Second Helpings: The Other America
Chumikal's3223 E. Seventh, 385-8898 Monday-Saturday, 6am-9pm
In addition to great, cheap hamburger baskets, Chumikal's sampler platter allows you to try almost everything on the menu. Pasteles are salty, deep-fried corn tortillas with shredded chicken and mild, savory stuffing much like a decadent empanada. Pupusas are masa pancakes filled with shredded pork or green chiles and cheese, like Mexican sopes turned inside out. Treat the family and order their holiday tamales by the dozen.
Doñna Emilia's1411 E. Seventh, 478-2520 Tuesday-Friday, 11am-3pm, 5-9pm; Saturday, 11am-9pm; Sunday, noon-6pm
Located across the street from the refurbished Texas State Cemetery, Doña Emilia's specializes in the hearty cuisine of Colombia. Menu highlights include Sobrebarriga a la Criolla, a stewed beef brisket in sauce and the Pandebono, a Colombian-style cheese bread. Doña Emilia's also serves Sunday brunch and offers weekend specials.
El Zunzal Restaurant642 Calles, 474-7749 Sunday-Thursday, 9am-9pm; Friday-Saturday, 9am-1am
Taking its name from the popular surfing beach on El Salvador's Pacific coast, this cheery spot appears to be the social center for the growing local Salvadoran population. It's a cozy, comfortable place serving Mexican and Salvadoran specialties. We recommend the arroz con albondigas, the mariscadas, and the pupusas. There are burgers, burritos, and soup for the less adventurous.
Elsi's4708 Burnet Rd., 454-0747 Monday-Tuesday, 7am-3pm; Wednesday-Saturday, 7am-9pm; Sunday, 8am-4pm
Though it advertises itself as a Salvadoran/ Mexican restaurant, most menu items at Elsi's are traditional Mexican dishes prepared with Salvadoran flair. Accordingly, items like enchiladas with chipotle sauce are more tangy than spicy, and that's not necessarily a bad thing for mild-mannered palates. Salvadoran dishes such as pupusas and cortida, the Salvadoran national dish of masa gorditas filled with spiced pork or cheese alongside spicy cabbage slaw, often appear as lunch specials. Elsi's is also a popular neighborhood hangout for breakfast. Big Salvadoran style tamales wrapped in banana leaves are available for the holidays in beef, pork, and vegetarian poblano varieties.
Julio's4230 Duval St., 452-1040 Monday-Saturday, 8:30am-9pm; Sunday, 8:30am-2pm
The signature item at this Hyde Park cafe is meltingly tender rotisserie chicken. Julio's marinates and seasons their birds before roasting, creating an inimitable taste sensation that's not too spicy and far from bland. Vegetarian tacos with perfectly grilled zucchini and summer squash are another favorite. Other menu options include enchiladas, chalupas, fajitas, and migas for breakfast. Even the pinto beans and rice are prepared with flair.
Miguel's La Bodega415 Colorado, 472-2369 Wednesday-Saturday, 5pm-2am
Though primarily a Mexican restaurant, Miguel's La Bodega features several South American dishes, such as the Parilla á la Chimichurri (grilled fish or chicken with an Argentinean marinade of cilantro, garlic, herbs, and citrus). In addition, the restaurant occasionally hosts dinners during which a specific Latin American cuisine is featured (call for details), or have them cater your own get-together in the private party room. You can make an evening of it by taking salsa, merengue, cumbia, or cha-cha lessons and trying out your new steps on Miguel's popular dance floor.
Sampaio's2809 San Jacinto, 469-9988 Monday-Thursday, 11am-10pm; Friday-Saturday, 11am-10:30pm; Sunday, 9am-2pm
Magna Sampaio and Melba Garcia run Sampaio's in the strip between the Posse East and the Crown and Anchor Pub. The menu offers Brazilian cuisine as well as Tex-Mex dishes. Sampaio's does a version of the national dish feijoada and has some appetizers that shouldn't be missed: the Brazilian Cheese Rolls and the Fried Rice Cheese Puffs served with a cilantro cream and a Brazilian tomato sauce. The constantly changing daily specials are inexpensive, full-flavored, and fast from the kitchen. The menu at Sampaio also features many sandwiches and an extensive list of excellent sides, and the dessert case contains sinfully rich delights.
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