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Scene in South Bend: El Girasol

| Thursday, August 28, 2014

scene-web-bannerKeri O'Mara

Hidden away on Eddy Street, past Chipotle, Five Guys and the Robinson Center, lies a secret gem from Central America: Girasol. Coming from the Spanish word for “sunflower,” the restaurant features various dishes from Latin America, including tamales and horchata. The most notable dish is the pupusa, a speciality of El Salvador consisting of a handmade corn tortilla filled with cheese, beans or pork.

Upon arrival to the restaurant, visitors are immediately greeted by a row of beautiful sunflowers and the restaurant’s smiling host and lone chef, Lucia. Housed in a converted barbecue restaurant, the tiny Girasol features two small areas for eating and a beautiful tapestry depicting a scene in El Salvador. Eagerly offering a smile, Lucia attentively takes each patrons order and diligently sets out to create the meal. Completely made to order, each pupusa is a reflection of Lucia’s devotion to her customers and food. The entirety of the time that someone is in Girasol, Lucia constantly makes sure everything is perfect, whether that be in the way the food tastes or in making sure that everyone is happy in her restaurant. Garnished with curtido, a cabbage salad, and served with tomato salsa, each pupusa comes hot and fresh. Lucia prides herself on her traditional Salvadoran cuisine.

“There are other pupuserías in town, but many people come back to tell me they like mine the most,” Lucia proudly exclaims. If the wonderful food is not reason enough for these patrons to come back, the smiling woman in the blue apron should be enough to convince unsure guests of whether or not they should return.

While joking about my terrible Spanglish, Lucia begins to recount the story of Girasol and how she came to the United States. A resident of the United States for 31 years, Lucia originally left her home country because of the Salvadoran Civil War, which left over 70,000 dead and 8,000 missing. After settling in Maryland for 22 years, Lucia and her family chose to move to South Bend when her oldest daughter decided to attend Notre Dame. Lucia arrived in South Bend in 2006, and opened Girasol in 2007 after working as a housekeeper in Maryland. Though shy of her incredible proficiency in English, Lucia credits generous neighbors and helping her children at school for her acquisition of the language.  “There was a woman who helped me very much named Linda Cossi,” Lucia beams as she begins to think about her old friend. “She now lives in Minnesota and was very happy when we decided to move to South Bend, since we are closer to each other. She comes to visit every September!” When asked why she chose the name Girasol, Lucia gives all of the credit to a neighbor and her husband. After her husband planted sunflowers, a neighbor described how this would be a wonderful name for her new restaurant.

Although other eateries on Eddy Street may offer proximity and familiarity to students looking for off-campus dining options, Girasol is well worth the try. With phenomenal cuisine and a wonderful owner, Girasol sets the bar high for inexpensive eateries for students. Though the menu may be small, Girasol proves that it’s truly quality over quantity, and quality is something that Girasol certainly does right.


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