Gloriously Cheesy Plantain Pupusas from Red Hook Ball Fields' El Olomega

Street Food

The best food from the street.


[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

I never visit the Red Hook Ball Fields without stopping at El Olomega, the silver truck with the blue banner menu specializing in all manner of pupusas—Salvadoran griddle cakes stuffed with everything from pork or beans to chilies and cheese. The line is conspicuously longer than the nearby Solber Pupusas, and it moves slower, because the regulars know that these are some of the finest pupusas in town. Not that Solber's bad, mind you—they're awesome—but El Olomega's reach that extra height of griddle-toasted crispness on their edges with a custard-like creaminess inside. Street food doesn't get better than this.

At least I thought it didn't, until a friend on a recent outing came back to our picnic table with about 10 steaming-hot pupusas, and one that didn't look like the others, which he ordered out of curiosity. It's what you see above: a sweet plantain pupusa stuffed with stretchy, salty cheese, for about the same price as the corn-based cakes—and it's magical.

The thick cake gets a serious char on the crust, but its thick, creamy innards (about double the thickness of a standard pupusa, with more filling) are like the softest, sweetest mashed sweet potatoes you've ever had. The cakes fall apart easily for lack of any structural cohesion—no filler, just sweet plantain glory. The quality of these plantains should come as no surprise to anyone who's ordered a side of their super-caramelized maduros with crema, but the pupusas' heft and fillings make them worth an order of their own.

Inside you'll find a small lake of stretchy, salty, chewy white cheese that perfectly offsets the plantains' sweetness. Add touches of funky, oregano-spiked cabbage curtido, silky crema, and mild tomato sauce, and you find yourself with a pancake of surprising nuance. They aren't a replacement for the truck's first-rate chili, cheese, and pork corn pupusas, but since there's no such thing as too many pupusas at the Ball Fields, make room for both.

A note about the Red Hook Ball Fields: As mentioned in the article above, the term on the vendors' six-year permit for their space expires this summer. This permit is expensive, as it runs year-round, even though the vendors are only there during the summer and early fall. Due to dwindling crowds, the vendors are questioning whether they should go through the trouble of renewing their permit. So what can we do to keep their business going? Visit early and often, and eat our weight in pupusas.