Looks can be deceiving–especially when it comes to restaurants. A quick glance at the gaudy purple facade, green interior and old worn booths of Panaderia El Marmol belies the goodness to be found emanating from its kitchen. This restaurant and bakery located across from the skate park on South Ave in Emporia, Kansas has a very limited menu but what it does, it does very well.
One of the highlights of this hole-in-the-wall eatery are the fresh tacos. Built upon a double layer of delicate and flavorful homemade corn tortilla and available with a variety of meats from the regular suspects of carne asada, pollo, and al pastor, to more exotic fillings like lengua and tripitas (which is excellent when cooked extra-crispy), and topped with a simple salsa of cilantro and fresh onion tossed in lime juice, these tacos are small, delicious and inexpensive.
However, these moreish delights are not the star of the show–that role is played by the pupusa. These luscious discs of masa are stuffed with a simple mixture of shredded pork and cheese and then fried on a comal until golden brown and tender. They are served piping hot with fresh radishes, lime wedges and a sublime curtido, a lightly brine-pickled mixture of cabbage and carrot tossed with tiny chunks of pickled jalapeno and moistened with the savory smokiness of the house salsa roja, a side dish that makes most coleslaw seem bland and uninspired. To describe the combination of hot pupusa and cool, tangy curtido as delicious is an understatement.
The restaurant can get busy during the lunch hour, but given that everything is prepared when you order, service is surprisingly fast and always friendly. For the price of a fast food meal you can eat a fresh and wholesome meal that is tasty and supports a great local business. Panaderia El Marmol stocks a range of paleta (Mexican ice cream treats) from Paleteria de Reynes in Wichita-the perfect foil for a hot Kansas summer day (hint: try the cantaloupe), and a variety of Mexican sodas that are natural partners for the food.