Food Blog: Kelli Goel

Pupusas Express co-owner Cesar Argueta Invites You to Explore the Culture of El Salvador Through Food and Drinks

Cesar Argueta at his coffee station inside Pupusas Express (Photo: Kelli Goel)

Alexandria, VA – Discover specialty coffee, select Latin wines, Latin-inspired signature cocktails, and, of course, mouthwatering pupusas at Pupusas Express, a traditional pupuseria tucked away in the shopping center off 7770 Richmond Highway in Alexandria, Virginia.

Pupuseria is a Spanish word for a place that sells pupusas, the national food of El Salvador, and this El Salvadorian restaurant focuses on handcrafting these thick corn tortillas stuffed with cheese. In addition to cheese, pupusas may include a variety of ingredients such as beans, pork, or chicken and are accompanied by a pickled cabbage curtido and salsa.

According to Cesar Argueta, everywhere you go in El Salvador, you will see a lady making pupusas. He explains that it’s a cultural street food and a powerful and vital economic driver in his native country.

Both Cesar and his sister Julia Martinez (co-owner of the restaurant) were born in El Salvador, but they didn’t grow up with their parents, who emigrated to the United States because of the civil war. Cesar was just six months old when his father left and 20 months old when his mother moved to the United States. They spent their formative years with their grandmother and other family members. “Not growing up with your parents is difficult,” laments Cesar “and it was quite the shock when I moved to Virginia at age 13” (after his parents were granted permanent residency status).

Cesar’s dad and Cesar at their coffee farm in El Salvador (Photo: Pupusas Express)

Cesar misses El Salvador and returns often. “It’s home,” he says, “but I love the US and consider it my other home and am grateful to be here.”

After Giovani Flores opened the first Pupusas Express in Herndon in 2015 and then another location in Manassas in 2017, he approached Cesar’s sister, Julia, about becoming a managing partner of a new Pupusas Express in Alexandria. Excited about the opportunity, Julia, Cesar, and their brother, Pedro, opened the Alexandria location in 2019. Flores later opened an Annandale restaurant in 2020, making it the fourth location in Northern Virginia.

“The word ‘Express,’ in our case, does not imply that the food will come out fast,” Cesar explains. “The name was derived from ‘Urgente Express,’ a shipping carrier company that connected the El Salvador immigrant population with their families back home by transporting goods.”

The term “Express” in Pupusas Express refers to the local in-house delivery service. When the idea of Pupusas Express was conceived, big delivery companies like Uber Eats and Door Dash weren’t popular like today. Flores wanted to bring pupusas to all local homes, so he founded Pupusas Express as a Latin food delivery business. Pupusas Express now has evolved into a full Latin food and beverage establishment.

Cesar admits he was closeminded in the past and thought you shouldn’t mess with the traditional flavors of pupusas fillers (cheese, beans, pork, and loroco-a vine with edible flower buds native to Central America). Now, he is quite the opposite and open to trying out new and exotic ingredients that the market is demanding, both in the US and El Salvador.

: Pupusa! And a side of curtido and salsa! (Photo: Pupusas Express)

“Customers’ taste is driving the pupusas to evolve by incorporating non-traditional ingredients in fillings,” he says. “For example, we serve Birria Pupusas, and this represents a true Mexican and El Salvadorian cultural food fusion.”

Cesar recently added a unique coffee experience that is a distinctive part of his establishment. He serves Café de Palo which is a specialty coffee from Central America.

Currently, Pupusas Express offers coffee from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Their product lines, Ternura and Aurora, are Cesar’s grandma’s and dad’s specialties and are incredibly special to him. Ternura (“tenderness”) is the coffee produced by his dad on his land. Aurora is a coffee produced in the lands where his dad used to work as a kid, rising before dawn (Aurora) to work. The name evokes the arduous labor that goes into producing this coffee from dawn until sunset, and Cesar serves this coffee in honor of him.

He says it also honors the region’s people who struggle for basic human rights such as health and education. The product symbolizes gratitude toward those who cultivate the coffee process from the plant until the cup we drink. Cesar’s wish for you is to come to Pupusas Express with an empty stomach and an open mind and just enjoy.

Cesar preparing pupusas at Pupusas Express (Photo: Kelli Goel)

Pupusas Express serves a wide range of Latin foods, including Tex Mex, and is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with delivery, take-out, and dine-in options indoors or outside. Located at 7770 Richmond Highway, they are open Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Sundays from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. For more information, go to

ICYMI: Blossoming Restaurant News in Alexandria

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button