Eat This

La Popular’s Salsa Bursts with Tangy Flavors (Though We Wouldn’t Call It ‘Mild’)

The salsa tomatillo verde from La Popular
The salsa tomatillo verde from La Popular Taylor Adams
Being the time of year that it is, I recently got some black bean-Hatch chile tamales from La Popular Tamale House.

Full disclosure, I know Jesse Moreno, who helps run the business with his father, who started it about 30 years ago. I met Moreno when I did a story on the business about eight years ago, then he and I ended up on the city’s Park and Recreation Board together.

Despite that, he still makes me pay for tamales, which I’m completely fine with — they’re good. (These particular ones are more bean than chile, but still acceptable.)

But I’m not here to talk about my buddy’s tamales. Rather, I came to praise the addictive tomatillo salsa from La Popular.

I asked Moreno how they came up with this salsa initially, and it was right at the start of the business about 30 years ago, he says.

“We wanted to create a mild, tangy salsa that wasn’t too spicy,” he says.

Now wait a minute, friend. This salsa is not mild. It has a punch in the mouth with spice when you eat it.

“Every batch is going to vary just a little,” he said after I protested his “mild” comment.

And that's believable. The same thing happens with the curry from my favorite place: Real humans are making food fresh each time, and sometimes the peppers bring a different level of heat.

Thankfully when it is hot, it’s a brief heat, so you can eat as much as you want. (That’s also evident because half of a recent pint went missing one afternoon when it was left alone with my boyfriend.)

click to enlarge Before the ingredients become the salsa tomatillo verde - JESSE MORENO
Before the ingredients become the salsa tomatillo verde
Jesse Moreno
Moreno says the salsa has tomatillo, carrots, onion, jalapeño, chili de arbol, garlic and salt. The back of the jar also lists the evasive “spices,” probably ones that are causing my addiction.

This salsa is hot and bright, and it has a lightness to it that indicates it’s freshly made. I like it on tamales or chips, though I won’t lie and say I’ve never spooned it on its own.

Moreno and his dad, Jesse Moreno Sr., particularly like the tanginess of it.

Unfortunately, they make a limited amount each week and sell out quickly. They like to keep it fresh and whatnot.

La Popular now sells its food from a counter in La Ranchera Supermarket at North Fitzhugh Avenue and Bryan Street, the East Dallas intersection where there are plenty of worthy options for eating.

Each pint is $7, and, like Moreno says, made fresh on the regular.

La Popular Tamale House, 4823 Bryan St. (East Dallas). 214-824-7617. Open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday.
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Taylor Adams has written about the restaurant industry for the Dallas Observer since 2016. Now the Observer's food editor, she attended Southern Methodist University before covering local news at The Dallas Morning News.