A Foodie's Guide to El Salvador

Updated: Oct 18, 2019

If you happen to be visiting El Salvador and love your food, you'll be very happy to discover some very good eats in this Central American country.

Being a Foodie in El Salvador

If you are foodie like my wife and I, then part of your goal in life is to try as many foods as you can around the world. When you visit El Salvador you'll explore many new dishes that you might not have had before like their national dish called pupusas.

You can eat street food, mom-and-pop restaurants, fast food or very nice restaurants.

We recently traveled through many parts of El Salvador, which included stops (Ataca, Apaneca, Juayua) along the Ruta de la Flores, the San Salvador volcano, the city of San Salvador and the El Tunco beach.

This blog post is a list of all the places we stopped by to eat or had a coffee. I highly recommend that you bookmark these places during your travel to El Salvador.

Food in San Salvador

San Salvador is the biggest city in El Salvador so you would expect it to have a ton of restaurants to check out. This is true, however, it's best that you take extra precaution by researching the dangerous areas. I won't go into detail, but you generally want to avoid the northern (Mejicanos) and eastern (Soyapango and Ilopango) parts of the city. You can find all sorts of food from street food vendors, to mom-and-pop restaurants, fast food chains and very fancy restaurants, San Salvador has it all.

Fresh coconut stands by the airport

As soon as you leave the Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport you'll immediately notice many coconut stands. If you love coconut juice and the meat, just stop by one of these stands and they'll be happy to cut up a coconut for you to drink. If you want them to cut out the meat, they'll also do that with a few quick chops and give it back to you in a plastic bag to snack on. If you forget to stop, you'll also encounter the same coconut vendors on the other side of the road as you drive towards the airport too.

Pupuseria Gabriela

Pupuseria Gabriela was the very first place we ate at. If you take a look at the location on Google Maps, you'll see that it's in the Mejicanos area, which I said to avoid. We went there around 5:00 PM before the sun set. You'll see many armed guards and military patrolling the area. If this doesn't scare you, then you'll enjoy some very good handmade pupusas. The prices are dirt cheap, 75 cents to $1.00 for pupusas. Make sure you eat the pupusas with curtido (cabbage salad), which sits in large plastic buckets on each table and salsa roja (red salsa). The pupusas are made from scratch as order and come hot off the skillet. The restaurant is also kept very clean.

KFC like many American fast food restaurants in El Salvador are a special treat. (Photo by Digital Nomad Foodie)

Fast food chains and restaurants in San Salvador

I mention fast food chains because you'll notice many McDonald's, Pizza Huts, Wendy's and KFC's all around San Salvador. These are considered go-to places to eat for most Salvadoreans if they can afford it. If you are staying by the La Gran Via, you'll find the Olive Garden and Bennigan's. I did enjoy some wings from KFC, spaghetti and meatballs from Olive Garden and some wine from Bennigan's. The prices are lower than you find back in America.

La Pampa El Volcan

La Pampa El Volcan is very nice place to grab some breakfast or brunch with great views overlooking San Salvador. After you eat you can continue the drive up to the San Salvador volcano. Make sure you order a mimosa (keep in mind that you'll be sharing an entire bottle of champagne or prosecco). My wife and I ordered the Tamale con Huevo, Canastas de Platano and additional sides of bacon and cottage cheese. The food is outstanding here and the vibes are very relaxing.

The prices compared to what you are used to paying for back in America are very low, think Denny's prices, but with 10 times better food. If the parking lot is full, use their valet service. I paid $5.00 which included a generous tip. Finally, don't forget to take photos of the property after you eat.

Eating along the Ruta de las Flores

The Ruta de las Flores is the route that connects San Salvador to the western parts of El Salvador. You'll find many small towns with plenty of places to eat local foods and fresh fruit and vegetable stands.

Los Portones de Ataco y Cafe La Estancia

The Cafe La Estancia in the town of Ataco also doubles as a backpacker's lodge in addition to a small two-level cafe. I recommend sitting upstairs so you can enjoy the sights and sounds of this cool little town. The iced expresso was delicious and once it comes out you can watch how the espresso moves while it mixes with the crushed ice.

El Jardin de Celeste

El Jardin de Celeste was probably one of my favorite places to eat some good BBQ in El Salvador. The smoke from the grill just entices you to come and sit down after you walk around the property enjoying the beautiful flowers and plants and listening to all the happy birds in the trees. Parking is easy because you'll get help from the security guards who are very helpful.

This combination meat plate at El Jardin de Celeste was very good. Order it! (Photo by Digital Nomad Foodie)

This is an outdoor seating restaurant so you expect to have plenty of daylight, but you'll be shaded from the sun. It's a very cool place to stop and eat at. They even have craft beer, so if you love beer stop here to eat. We ordered the mixto dish (which was a mixed dish of grilled shrimp, chicken, beef and pork). You'll get some Salvadorean tortillas, which are small and thick. Just slice each one in half to open the small pocket and then put some meat and salsa in it to enjoy. The food is top-notch here. Highly recommended.

Juayua Weekend Food Festival

The Juayua Food Festival happens during weekends in the town of Juayua along the Ruta de las Flores. It will start slowing down and closing around 5:00 PM so try to get there a little earlier to enjoy the full range of food choices. The only foods that we tried were the deep-fried star-shaped sweet potato and some fresh goose berries with salt.

Parking was very easy to find, just keep driving around the surrounding neighborhood and you'll find plenty of open spaces. We never felt afraid or worried in the are we parked. As we walked around the festival you'll hear people singing and dancing, rows and rows of food stalls, plenty of souvenir stands, the Santa Lucia Church and large Instagram-worthy "Juayua" sign to take photos of. Definitely, try to stop by the Juayua Food Festival if you can. It's worth checking out.

Order the lobster! (Photo by Digital Nomad Foodie)

Kayu Resort & Restaurant

The Kayu Restaurant overlooks El Tunco beach and the Pacific Ocean. It's across the highway, so be very careful if you decide to cross over to check out the beach after you eat your seafood meal. My wife and I ordered a lobster and some large shrimp, which were all finger licking good. The flavor of the seafood tasted like it was freshly caught and the presentation was also very nice. It's just something about eating fresh seafood at the beach that makes the meal even better. You can ask for the WiFi password so you can share your food porn on your favorite social media app like Instagram (Follow @digitalnomadfoodie).


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About Digital Nomad Foodie

Digital Nomad Foodie is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area.  He was a paratrooper in the U.S. Army and has lived all over the world.  In addition to blogging, he is also a digital nomad working in healthcare.  He writes about his experiences and recommendations in various locations around the world.  His photos and reviews have helped over 75 million people learn about local & exotic destinations plus delicious food and can be seen on InstagramGoogle Maps and Yelp.


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