Latin Dining Spots in the South, Y’all

Don’t know an arepa from an empanada? Now that’s a conundrum with a rather tasty solution.

Dip your taste buds into the Caribbean and Central & South American flavors of Latin cuisine in the South. While it may not be as ubiquitous as Mexican food, casual cafes and food trucks are popping up with everything from mojo-inspired Caribbean flavors to South American grilled delicacies. Here’s a quick round up that’s utterly delicioso.


No doubt the Sunshine State has its fair share of Latin eateries, especially highlighting the Caribbean cuisine of Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Tampa and St. Pete


Bodega. Photo credit: Vivian Farmer.

Havana meets Tampa Bay at this casual Latin food joint. The Market Salad is a tossed assortment of greens, cabbage, jicama, pineapple and mango in a vinaigrette with a spicy kick. Top it with their delicious citrus-seasoned chicken or shrimp. Fixings like the fried plantains and rice and black beans would make any “abuela” proud.


 Marita’s Latin Bites

Homespun and family-owned, Marita’s prides itself on its super fresh ingredients and flavorful concoctions with a Puerto Rican flair. Try the rice bowl with rice & beans, house made pico de gallo, sweet plantains, avocado and cilantro sauce. Loosen your belt and order the avocado-bacon egg rolls (fusion at its best) or the pulled pork nachos with melted queso.


It may be the peach state, but there’s still mango, coconut and citrus on the menu here.


El Super Pan (Ponce City Market and The Battery)

Cuban and Puerto Rican dishes mix like old friends on this eatery’s menu. Whether you go for the shrimp a la jillo (sautéed garlic shrimp) sandwich or a traditional Cuban, by the second bite you’ll be planning your next visit. Forget calorie counting, the sides are not to be skipped. Order the Puerto Rican-style stewed pink beans and rice or the crunchy tostones (fried plantains).

 Arepa Mia

It’s easy to get possessive over these arepas, a maize dough flat bun-like South American delicacy stuffed with an assortment of goodies. Try one stuffed with roasted pork and caramelized onions or with an amalgamation of cheddar and guayanés cheeses. Sweets enthusiasts need to sink their teeth into the cream cheese and fig jam stuffed empanada before they leave.


Latin Chicks

Come hungry when you drop into Latin Chicks. Follow your nose – the fragrant smell of Peruvian rotisserie chicken slathered with garlic, cumin, paprika and other spices then slowly grilled is enticing to say the least. Add rice, beans, yuca or more to your plate, and you’ll be a happy camper. On the go? Leave with a yummy Latin wrap.


It’s not just gumbo and po’boys in the land of perennial fun. Pull up a chair and celebrate the delectable sabor.

New Orleans

Que Rico Cuban Café

Hop on the St. Charles Streetcar to Magazine Street for Que Rico Cuban Café visit. The ropa vieja (slow-cooked and seasoned shredded beef) atop rice or the slow-roasted pork with sautéed onions with garlic mojo sauce are winners. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, croquetas (fritter) stuffed with ham or chicken deserve a sampling too.


Patacon Latin Cuisine

Venezuela comes to Cajun country at Patacon, where you can get an empanada stuffed with crawfish if you’d so please. Patacons are the hot ticket here though. Fillings include shrimp, shredded beef, chicken, avocado accompanied by cheese and the house’s secret green sauce. Instead of bread, patacons are sandwiched between twice fried green plantains – yep, they’re lush and oh-so-good.


The tar heel state has become a huge hub for maverick chefs and boundary bending fusion cuisine. Taste what’s happening.


Brasilia Churrasco Steakhouse

Go big or go home at this all you can eat Brazilian-style grill spot. Indulge in all manner of seasoned cuts of beef, pork, chicken and lamb served tableside. Hold back a bit and venture to the gourmet cold and hot bars for a compelling assortment of seafood, select cheeses and vegetable sides – the garbanzo bean salad does not disappoint.


Local ingredients meet a motley of Latin American flavors at this epicurean wonder. Here, Puerto Rican mofongo (a dish concocted with mashed green plantains, mojo pickled onions and pork) rubs elbows with Venezuelan bollo picante, a spiced masa tamale stuffed with local greens and pickled corn crema. Even the small plates pack a big punch, order the Salvadoran chicken empanadas (think yummy hand pie) with farmer’s cheese and salsa.


Sure, collards and barbecue are go-to comfort food, but break out with a South American twist.



In Nashville on a Sunday? Make tracks to the Nashville Farmers Market – this food truck will make your day. For starters, the arepas here are made to order. Live a little and try more than one. Fillings include shredded chicken, chorizo, pork, cheese and veggies. Sip some refreshing mango juice while you wait.