Blue and white, the colors of the Salvadoran flag, and matter of great pride for its people, are represented well here in Sunset Park's Usuluteco. Even the bricks on the facade have been given a coat of fresh blue paint, under the blue and white throwback awning advertising restaurant and country.
Inside, the colors continue and mirrors enhance the size of this small-ish place. It is a working class restaurant through and through, the tablecloths are worn, and the tired faces glance up to the four televisions. During weekdays, the servers join the customers to watch telenovelas, while on weekends fútbol rules.
Salpicon ($10, below) is a salad with finely chopped steak, but really gets its oomph from the mixture of onions, chiles, pepper, and vinegar. Everyone has their own recipe, but you also find tomato, oregano, and avocado in their sometimes, often served with rice or as a topping for tostadas. El Salvador is the origin of the dish, but it has made it to its neighbors Honduras and Guatemala, as well as into Mexico.
Don't forget to squeeze a lime over everything.
For many, Salvadoran food is all about the pupusas ($2 each, below), which come in standard varieties here and get the job done, if not spectacular. The fermented cabbage relish (curtido) here is also standard, but should be applied liberally. I do notice the place has a decent amount of younger kids from the neighborhood come in for their cheap meals, as two of these could be enough to fill a smaller stomach.
The chicken inside of the tacos dorados ($6 for two, below) is a dream, moist and so well spiced. A little too much iceberg lettuce adorns the top, but the cheese, tomatoes, and crispy shell (dorado means hard) make an excellent mixture of flavors and textures.
For another good chicken dish, try the simply titled pollo en salsa ($10, below), a boat of more good cuts of the meat in a bath of savory sauce. You have your choice of side dishes, but any dish like this deserves white rice, and I also chose the excellently meaty side of beans, highly recommended.
The service here is a bit hit or miss. Notes from my first visit describe "nice staff" but my latest meal was served by a very uninterested young woman. At any rate, a trip or two to the back bar to interrupt one of those telenovelas is probably happening regardless of the demeanor of the server on a given day, and pace can be a bit slow. So come prepared with your patience and have a nice time. Throw a couple coins in the jukebox, which obviously has its volume stuck on maximum.