Ceci Cruz Palma is a 30-year-old Salvadoran and the only woman with an advanced degree in brewing beer—quite literally from the Technical University of Berlin’s School of Brewing Sciences. She fell in love with the beer-making process while studying as a biochemist in Germany, and subsequently switched career paths. Now, she’s at the epicenter of a craft beer renaissance in El Salvador.
After stints in the European and the Cayman Island brewing industries, Palma returned to El Salvador in 2015 to start her own brewery and production plant, Santo Coraje Cervecería, inspired by German tradition and adapted to the Salvadoran palate. “I am a true believer of pairing great craft beer with good food,” she says. And her beers can be found at some of San Salvador’s best restaurants.
You can visit her brewery in San Salvador, but here, she enthusiastically recommends where else to get a taste of the city—from the best food and shopping to the most beautiful beaches.
What’s your favorite part about living in San Salvador?
The closeness to my friends and family and the weather, of course. After some gray days in Germany I truly appreciate the sunshine all year around.
Where in San Salvador can visitors find Santo Coraje Cervecería being served?
Our stockists are mainly restaurants with great food. For the complete list, you can visit our website, but some great examples are Humo for barbecue, Delikat and La Melangerie for Mediterranean; Fulanos and Lote 53 are great casual dining spots, as well as bars like Verdi’s and The Beer Station.
Take us through your ideal food day in San Salvador.
To start the day right I would head to KL by Chef Karli, a small place with great breakfast options. It does not matter if it’s savory or sweet, great food comes out of that kitchen.
I am all about quick lunches due to the tempo of my day, so I would grab lunch at the food trucks in the parking lot in front of the Teatro Presidenté, one of my favorites is the Cuban from Oye Chico! If I am in the mood for something more fancy, I enjoy the Mestizo Plaza located on Torre Futura. There are a lot of great options there, but one of my favorites is Boyacá, where you can find one of our excellent beers, an amber lager called Manuelita.
To end the day I would go to the center of the Antiguo Cuscatlan area, where some of the best pupusas, our famous traditional food, are found. Apart from pupusas, you can taste other traditional corn products like riguas and atol, and for dessert try plantain empanadas stuffed with our version of vanilla pudding (called poleada) or churros “españoles” (in air quotes because these churros are really our take on the traditional European ones). In general, Antiguo is a great food stop where you can also enjoy a quiet stroll around the main square.
Where do you take visitors for dinner and a night out?
One of my favorite places right now is Boca Boca, a great restaurant run by passionate local chefs who cook with local ingredients and plate their own take on traditional Salvadoran food. You can also taste one of our great craft beers! To follow with some cocktails, I love Nómada, a bar lounge where the music is really great.
Where do you shop in the city?
There are two different answers for this question. if you are talking about groceries, I usually go to a great farmers market hosted by our Agricultural Ministry in Santa Tecla, a county just next to San Salvador. As I do the shopping I usually get a fresh coconut cracked open from a local grower and drink its delicious water right there. I am a great fan of our tropical fruits and just thinking about it gives me cravings. Please, if you have not heard about jocotes, anonas, mamones, arrayan, zapote and mamei, do check them out. Of course we have the usual guavas and papayas too, but the others I mentioned hold a special place in my taste buds and heart. They are not always in season, but if they are, this is the place to find them.
Clothing-wise, I am not much of a fashionista, to tell you the truth. My usual outfits are overalls and a Santo Coraje t-shirt. I will say though I love handmade clothes and shoes from some of our entrepreneurs in the country. There is a market that unites a lot of them called El Mercadito. I’m also obsessed with the sandals from MAJA and t-shirts from Sailor.
What are some arts and culture destinations that a visitor shouldn’t miss?
El Salvador is the kind of country where you need 45 minutes to get to a lot of great places, like the crater of the El Boqueron Volcano, or the Mayan ruins of San Andres, or great surf beaches like El Tunco and El Zonte. But let´s say hypothetically that you have to stay put in the city. I would visit our anthropology museum, MUNA, and art museum, MARTE, located in La Zona Rosa, which is a great area to visit in general. There are a lot of restaurants and bars there.
Also, definitely unmissable is the historic Old Town! Right in the center of the city, the architecture there is truly magnificent, the theater, cathedral and the squares in general will lead to great photos. Moreover, you can find a lot of good places to eat and have a drink.
Where should visitors stay in San Salvador?
If you are interested in nightlife, I would definitely stay in La Zona Rosa or San Benito. If you are into a quieter scene, I truly love Antiguo Cuscatlan, where I am originally from. It’s a small county in the state of La Libertad. There are a lot of small Airbnbs and hotels in the area, and you will be staying near the best pupusas in the country.
What is San Salvador’s best kept secret or hidden gem?
The graveyard—Los Ilustres Graveyard. I know it sounds kind of creepy, but if you truly want to learn about our history and important people who have lived and died here, you have to go. We as Salvadorans have a magical relationship to death, and it is important for us to honor those who are gone. From an architectural aspect, this graveyard illustrates this exactly. It is simply spectacular.
When you want to escape the city, where do you go?
There are just so many options here! As mentioned before, for a quick trip, I would choose the beaches of La Libertad and our city volcano El Boqueron. For an even quicker trip, I love to take a long hike with my dog in El Bicentenario or El Espino parks, which are these huge areas of old coffee plantations that go all the way up to the volcano. If you are talking about a one day or weekend trip, my favorite places so far have been El Cerro Verde, from where the big hike to the Ilamatepec Volcano starts. Los Cobanos or Barra de Santiago beaches are also great. And the charming town of Ataco is a great destination for coffee lovers.