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Most Authentic Mexican or Central American Restaurant 

Los Cocos

For twenty years, Rosa Alvarados has been keeping it real. Deep in the heart of Fruitvale's Mexican-restaurant territory, Alvarados is refusing to do what 90 percent of the Bay Area's other Salvadoran restaurants do: adulterate her menu with burritos and tostadas. She isn't ashamed of her pupusas, soups, and entrées. Why would she be? They're the best in the region. God, those pupusas -- plump pomelo-sized cakes of masa filled with delights like pork rinds and cheese with loroco flowers. At less than $2 apiece, you're supposed to order them by the platter, mounding each pupusa high with the restaurant's spicy, puckery cabbage slaw. Alvarados' soups will keep you grinning (and stuffed) for the rest of the day, and the good lard has blessed her refried beans with mighty flavor. Plus we've never seen some of the ingredients she serves, like the palm flower called pacalla, in any other Salvadoran restaurant. Warning: Skip lunch and head to Los Cocos for an early dinner, because Alvarados closes up shop around 7 p.m.

Readers' Pick:
La Cascada Taqueria
2164 Center St., Berkeley, 510-704-8688
2975 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-704-1789

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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