pancakes yet are made with tortilla and stuffed with various meats, cheeses and beans.
“Everybody knows pupusas in El Salvador,” Murcia said. “It’s the national dish.”
In November, Mickey and Jim’s daughter, Micole Hoger, suggested they’d like to see American Heroes turn into “Claudia’s Pupusa Palace,” and the idea stuck.
American Heroes usually closes every year between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, and this year the Bassetts decided to use that time to convert their restaurant from a sandwich place to a full-service Salvadoran eatery.
The walls of the restaurant were already blue and white, the colors of the Salvadoran flag, so other than putting together a new menu, the restaurant needed to be redecorated to fit the theme. The walls and tables were also decorated with Salvadoran art, and Salvadoran table cloths were added.
Instead of Claudia’s Pupusa Palace, they decided on El Rio.
Growing up in a small town in El Salvador, Murcia said she cooked meals for her 12 siblings over a small fire and stone. Whenever Murcia needed to get fish for dinner or water she would go down by the river, and most of her stories from her childhood included a trip down to the river, which is “el rio” in Spanish. Considering El Rio’s location close to the Missouri River, Mickey decided this name would be a perfect fit.
“Ironically, we are down by the river so it all came together,” Mickey said.
Salvadoran food places an emphasis on fresh ingredients and uses a variety of salsas. Some of the other items on the menu besides pupusas include tacos, enchiladas, drinks like horchata, as well as specialties with fish, beef, pork and chicken. El Rio includes both spicy and milder dishes.
“It’s nothing like anything you’ve tasted before because they have their own region, their own cooking, their own cuisine” Mickey said.
Mickey is confident that once customers try El Rio, they’ll be back for more.
“Once they try it, I believe absolutely it will become a destination for them,” Mickey said.
The Bassetts still operate an American Heroes location at 1103 Galvin Road S., across the street from Bellevue University, which opened in October.