Several years ago, shortly after moving to Colorado Springs from New York, I was grabbing a bag of vegan pupusas from the frozen section at Mountain Mama Natural Foods. As I was checking out, a woman stopped me and asked, “Are you JL? I follow you on social media.” I realized she was Monse Hines, maker of the pupusas I was about to buy. Hines since has evolved from selling at local markets and supplying local grocers to opening her own restaurant. I’m here to tell you that Monse’s Taste of El Salvador in Old Colorado City is not to be missed.
Tucked away at 25th and Cucharras streets, you’ll find a light and lively dining spot. With a roll-up wall, there’s airy seating inside or out. The spacious patio is surrounded by large wood fencing that makes the parking lot and side street disappear. Walk up to the counter to order, get a number, grab a bottle of water and glasses for your table, and have a seat. Or, because there are so many vegan choices, have a seat with the menu and take some time to choose from the wide variety of plant-based fare.
The word “vegan” can be found throughout the menu, from starters to entrees to the pupusas, as well as the sides. We kicked things off with the vegan empanadas ($4.99). Bright and lightly fried, the vegan corn “dumplings” — three, and they are big — are stuffed with fluffy potatoes and served with a fresh salsa, light on the hot spices (in a good way). Eat all three and you’ve got yourself a meal.
Though enchiladas starred in the August vegan dining review, I could not resist the El Salvadoran take. In this case, enchiladas salvadorenas ($8.50) are actually more like tostadas. Crispy, house-made corn tortillas serve as the base for yet more potatoes, but this time served with crispy vegetables and a fiery green sauce (a little goes a very long way). With two to a serving, share with a friend, if you must, so you can continue ordering all the vegan things.
Because you simply cannot pass up one (or two or three) of the four vegan pupusas. We’re dining at a pupuseria, after all. A pupusa is a very thick corn tortilla traditionally stuffed with vegetables and meat and served with pickled cabbage. Monse’s vegan options star beans and vegetables, and they are incredibly satisfying. The pupusa plate (one, $6.50; two, $8; three, $12) is the way to go, as you’ll get the house specialty — hand-made with fresh ingredients and no doubt a side of love — served with seasoned rice and beans and a mild and flavorful red sauce. The potato and carrot pupusa (yep, more potatoes) is creamy and rich. The pinto bean and green chile is my pupusa of choice each and every time. Protein-packed and filling, that plate is the real deal for a hearty, balanced, plant-sourced meal. To quench your thirst, opt for soda ($1) or sparkling water ($1).
Great care is given to the house-made organic corn tortillas and fresh ingredients at Monse’s Taste of El Salvador. It shows. From starters to entrees, each plate pleases the eye, and each bite satisfies the palate.
When you have trouble deciding from among the many vegan options, simply add a pupusa to any order ($4.50), and you can have it all.