Let’s face it. There are a lot of Latines in America (62.5 million in 2021, according to the Pew Research Center). And we’re not going anywhere. That means, someone has to feed us. Sure, a good, home cooked meal is always welcomed, but who has time to chop up cilantro when you’re working two jobs and helping with 4th grade math?
The good news is that there’s also a lot of Latin American restaurants. A quick look at Mexican restaurants shows that there are 49,365 of them in business in 2023 – a 2% growth from last year. This, of course, doesn’t include other Latin American eateries serving food from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Colombia and anywhere else that can fry up a tasty pupusa.
With all those choices, where should you go for dinner this week? Fear not, my hungry gente. Remezcla has composed a short list of 11 local Latin America restaurants – you may not have heard of – that you need to try for yourselves. Each one of them is located in one of the most Latine populated cities in America. So, what are you waiting for?
El Huarachito is a family-owned Mexican restaurant in Lincoln Heights that is celebrating its 23rd anniversary this year. It’s the kind of taqueria that might be overlooked because of its size, but don’t underestimate its quality of food. Some of the traditional items on the menu include the Plato del Rey (carne asada, camarones, rice and beans) and the chiles rellenos. They also serve pozole, menudo, birria, flautas and licuados de fruta.
New York City
The Freakin Rican is located in Astoria, Queens, NYC. According to its website, the brand is “dedicated to serving the most delicious freshest food, second to none” and “serve our community with pride and work continuously creating food products that are healthier and showcase our heritage.” You can order pasteles, sofrito, adobo, sazon, and the restaurant will even ship food across the country. The executive chef and owner of The Freakin Rican is Derick Lopez, who started as a festival food vendor.
Cielito Café is an authentic Mexican restaurant in Houston that is open for breakfast and lunch. On its website, owners of the restaurant say they’re “inspired by passion for food and love for our culture” and have “brought authentic Mexican flavors, utilizing the freshest ingredients to bring homemade dishes from our heart to your table.” If you’re an early riser, try their Cielito Sandwich, which is a breakfast sandwich that uses conchas for its bread.
The Peruvian restaurant Leche de Tigre is second to none. It refers to itself as a cebichería, which is a gastronomic experience where the cook prepares ceviches in front of customers. Leche de Tigre is best known for its Pisco, a Peruvian drink. Some of the ceviches you can order at the restaurant include the Carretillero, which is made with striped bass, shrimp, calamari, sweet potato and other ingredients. Another is the chalaco, which is made with Spanish octopus.
There are two locations of Las Carnitas Uruapan in Chicago. The restaurant describes itself as serving “the best carnitas in Chicago, since 1975” and “unapologetically Mexican.” It was founded by Inocencio “El Guero” Carbajal. Carbajal’s dedication and passion for his country’s flavors has turned Carnitas Uruapan into a “legendary destination for those whose palates crave authentic carnitas from Michoacan.” Some of their most talked about dishes on the menu include the mildly spicy chicharron guisado and its pork carnitas.
“Modern American and Latin-inspired,” Vecina was a James Beard semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in 2020. A self-described “chef-driven restaurant,” it focuses on spices, chiles and ingredients on the menu, which includes items like Gambas al Ajillo (Mexican shrimp, paprika garlic butter, serrano cruda) and an adobo duroc pork chop with aguacate, house escabeche, chicharron and pork demi. Come for the food, and stay for an array of choices behind the bar, including beer, wine, and handmade cocktails.
Xamán Café is pronounced as “Shaman,” which is a medicine man, spiritual healer or curandero. Self-described as a “pre-Hispanic influenced cafe and agave bar,” the idea behind Xamán “stems from the nostalgia of visiting … relatives in Mexico and recalling life in a simpler time of self reliance.” Staples on the menu include tortas that are filled with chilaquiles con milanesa and birria. The restaurant also serves “micro-lot high elevation specialty coffee,” which can be traced back to independent farmers in Mexico.
Located inside the luxurious Stanton House Hotel, Taft Díaz serves up “international cuisine fused with Mexican flair.” The restaurant is named after U.S. President William H. Taft and Mexican President Porfirio Díaz, who first met for a summit in 1909 on the El Paso-Juarez border to negotiate over land known as El Chamizal. The menu includes
Crudo Verde (shima aji, shrimp, cucumber and charred avocado) and Sea Donkey tacos (shrimp al pastor, roasted pineapple and slaw).
Under the leadership of Chef Priscilla Curiel, Michelin-recognized Tuetano Taqueria is the place to go if you’re looking for the best in slow-simmered birria. “Our love for Mexican cuisine shines through every dish we serve,” the restaurant’s official Instagram proclaims. “Share the passion for authentic flavors that make every bite a true delight.” Aside from its birria, some of the other authentic flavors you’ll find on the menu include Campechana Quesadillas and bone marrow tacos.
Rob Francis and Jesus Naranjo are the executive chefs at Aqui Cal-Mex where their mission is to bring “chef-inspired food with natural, wild and organic ingredients” to their community at affordable prices. The restaurant announced its new menu this past summer, which includes wild crab cakes, free-range chicken dishes and four new vegan dishes. With a team of mixologists, don’t miss their Industrial Swirls like the Prickly Pear Lemon Drop Martini Craft Swirl and Cucumber Mint Martini Craft Swirl.
Executive chef and owner Michael Beltran has turned Ariete into a unique culinary experience, which is shaped by his Cuban heritage and commitment to classic French technique. The restaurant earned a Michelin Star in 2022. “Most important … is that you experience delicious food. That you escape. That you feel welcome in our home,” Ariete’s website reads. Some of the menu items that you should try first include the
arroz con pollo, which is prepared with cachucha pepper and tomato and the flan for dessert, which is served with candy cap mushroom, sambuca crema and coffee crumble.