Too much Mexican food in South Florida is mass-produced chain fare, so here’s a tip of the sombrero to small, homey Las Panteras in Fort Lauderdale. Owner Eduardo Argueta opened the modest storefront on David Blvd about two months ago. Argueta was born in El Salvador, but has been working in Mexican restaurants since he left his homeland for Florida in 1980. His brother Efrain does most of the cooking. Servers are gracious and attentive, though it helps to know a little Spanish.
Las Panteras (‘‘The Panthers”) has authentic charm, and what’s more, it’s inexpensive. Most dishes are under $13. There are no gimmicks here — just very good renditions of typical dishes like enchiladas, tacos and fajitas. The extensive menu includes some Cuban and American fare, and Eduardo Argueta plans to add Salvadoran specialties like pupusas (fat corn tortillas) and sopa de mariscos (seafood soup).
Ambience: Las Panteras is a warm, welcoming, low-key place. Its walls are painted in green, white and red stripes like the Mexican flag, and glass-covered tables draped with white tablecloths dot the cozy 70-seat dining room.
- Summer-fresh salsa, fragrant with cilantro and delivered to your table with warm tortilla chips
- A quesadilla appetizer, bursting with warm cheese and spiked with tomatoes and zingy chile strips
- Crab nachos with tufts of snow crab smothered with melted Monterey jack and cheddar
- Perectly cooked, well-seasoned and delicious shrimp in a stir-fry with fresh broccoli, squash, peppers and onions, seasoned with soy sauce and served with fluffy Mexican rice with chopped fresh tomatoes and onions
- Char-grilled shrimp tucked into house-made corn tortillas
- Taco al carbon platter with a perky pico de gallo, soupy pinto beans garnished with bacon, chopped avocado and red onion
- Juicy and tender steak, pork, chicken and shrimp fajitas with pop and sizzle
- Flavorful, but slightly dry, lechon asado (roast pork )
- Silky flan