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Pollo Bravo’s Tallarines Verdes chicken plantains
Christina Autry/EHOU

13 Houston Restaurants Serving Stellar Central and South American Cuisine

Where to find flaky empanadas, perfect arepas, juicy rotisserie chickens, and so much more

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Pollo Bravo’s Tallarines Verdes chicken plantains
| Christina Autry/EHOU

Thanks to the incredible diversity of Houston’s dining scene, there’s no shortage of restaurants serving cuisines that hail from different parts of the globe. That’s particularly true when it comes to South and Central American cuisine — on any given day, diners in Houston have access to plenty of options for stellar cuisine with roots in El Salvador, Argentina, Peru, Honduras, and Mexico.

At these 13 Houston restaurants, perfectly flaky empanadas, juicy rotisserie chickens, ceviche, and more classic South and Central American favorites await, along with plenty of modern interpretations of traditional dishes.

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Asturias Bakery Café

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Blink and you might miss this small Argentinian bakery, offering serve-yourself baked facturas (Argentine pastries) formed in unique shapes. Grab some tongs and see how many different breads and sweets you end up with in your basket. It’s best not to resist the sweet temptations behind the glass, featuring chocolate, custard, caramel, or cherries in various baked forms. Other craveable delights here are the empanadas, sandwiches, and Argentine coffee.

Photo: Christina Autry/EHOU

The Houston Farmers Market

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The Houston Farmers Market has been a Bayou City institution since its establishment in 1942. The extensive complex, which has announced plans for an exciting revamp, includes a variety of outdoor Latin American produce stands including Junior’s Produce. Behind Junior’s awaits a maze of vendors, selling both food and novelties from South America. Perusing the nopales (cactus pads), sacks of herbal remedies, delicious mangoes, and foot-long sticks of cinnamon is something that every Houstonian should experience.

Christina Autry/EHOU

The Original Marini's Empanada House

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Marini’s is understandably packed at lunchtime, with customers spending their wait time studying the enormous menu of sweet and savory empanadas. Trying a variety of flavors is the best bet here, from the meat-stuffed Chuckwagon, to the New Yorker with broccoli, cream sauce, and cheese and the irresistible dessert empanadas like Dulce de Leche.

Christina Autry/EHOU

Sweets by Belen

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Sweets by Belen may be tiny, but it more than makes up for its size with its wide array of amazing Peruvian desserts, and its cute factor. Walking into this haven of sweets means being surrounded in pink flowery décor and being eyed by a stuffed llama. Make sure to try the alfajores, soft and sweet cookies filled with gooey caramel.

Christina Autry/EHOU

Andes Cafe

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Hidden away in Eado’s Warehouse District, Andes Café will give you Houston’s best culinary tour of South America. The menu indicates which country bordering the Andes Mountains each dish originates from. Along with its hearty brunch menu and small plates selection, Andes Café is unique in Houston for one specialty dishes in particular: deep fried guinea pig. The ceviche, bistec a caballo, and lomo saltado are equally compelling choices. During lunch, definitely order the Executive option, which buys 3 courses for less than $20.

Dodo's Chicken

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Dodo’s Chicken is a hidden rotisserie gem, and happens to be one of several Colombian restaurants on that particular block of Richmond. The chicken comes out tender and juicy, and only gets better with the addition of their homemade creamy and spicy dipping sauces. A side of fried, sweet plantains is something you should never pass up, and this is no exception. Arepas and fried yucca add a classic Colombian touch to this satisfying meal.

Christina Autry/EHOU

Hawallano Restaurant Sea Food

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Hawallano excels in preparing large, handmade pupusas stuffed with meat, beans, and cheese, and they’re served with traditional curtido, El Salvador’s beloved crunchy fermented cabbage slaw. The pupusas alone are worth the trip down Gessner, but the sweet fried plantains stand out as some of the city’s best.

Christina Autry/EHOU

Las Brasas Charcoal Chicken

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Pollo a la brasa is a style of cooking chicken with origins in Lima, Peru. Behind the counter at Las Brasas, you’ll see an 800 degree oven, fueled with charcoal, slowly browning more than 15 plump chickens simultaneously by rotating them on metal spits over open flames. The chicken is served in quarters, halves, or whole, with your choice of sides, including yucca, fried plantains, and more. If you’re wanting to branch out from chicken, try the tallarin verde (Peruvian pesto pasta), or the Lomo Saltado, stir-fried beef with cilantro rice and French fries. Yes, French fries are hugely popular in Latin America.

Christina Autry/EHOU

Mi Bella Honduras Restaurant

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This Honduran restaurant is the definition of a hidden gem, but deserves to be seen, and tasted. The sweet, orange sauce poured over the Pincho Res (beef skewers) makes for a deliciously unique pairing and should not be missed. The salty cheese served on the side will take your taste buds straight to Central America, and the crispy, meat-stuffed pastelitos are the cherry on top.

Christina Autry/EHOU

Parrilla Colombiana

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Hidden in a Bissonnet strip center, this restaurant prepares traditional Colombian dishes, plus some Latin American fusion. The bandeja paisa, one of the most popular meals in Colombia, is served here, complete with the essential elements of chicharron, beef, fried egg, beans, arepa, rice, plantains, chorizo, and sausage. If this isn’t hearty enough, a side of empanadas with Mexican-style hot sauce will be sure to fill any remaining stomach space. Spanish paella, and churrasco are among the not-strictly-Colombian, but Latin American dishes that the restaurant offers.

Christina Autry/EHOU

Pollo Bravo

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Pollo Bravo creates an irresistible blend of Peruvian and Mexican flavors at its locations around Houston. The namesake chicken is perfectly tender and juicy, and it’s paired with some truly stunning sides. Plantains, tortillas, flavorful beans, and tallarines verdes make for a delightfully filling feast.  (Multiple locations)

Christina Autry/EHOU

Pampa Grill and Market

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Pampa serves up traditional meaty Argentinian dishes, like the unmissable grilled Parrillada for you and a group of hungry friends. Milanesas, a common Argentinian breaded meat comes in many varieties here, with toppings like eggs, mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes and more. Featured at the front of the store are shelves of sundries from South America that you won’t find in the average grocery stores.

Christina Autry/EHOU

Saldivia's South American Grill

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Saldivia’s is a stylish, modern steakhouse serving ribeyes, parrilladas, chimichurri and empanadas worthy of a fine dining experience. This Latin American grill is a meat-lovers paradise, perfect for special occasions.

Asturias Bakery Café

Blink and you might miss this small Argentinian bakery, offering serve-yourself baked facturas (Argentine pastries) formed in unique shapes. Grab some tongs and see how many different breads and sweets you end up with in your basket. It’s best not to resist the sweet temptations behind the glass, featuring chocolate, custard, caramel, or cherries in various baked forms. Other craveable delights here are the empanadas, sandwiches, and Argentine coffee.

Photo: Christina Autry/EHOU

The Houston Farmers Market

The Houston Farmers Market has been a Bayou City institution since its establishment in 1942. The extensive complex, which has announced plans for an exciting revamp, includes a variety of outdoor Latin American produce stands including Junior’s Produce. Behind Junior’s awaits a maze of vendors, selling both food and novelties from South America. Perusing the nopales (cactus pads), sacks of herbal remedies, delicious mangoes, and foot-long sticks of cinnamon is something that every Houstonian should experience.

Christina Autry/EHOU

The Original Marini's Empanada House

Marini’s is understandably packed at lunchtime, with customers spending their wait time studying the enormous menu of sweet and savory empanadas. Trying a variety of flavors is the best bet here, from the meat-stuffed Chuckwagon, to the New Yorker with broccoli, cream sauce, and cheese and the irresistible dessert empanadas like Dulce de Leche.

Christina Autry/EHOU

Sweets by Belen

Sweets by Belen may be tiny, but it more than makes up for its size with its wide array of amazing Peruvian desserts, and its cute factor. Walking into this haven of sweets means being surrounded in pink flowery décor and being eyed by a stuffed llama. Make sure to try the alfajores, soft and sweet cookies filled with gooey caramel.

Christina Autry/EHOU

Andes Cafe

Hidden away in Eado’s Warehouse District, Andes Café will give you Houston’s best culinary tour of South America. The menu indicates which country bordering the Andes Mountains each dish originates from. Along with its hearty brunch menu and small plates selection, Andes Café is unique in Houston for one specialty dishes in particular: deep fried guinea pig. The ceviche, bistec a caballo, and lomo saltado are equally compelling choices. During lunch, definitely order the Executive option, which buys 3 courses for less than $20.

Dodo's Chicken

Dodo’s Chicken is a hidden rotisserie gem, and happens to be one of several Colombian restaurants on that particular block of Richmond. The chicken comes out tender and juicy, and only gets better with the addition of their homemade creamy and spicy dipping sauces. A side of fried, sweet plantains is something you should never pass up, and this is no exception. Arepas and fried yucca add a classic Colombian touch to this satisfying meal.

Christina Autry/EHOU

Hawallano Restaurant Sea Food

Hawallano excels in preparing large, handmade pupusas stuffed with meat, beans, and cheese, and they’re served with traditional curtido, El Salvador’s beloved crunchy fermented cabbage slaw. The pupusas alone are worth the trip down Gessner, but the sweet fried plantains stand out as some of the city’s best.

Christina Autry/EHOU

Las Brasas Charcoal Chicken

Pollo a la brasa is a style of cooking chicken with origins in Lima, Peru. Behind the counter at Las Brasas, you’ll see an 800 degree oven, fueled with charcoal, slowly browning more than 15 plump chickens simultaneously by rotating them on metal spits over open flames. The chicken is served in quarters, halves, or whole, with your choice of sides, including yucca, fried plantains, and more. If you’re wanting to branch out from chicken, try the tallarin verde (Peruvian pesto pasta), or the Lomo Saltado, stir-fried beef with cilantro rice and French fries. Yes, French fries are hugely popular in Latin America.

Christina Autry/EHOU

Mi Bella Honduras Restaurant

This Honduran restaurant is the definition of a hidden gem, but deserves to be seen, and tasted. The sweet, orange sauce poured over the Pincho Res (beef skewers) makes for a deliciously unique pairing and should not be missed. The salty cheese served on the side will take your taste buds straight to Central America, and the crispy, meat-stuffed pastelitos are the cherry on top.

Christina Autry/EHOU

Parrilla Colombiana

Hidden in a Bissonnet strip center, this restaurant prepares traditional Colombian dishes, plus some Latin American fusion. The bandeja paisa, one of the most popular meals in Colombia, is served here, complete with the essential elements of chicharron, beef, fried egg, beans, arepa, rice, plantains, chorizo, and sausage. If this isn’t hearty enough, a side of empanadas with Mexican-style hot sauce will be sure to fill any remaining stomach space. Spanish paella, and churrasco are among the not-strictly-Colombian, but Latin American dishes that the restaurant offers.

Christina Autry/EHOU

Pollo Bravo

Pollo Bravo creates an irresistible blend of Peruvian and Mexican flavors at its locations around Houston. The namesake chicken is perfectly tender and juicy, and it’s paired with some truly stunning sides. Plantains, tortillas, flavorful beans, and tallarines verdes make for a delightfully filling feast.  (Multiple locations)

Christina Autry/EHOU

Pampa Grill and Market

Pampa serves up traditional meaty Argentinian dishes, like the unmissable grilled Parrillada for you and a group of hungry friends. Milanesas, a common Argentinian breaded meat comes in many varieties here, with toppings like eggs, mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes and more. Featured at the front of the store are shelves of sundries from South America that you won’t find in the average grocery stores.

Christina Autry/EHOU

Saldivia's South American Grill

Saldivia’s is a stylish, modern steakhouse serving ribeyes, parrilladas, chimichurri and empanadas worthy of a fine dining experience. This Latin American grill is a meat-lovers paradise, perfect for special occasions.

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