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Popoca, the progressive Salvadoran pop-up that has taken Oakland by storm, is finally getting it’s first permanent brick-and-mortar location.
Popoca, which means “to emit smoke” in Nawat, a Nahuan language spoken in El Salvador, is the conceptual child of owner and chef Anthony Salguero, a Bay Area native with family ties to El Salvador.
Salguero started Popoca in 2019, setting out on his own after working in the kitchen for years at fine dining icons like Saison and Plumed Horse. Before setting out, he served as executive chef at the Michelin-recommended Michel Bistro in Oakland and even helped open Bardo Lounge & Supper Club as co-chef in 2018.
Eventually he began to feel restricted by the confines of the traditional cuisine that was being served and decided to start a restaurant of his own that would give him the freedom to explore the Salvadoran dishes he spent his life cultivating a passion for. Salguero envisioned his own operation as a place where he could have fun and “nerd out” on experimenting with Salvadoran food.
His new pop-up, Popoca, wowed locals with its rotating menu of signature dishes like wood-fired pupusas and Salvadoran-style tamales. After months of rotating from place to place, Popoca was finally able to find a permanent home at Degrees Plato in the Laurel District, where they can currently be found.
Not content to simply enjoy his successes, Salguero is currently planning his biggest expansion yet. Partnering up with Brandi Brown, former co-owner of FOB Kitchen, the pair have finally secured a lease for a full-time home for Popoca, 3525 Fruitvale Avenue.
The new location is causing quite a stir among Popoca fans, who are thrilled to be able to have a permeant location to sit and enjoy their favorite Salvadoran food. In fact, the food is so well-loved that customers pooled their money together to help fund Popoca’s $50,000 Kickstarter campaign to secure the new lease and liquor license.
While plans have already begun for the new expansion, completion is still quite a ways away. Salguero estimates that a Spring 2022 launch will be their general goal. In the meantime, Popoca will still be serving up their iconic dishes at Degrees Plato for anyone who wants a taste of what the future has to offer.