Washington Post: The $20 Diner: La Familiar, a pupuseria that even a dorm rat could love
One sister works the front of the house, overseeing a dining room that caters to a rainbow coalition of Latinos and University of Maryland undergrads looking to venture beyond their industrial dorm-room diet. Three other sisters can often be found in the kitchen, preparing the traditional Salvadoran dishes that comprise the backbone of Pupuseria La Familiar in College Park.
It’s tempting to label Maritza Hernandez, Raquel Hernandez, Nelly Hernandez and Elsy Carolina Claros the four sisters of local Salvadoran cooking, a nod to the four siblings who put a friendly face on Vietnamese cuisine for so many years. But aside from the fact that both quartets are blood relatives who work (or once worked) in the restaurant industry, the comparison falls a little flat.
The original four sisters are the children of hard-working Vietnamese immigrants, who sometimes drafted their kids into the hospitality business against their will. The siblings behind La Familiar, by contrast, actively pursued a life in the sometimes-otherworldly restaurant industry, with its unforgiving demands. Their Maryland pupuseria was designed as an homage to their mother, Emilia Cruz Lopez, who once ran an eatery in Cojutepeque, El Salvador, where the daughters learned to make those iconic Salvadoran snacks by hand.
Their homage, alas, unexpectedly turned into a memorial when their mother died in a car accident in October 2006, just months before the sisters opened La Familiar, says Danny Claros, husband of Elsy and a manager at the restaurant.
As a memorial to a mother and her skills as a Salvadoran cook, La Familiar is an unconventional one. It’s a classic pupuseria, dedicated to the flavors of El Salvador, but one willing to expand its menu into what you might call drunk-food territory — burritos, quesadillas and taquitos. In that sense, La Familiar is a new hybrid for the metro area: Sal-Col, a Salvadoran eatery that helps feed hungry college students, often when they need it most.
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8145 Baltimore Ave,
College Park, MD 20740