Nestled on the corner of Eagle Rock and York Boulevard, between the AM/PM and CVS, sits Jorge Berciano’s Drive-Thru Pupusas. Since November 2017, the small red-and-green stand has offered a staple of Salvadorian street food to those looking for a light snack or an entire meal. From 6 p.m. to 12 a.m., Tuesday through Sunday, the Berciano family serves up fresh maize tortillas stuffed with cheese, meats and veggies — all with vegetarian and vegan alternatives.
Having lived in Highland Park since 1977, the Berciano family has made a striking impact on their neighbors through ceaseless compassion and a strong belief in what Berciano calls “paying it forward,” according to him. After his previous position as a general contractor — where he worked for 24 years — he said he has committed his energy towards assisting others rather than fulfilling selfish motives. According to Berciano, by providing free meals to the hungry — such as homeless people who walk by his stand — he incorporates a refreshing humanitarianism into his business model at the pupusa stand.
“Every single person deserves good food—healthy food. I offer the best because this [community] is my family,” Berciano said.
Although Berciano already owns two other companies specializing in washing cars and construction, the pupusa stand is meant to be a dedicated escape from the stressful trappings of business, according to Berciano. Berciano hopes that with Drive-Thru Pupusas’s prominent focus on family, the Berciano’s may connect the individuals within the communities they serve. According to customer Kevin Mena, the radiant personality of Berciano brings life into the small business and instills a feeling of genuine kinship within every customer.
“It’s like I’m coming over for a home-cooked meal. Like my friend is cooking for me,” Mena said.
Although Highland Park and Eagle Rock residents are integral to the Drive-Thru Pupusas family, according to Berciano, the roadside stand also attracts those visiting the area through its commitment to a creating a welcoming environment.
“He [Berciano] came over and was super hospitable,” Steve Udenberg, a vacationer from Two Lakes, Minnesota, said.
Udenberg’s partner, Sarah Lind, agreed.
“Being from out of town, it’s like, of course we’re going to try your food; you actually engaged in a conversation with us,” Lind said.
While Berciano embraces every customer with open arms, he holds a special place in his heart for the students of Occidental College. Previously employed at two different construction companies, Berciano said (with a chuckle) that he has been personally involved in renovations and maintenance of Occidental buildings, such as the library and multiple dorms.
“I know every single corner of Occidental College,” Berciano said. “You have a beautiful library.”
Despite York Boulevard’s historically competitive street food scene, Berciano said this his family is confident that their Salvadorian specialty can attract customers growing tired of the Mexican food typically offered by other food trucks. Although Berciano maintains a friendly relationship with these other vendors, his intention of bringing a new cuisine to LA has allowed him to avoid competition and focus on refining his craft, according to Berciano.
“I love burritos, I love tacos — but I’m trying to make something different. You don’t see pupusas on the street. Right now, I’m trying to serve [the masses] and connect people,” Berciano said.
With a personal ambition to inspire his daughters and grandchildren through his self-reliant spirit, Berciano said he has demonstrated the rewards of minority families investing in themselves.
“I’m motivated to send my grandkids to college. Usually for Spanish people, we have trouble sending our kids to college. I’m trying to break the chains,” Berciano said.
Envisioning the future of Drive-Thru Pupusas, the Berciano family has aspirations of expanding their business style beyond Highland Park and Eagle Rock. Berciano said that they hope to grow the operation from a single stand to a fleet of food trucks and “pay it forward” all over Los Angeles.