Had pizza originated in El Salvador, it would taste like the cheesy pupusa at Mami Cheli’s. First of all, it’s a thing of beauty when it comes off the grill. Some of the cheese oozes out of the dough while it’s cooking. Then it embeds itself on the outside in crisp, lacy patterns like snowflakes made of cheese.

Mami Cheli’s recently opened in the middle of a nondescript strip mall on the corner of Menlo Avenue and El Camino Real in Menlo Park. Once inside, the grasshopper green interior casts a cheerful glow. That snap of color and a very few mid-century modern accents make up a minimally designed interior. It’s an appealing 21st century take on a taqueria (and pupuseria). However, those used to the speed and efficiency of a taco truck may be irked by the wait. But be patient. The wait serves a higher purpose, as the tortillas are homemade and individually warmed up on the grill.

Mami Cheli’s serves heavier items, like the burritos and tortas. However, it was warm on the day we went, and we decided to pass on the heavier items, such as tortas and burritos. As described on the menu, there are regular tacos, quesadillas and pupusas and then there are Mami Cheli’s versions of the same items. The street tacos ($2.95 each) are rather standard, served on top of two corn tortillas, plated with cilantro, onions and salsa. There is a spicy red, a smoky green or an extra hot salsa. Choose from the usual list of proteins: a vegan option, carne asada, chicken, steak or al pastor pork.

Because it’s almost three times the size of a street taco, Mami Cheli’s taco ($5.29) also accommodates beans and guacamole. We tried one with chicken and one with grilled mushrooms, inhaling both of them with alacrity. Unless you’re dieting, the pillowy soft flour tortilla is the clear favorite. We also tried Mami Cheli’s quesadilla ($5.75) but it was essentially indistinguishable from the taco, apart from the addition of melted cheese. And if you’re in need of an even greater amount of melted cheese, Mami Cheli’s cheesy pupusa ($4.75) will fill the bill. The other pupusas are satisfying in their own way, but the crunchy and chewy combination of textures in the cheesy variety stands out from the crowd.

Although Mami Cheli’s serves horchata, jamaica and strawberry agua frescas (reg. $2.25, large $3.25), these bebidas didn’t satisfy a sudden sweet tooth craving. We drove seven minutes to Hamilton Avenue in Palo Alto to try out the newly opened Teaquation & Tonic (a previous incarnation in Redwood City is now closed). The culture shock was jarring. We transitioned from a mom and pop shop to a corporate entity in utero. It operates like a Starbucks—that is, if Starbucks wanted to expand its already innumerable array of beverage choices.

Teaquation & Tonic errs on the side of overstimulation. When you enter the cafe, a random soundtrack competes for your attention with two flat-screen TVs. Then you try to decipher a tea menu that bears some resemblance to an algebra equation. There are green teas and black teas, fruits and infusions, liquor and juices. You can try small plates like bruschetta or sliders. And there’s a case of candy-colored desserts that look artificial and taste synthetic, as if regular baking ingredients had been body-snatched, if you will.

We decided to share an unsweetened black tea with what might have been strawberry juice ($4.75). It wasn’t unlike drinking dishwater. We also tried an Orange and Blac  a.k.a. Thai iced tea ($4.75)—that was, according to the formula, only a quarter sweetened. And that’s exactly what it tasted like.

Teaquation & Tonic is right on trend serving matcha cake and macarons. Perhaps less on trend, a gummy slice of chocolate mousse cake ($5). A note on the company website says, “First, we broke up with boba.” The Palo Alto store is a second iteration of a concept that comes across as soulless. The fervor for bubble tea is ongoing. It might have been premature of the owners to have abandoned the simpler pleasures of popping and swallowing those chewy balls of boba.

Mami Cheli’s
989 El Camino Real, Ste B, Menlo Park

Teaquation & Tonic
115 Hamilton Ave, Palo Alto