My Favorite Latino Restaurants in the U.S.

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This post originally appeared on Best Western’s YouMustBeTrippin.com’s blog, where I regularly contribute stories. I was compensated for this post but the opinions are mine.

My wife, Angela, and I are big time foodies, but I couldn’t always call myself that. It took until age 36, when I met Angela, to taste a strawberry for the first time. Until just a few years ago, I thought sushi was the most exotic of foods.

So when it comes to Latino fare, I’m embarrassed to admit that, until I started dating Angela, I always thought I hated (yes, it’s a strong word, but it’s an honest one) Mexican food. Taco Bell was the closest I would come to eating Mexican.

Now a bonafide foodie with a specialty in Latin foods and restaurants, I chuckle at how far I’ve come and love that my children are along for the ride. As you look to Mexican food this fall, I’d like to share my top picks for my favorite Latino restaurants throughout the country. The only disclaimer is that I’m sure I will miss mentioning many great ones, so please don’t judge this list for being as comprehensive as it could be.

MIAMI

My hometown sports the best collection of Latin American restaurants in the country with a medley of cuisines that is extremely difficult to tally. The most famous restaurant in all of Miami is Versailles, an eatery that is known for great, authentic Cuban food, celebrity watching, political discussions and history. I highly recommend it for any occasion, as it is Miami’s most famous restaurant.

Even though Versailles is a cultural institution, my personal Cuban food favorite is La Casita, just a few blocks away. I prefer the much cozier, family-owned La Casita because it has Miami’s best Cuban food value and incredible plates such as the Vaca Frita, chicken, steak with onion, and black beans with white rice.

For the Peruvian side of Miami, visit the West Kendall part of town to sample the best Peruvian restaurant in the city: El Meson del Paraiso. Try the Pescado a lo Macho, or pretty much anything else in their menu. The 20-minute drive from the airport will be worth every penny and the staff is extremely friendly.

One of my family’s favorite restaurants right now is a Mexican-Cuban restaurant in the Westchester part of town called A-Mari-Mix Fresh Mex Fusion. My family discovered this proverbial hole in the wall recently and has been hooked ever since, thanks to its delicious plates that are in some cases even better than those you find in Texas! The three things you must order here: The divine tortilla soup, the ropa vieja tacos and the chocolada coffee. Mouthwatering does not even come close to describing how great these three items are.

LOS ANGELES

One of my top three restaurants to eat at in the entire U.S. is Los Balcones Peru in the Hollywood area of L.A. I’ve been there twice and have not eaten or sampled something that was anything less than divine. I would venture to say this is as close to perfection in food that I’ve ever eaten, especially as it relates to their various seafood or chicken platters.

Porto’s Bakery is southern California’s version of Versailles. I had heard about it for many years until my wife and I finally took the plunge and drove the nearly three extra hours it takes in L.A. traffic to visit this Downey institution. Despite the long drive and a line that stretched for nearly half a block to order our coffee, Cuban pastries and other side dishes, Porto’s delivered a strong, authentic taste that showed us why people from all parts of L.A. make it a point to eat there.

HOUSTON

Churrascos is my favorite Latin restaurant, and that’s because of the out-of-this-world skirt steak dish that gives the restaurant its name: the Churrasco. No one makes a better skirt steak than Churrascos and the same holds true for their Gallo Pinto dish and world-renowned Cuatro Leches dessert. Run, don’t walk, to get there!

SAN ANTONIO

Mi Tierra Café y Panaderia is a San Antonio landmark open 24 hours, serving locals and tourists delicious Tex-Mex and Mexican food since 1941. The family-owned restaurant is arguably San Antonio’s most famous and is reliably a terrific venue for breakfast, lunch or dinner, with wait times that rarely exceed 20 minutes.

Nestled on San Antonio’s famous River Walk, Acenar is ideal for lunch or dinner. The food is a bit pricier, but is arguably the best Latino fare right on the River Walk.

Now that I’ve given you my secret list of favorite Latino restaurants, I’ve made myself hungry. Are there any I’ve missed that top your list?

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