegar-heavy salsa roja. They offset the heat and savory flavors perfectly.
The pupusas I tried at Melita’s were good—because it’s hard for them to not be good—but lacked nuance. They were only lightly browned, and my queso and chicharron pupusa was spewing hot cheese before I could take a fork to it. More challenging to eat was the jalapeño pupusa, which was loaded with peppers and forced me to shovel down globs of the cabbage.
But where Melita’s can thrive is with its plated fare, from shrimp dishes to Honduran tacos. I opted for an early favorite for diners, the fried yuca with chicharron. The thick-cut cassava is lightly fried, keeping its sweet flesh intact, while the chicharron was salty and fatty, though slightly tough. A refreshing cabbage salad came with the dish. I can see myself snacking on this again.
That’s the key. Will others come by and do the same? During my visit I was alone in the dining room, while some Yelpers have written about similar situations. There’s competition in the market, so something may give, but it’s nice to see Melita’s give a second location a go.