Browsing post cards while eating represents an inexpensive way to experience the world, second only to stowing away inside a space-shuttle exhibit, sneaking peeks through the planetarium's telescope. Experience the sights and flavors of far-away lands with today's Groupon: for $10, you get $20 worth of Salvadoran cuisine at Platano in Berkeley.
Platano elevates the traditional Salvadoran pupuseria with a menu that includes full entrees as well as an assortment of Central American beers. An array of pupusas ($2.50 each) stuffs its thick corn-masa tortillas with a bountiful harvest of ingredient combos, including pork and cheese and cheese and loroco—the official vegetable of Salvadoran librarians. Dinner bells herald the arrival of such entrees as the pan-fried shredded beef of the carne desilada ($12), whose succulent kaleidoscope of eggs, tomato, onion, and bell peppers adorns plates properly. The chefs also output a combination of stewed potatoes, carrots, and green beans in the papa guisada ($11), which swarms vegan-inclined taste buds with a concoction of Salvadoran spices. All dinner plates arrive with two handmade corn tortillas as well as a customer-dictated helping of rice and bean preparations.
Platano's interior space mirrors the artful presentation that rests upon its plates. The owners bedeck the earth-toned walls with an exhibition of handpicked folk art imported directly from El Salvador, inspiring revelatory toasts with glasses of house wine or sangria ($5) or a beer from a list that includes several Central American offerings ($3–$8).