Quick Take:

Dos Hermanos Pupuseria serves simple food that works — four types of pupusas served alongside curtido slaw and a fiery salsa that leaves you wanting more.

Farmers Market Fridays

Through the mesh walls of its farmers market stand in downtown Santa Cruz, almost everything you need to know about Dos Hermanos Pupuseria is on display.

Giselle Deras, the wife of one of the owners, shapes discs of corn masa with olive oil-dipped hands and places a small handful of filling into the center before sealing it with a rotational flourish, slapping it flat and landing it on a sizzling flat top. The process is reminiscent of a blacksmith hammering hot steel: from wet ingredients, something delicious is borne from the ether.

“The way we make them, it’s homemade,” says Ever Deras, who owns Dos Hermanos Pupuseria with his brother, Nelson. “It’s the way we made them when I was growing up in El Salvador.”

If you don’t know what pupusas are, you’re missing out. They’re traditional Salvadoran corn pancakes filled with cheese and meat or vegetables. The Deras family serves four varieties from their stand and food truck: one filled with pork, beans and cheese; one with chicken and cheese; one with zucchini, spinach and cheese; and one just with beans and cheese. On the side of every plate: a small serving of curtido (a tangy cabbage slaw) and a fiery, homemade tomato salsa.

It’s simple food that works. The corn masa — the dough used to form the outer casing of pupusas — is made from just corn flour and water. And all the fillings, Ever said, are made by him and his family members at an industrial kitchen in Watsonville. And their food trucks stops at locations throughout Santa Cruz County (see below).

Ever and Nelson Deras started their pupusa operation in 2019 after Ever’s elder son, David, became ill with leukemia in 2015. Co-owning his own business afforded Ever and his family a much greater degree of flexibility than previous jobs had. Before operating Dos Hermanos, Ever worked in landscaping, lumber, restaurants and as a manager at McDonald’s.

“We jumped between different jobs because when he [David] was sick, we would need to leave right away to bring him over to Stanford,” Ever Deras said. “After three years, my brother told me, ‘Hey, I have some money. If you want to run a restaurant or something like that, I’ll put my money there.’”

Giselle Deras flips a pupusa.
Giselle Deras flips a pupusa. Credit: Thomas Sawano / Lookout Santa Cruz

Since then, things have started looking up for the Deras family. David went into remission in late 2019, and the now-10-year-old and his 7-year-old brother could be found playing to the side of the Dos Hermanos stand at the downtown farmers market on Wednesday. Though the Deras family’s operation remains small — with only Ever, his wife, his sister-in-law and a friend of his running their stand and food truck — they sell prolifically. In a given day, Ever said their stand will put out upward of 400 pupusas.

It’s easy to understand why. The chicken and vegetable pupusas are light and somewhat airy. The pork pupusas are hearty. Their salsa — slightly smoky and very spicy — along with the curtido counterbalance the richness of the pupusas quite nicely. For $14, you get three pupusas (I’d recommend mix and matching) and your choice of either horchata or watermelon lemonade.

You can find Dos Hermanos Pupuseria at the farmers markets in downtown Santa Cruz, the Westside, Felton, Scotts Valley and Live Oak. It also sets up regularly at Quarry Plaza on the UC Santa Cruz campus. Check its Instagram to find out where it will be parking next.

Thomas Sawano joins the Lookout team after two-and-a-half years at City on a Hill Press, the student-run newspaper at UCSC. While there, he reported on the university, arts and culture events, and the...