Curtido and pupusas on a light blue plate next to two sauces
Curtido and pupusas from Las Delicias Credit: Philip Montoro

I’m not trying to start a fight. I can name a dozen addictively delicious ways to eat green cabbage—in fact, I have a jar of homemade Sichuan-style brine-fermented cabbage in the fridge right now, which I love with my chili oil. I had to say “best” because this is Best of Chicago, but it’d be better to say I’ve been craving this combination in an unhinged way—and if you haven’t tried it yet, you’re gonna want to get right on that.

I usually get curtido and pupusas at Pupuseria & Restaurant “El Cuscatleco” (3125 W. Lawrence) or Las Delicias (4010 W. Montrose). Most curtido recipes build on a foundation of shredded cabbage and carrot with onion, scallion, hot pepper, or all three; it’s a quick-pickled slaw dressed with vinegar, salt, a bit of sugar, and a magical sprinkling of dried Mexican oregano. El Salvador claims it, but you can find it at all sorts of Latin American restaurants.

As a fiend for all things pickled, I’ll eat curtido by itself, but with pupusas it really shines. Curtido’s snappy texture and herbaceous, almost fruity zing perfectly complement the fatty richness of pupusas—nutty masa, gooey cheese, spicy stewed chicharrones, earthy chipilín leaves or loroco buds. The crisp, caramelized coins of cheese that’ve oozed onto the grill are each a little bite of heaven with a forkful of slaw. Do you ever feel sad when you get full, because it means you have to stop eating? This is that kind of meal.

Best of Chicago 2022 is presented by


Philip Montoro

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. Philip has played scrap metal in Lozenge, drummed with the Disasters, the Afflictions, and Brilliant Pebbles, and sung for the White Outs. He wrote the column Beer and Metal from 2012 till 2015, and hopes to do so again one day. You can also follow him on Twitter.