For many Latin Americans in South Florida, a taste of home is as close as the neighborhood restaurant. Here are three we sampled recently.
Hidden in a small strip shopping center in Davie, Borinqueya is a no-frills Puerto Rican restaurant. Along with mofongo – garlicky fried, mashed green plantains with seafood or meat — classic home-style dishes include alcapurrias (fried green banana fritters), bistec encebollado (steak with onions) and habichuelas (red beans).
Though only a few tables were occupied when we visited on a Saturday night, the staff couldn’t seem to keep up, and much of our food arrived lukewarm. Our party of five was served entrees in three different shifts.
If service improves, the restaurant has potential. The quality of the food was high, although some prices are on the high side, too.
The mofongo platters are flavorful and big enough for sharing. We ordered one with skirt steak and another with chicken – not mixed in, as we had it in Puerto Rico, but served on top with a tasty mix of sautéed peppers and onions.
For the less adventurous eater there’s a simple chicken breast topped with the same mix of peppers and onions. The only disappointment was the small, dry fried pork chunks (carne de cerdo frita) with seasoning that seemed more Asian than Latin.
Borinqueya Restaurant, 6875 Stirling Rd., Davie; 954-587-2482; www.borinqueyarestaurant.com; appetizers $3.50-$6.50, entrees $10.50-$20.50.
A visit here is almost like going to a relative’s house. The husband and wife who run this tiny Hollywood storefront wait on you like you’re family. And prices are perfect for the budget-conscious. There are multiple options for breakfast for under $5, lunch under $6 and dinner under $10.
The menu is all about the Cuban staples, nothing fancy, from Cuban sandwiches and croquetas to palomillo steak and picadillo.
Colorful artwork on the walls brightens the simple surroundings, and the vast selection of international sodas and beers is an unexpected bonus. A half-pitcher of sangria is enough for three people if you’re just looking for a glass.
The fried pork chunks were tasty and plentiful, but needed extra hot sauce, and the ropa vieja was a solid execution. Overall, the food is on the bland side, so make sure to check out the wall of hot sauces to customize the dishes.
Laura’s Cuban Restaurant, 2723 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; 954-921-9990, www.myspace.com/laurascubanrestaurant; breakfast $1.25-$3.95, sandwiches $3.95-$6.95, entrees $8-$12.
This Colombian restaurant in Davie tries to offer a little something for everyone. There’s a sit-down restaurant, a tavern, nightclub and outdoor seating. They serve lunch as well as late-night fare, and stay open 24 hours on weekends.
Clearly, the action doesn’t get going until late. When we arrived at 7 p.m. on a Saturday, only one other party was seated. By the time we left, customers were beginning to trickle in.
With its cozy booths and dark woods, the restaurant has the feel of a Latin American steak house that is casual enough for the kids but nice enough for a date night. The menu includes English translations for most items, but don’t hesitate to ask if you’re not familiar with some of the more traditional dishes.
In addition to the Colombian specialties like bandeja paisa (a mixed platter) and cazuela de mariscos (fish stew), there’s a range of Latin American dishes from Mexican fajitas to Peruvian saltado.
We started with empanadas and an arepa with chorizo, which turned out to be our favorite parts of the meal.
The picada campesina gives a meat lover with a hearty appetite a little bit of everything: beef, chicken, pork skin, morcilla (blood sausage), chorizo, tostones and corn patty. My husband found it a little heavy.
The seafood with rice dish I ordered was disappointing. Although loaded with seafood, the scallops were rubbery and some of the other items did not taste fresh.
Casa Campesina, 3333 N. University Dr., Davie; 954-443-1010, www.casacampesina.net; appetizers $1.25-$9.99, most entrees $10.99-$19.99.