The late El Salvador-born Sofia Mancia, called Dona Sofia by everyone, thought there was always room for one more. A stream of people stopped by the family’s home every Sunday to pick up orders of freshly made pupusas. Many stayed for supper. When her daughter wondered if there would be enough food to go around, her mother assured her there would be, and there always was.
Dona Sofia’s hospitality lives on at her family’s Framingham eatery, now run by her daughter, Mirna Polanco, and son-in-law, Manuel Rivas. They’re serving up some of the best Salvadoran comfort food around.
The name Pupusas y Tacos Dona Sofia is a mouthful for non-Spanish speakers, but tells you much of what you need to know. Pupusas, Salvadoran masa cakes, griddled crisp and stuffed with meat or cheese, are on offer, as are Mexican-style tacos, burritos, and quesadillas. But Salvadoran cuisine is the heart of the menu. Dona Sofia, who was 83 when she passed away last year, wouldn’t have it any other way.
Polanco and Rivas are cooking her recipes and entertaining in her spirit.
Come hungry. Pescado frito ($11.99) is a platter that features a whole fried tilapia. Squeamish customers may be surprised to see an intact fish on the plate — head, fins, and all — but there’s nothing to worry about except a few bones. The fish emerges from its fat bath with a golden, crispy exterior, and arrives piping hot with yellow rice, pureed black beans, and a salad of iceberg lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and a slice of skin-on avocado. Wedges of lime stand in for dressing. Carne asada ($12.99), grilled flank steak marinated in beer and Worcestershire sauce, is garnished with onion, tomato, and cilantro. This winning dish is sure to please all devoted carnivores.
Pupusas are hand-formed and griddled to order. These substantial cornflour cakes, like chubby tortillas, are stuffed with cheese or finely ground, seasoned pork or a combination of the two. Each is served with a side of mild tomato sauce and curtido, a slaw of green cabbage, carrot, and a shake of dried oregano. We like the version with melted mozzarella and loroco ($2.25), tangy green buds of a flowering vine native to Central America, often likened to capers. On a Saturday, you can order the pupusa with sopa de res ($9.99), a hearty, satisfying beef soup with a tender short rib, chunks of yucca, zucchini, and a round of corn on the cob.
Tacos lenguas or beef tongue tacos ($2.25 each) are a straightforward rendition of the popular dish. Dainty soft corn tortillas (two per taco) are topped with tender chopped meat, tomato, onion, and cilantro. Don’t miss the housemade salsa. This brick-red hot sauce is made with toasted dried chile de arbol, tomatillo, and jalapeno pepper, a smoky, delicious blend that packs tantalizing heat.
If Rivas comes to your table to take your order, conversation is easy and ordering is a snap. It’s a little more challenging with other servers who speak mostly Spanish. But with a little pantomime, you can get your point across. Not everything on the menu is always available. There are no tamales on the days we visit, and sopa de mondongo, a tripe and vegetable soup, we learn, is only served on Sundays.
Some in the neighborhood may recall this eatery from its former location a few blocks away on Waverly Street. The current space is larger and has a dance floor that’s put to good use after 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Squeeze in and join the fun. As Dona Sofia would say, there’s always room for one more.Ellen Bhang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.