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I've known about Amazonas Latin Grill for quite a while, but their cafeteria-style method of service didn't make me want to rush to visit. Also, I assumed, quite wrongly, that because Amazonas was located in a brutally unappealing strip-mall plaza anchored by a Wal-Mart, the fare would be equally unappealing.

But when a friend extolled the virtues of their Venezuelan-inspired cuisine, I swallowed my pride ' and, ultimately, everything on my plate. Since that initial visit, I've been back scores of times, and their meals have never failed to impress. Most remarkable is how delightfully cheap everything is, which may also explain the long line that forms at noon. In fact, they close relatively early ' 7 p.m. on weeknights and 8 p.m. on weekends. With all the businesses in the Sand Lake Road'John Young Parkway corridor, it's no surprise that it gets busy at the lunching hour. What is surprising is how appetizing the array of dishes in the steam table looks. Owners Enrique and Gabriela Vuolo appear committed to serving quality food ' just take a look at the heaps of glistening yellow rice, perfectly caramelized plantains and saucy shredded meats behind the counter and you'll be convinced.

Amazonas is a place you love taking newcomers to ' particularly those apprehensive about the quality. There's a pleasure in witnessing their conversion after a bite of the tender, chunky shredded pork ($7.99 with two sides), the superbly spiced shredded chicken ($7.99 with two sides) or the salty shredded beef ($7.99 with two sides). Even those who'd rather play it safe will find gratification in an order of grilled chicken ($6.49 for quarter-chicken with two sides) ' moist, tender and nicely seasoned. A rare disappointment: On my last visit, the side of cilantro roasted potatoes wasn't very flavorful.

Sandwiches are another specialty, whether it's a traditional pabellón ($6.99) ' a hoagie filled with shredded beef, french fry sticks, plantains and cilantro mayonnaise ' or the Venezuelan burger ($5.99), a must for diners with a penchant for protein. A fried egg and ham add to the meatiness of the burger, which also includes avocado, white cheese, lettuce and tomato. The churrasco ($8.99 with two sides) is a hefty slab of beef, and a wonderfully tender one at that; the price would lead you to think otherwise, but the steak is one hell of a deal. (Be sure to ask for some chimichurri sauce and a cup of their homemade hot sauce for an added kick.) Smaller items, like doughy ground-beef-filled potato balls ($1.50) and crispy chicken arepas ($4.99), are nice options for those who don't want as filling a meal. I wasn't so impressed with the flan ($2.49), but the tres leches ($2.99) and bienmesabe ($2.99), a spongy, creamy coconut-rum cake, made scrumptious endings. Same goes for the marquesa de chocolate ($2.99), a layered chocolate-cookie cake that's rich, but not too rich.

The fact the joint is always packed at lunch is a testament to the kitchen's prowess in churning out massive quantities of food ' good food ' in so short a period of time. The diverse patronage that patiently waits in line serves as an affirmation for uninitiated diners, and guarantees a return visit.

Before you associate the Bumby Cafeteria with meatloaf and chocolate cream pie, we should clarify that Bumby Cafeteria is a full-service Latin restaurant, albeit a hole in the wall. About six months ago, it joined the ranks in downtown's closest claim to a Latin quarter – the stretch of Bumby Avenue between Colonial Drive and South Street. While the area doesn't qualify as Little Havana, it does have Medina's Restaurant (Cuban) and Rica Arepa Cafe (Venezuelan).

Bumby Cafeteria barely seats a dozen customers, and that includes the picnic table out front. The dress code is comfortable, and the food is served on mismatched china, usually with a friendly greeting.

Bumby Cafeteria barely seats a dozen customers, and that includes the picnic table out front. The dress code is comfortable, and the food is served on mismatched china, usually with a friendly greeting.

Co-owners Hector and Blanquita Mata hail from Venezuela and Colombia, respectively; manager Pablo Quinones originates from Puerto Rico. Thus the melange of influences, from Cuban sandwiches and black beans heaped with chopped onions, to Venezuelan arepas (cornmeal patties stuffed with ham and cheese), to Spanish pork dinners with rice. Nothing sets you back more than $5.99.

Co-owners Hector and Blanquita Mata hail from Venezuela and Colombia, respectively; manager Pablo Quinones originates from Puerto Rico. Thus the melange of influences, from Cuban sandwiches and black beans heaped with chopped onions, to Venezuelan arepas (cornmeal patties stuffed with ham and cheese), to Spanish pork dinners with rice. Nothing sets you back more than $5.99.

Although this is a mom-and-pop operation, service is speedy, making Bumby Cafeteria excellent for takeout. On one visit, pabellon ($5.99) was ready in just under four minutes, featuring shredded beef spiced with tomatoes, peppers and garlic, served with rice and a choice of red or black beans. The red beans, loaded with peppers and onions, were the winner. The Wednesday lunch special ($5.49) was a sturdy chicken breast served in a spicy sauce with a trace of tomatoes. It came with more rice and beans, and a basket of toasted Cuban bread.

Although this is a mom-and-pop operation, service is speedy, making Bumby Cafeteria excellent for takeout. On one visit, pabellon ($5.99) was ready in just under four minutes, featuring shredded beef spiced with tomatoes, peppers and garlic, served with rice and a choice of red or black beans. The red beans, loaded with peppers and onions, were the winner. The Wednesday lunch special ($5.49) was a sturdy chicken breast served in a spicy sauce with a trace of tomatoes. It came with more rice and beans, and a basket of toasted Cuban bread.

Tamales ($4.50) are cooked to order, so there's a 15-minute wait. But slice into the corn-husk jacket and you'll find a moist, sweet, filling meal. Better yet, add a jolt of house hot sauce, made with marinated chilis and peppers.

Tamales ($4.50) are cooked to order, so there's a 15-minute wait. But slice into the corn-husk jacket and you'll find a moist, sweet, filling meal. Better yet, add a jolt of house hot sauce, made with marinated chilis and peppers.

Don't miss the homestyle coconut ice cream ($2.50), served in a scooped-out coconut shell. And a creamy block of flan goes for just $1.

Don't miss the homestyle coconut ice cream ($2.50), served in a scooped-out coconut shell. And a creamy block of flan goes for just $1.

As a potential extra treat, the spokesman for Bumby Cafeteria told me that they're planning on expanding to a 24-hour schedule at some point. After midnight, dining options dwindle, and downtown in particular is ready for an alternative to Denny's, I-Hop, Krystal and the hot-dog grill at 7-Eleven. If and when that comes to pass, it will create some welcomed wee-hours competition.

Take a stroll down any major thoroughfare in the Peruvian capital of Lima and you'll find that pollerias, or rotisserie chicken joints, are as ubiquitous as pizzerias are here. In fact, many of these hole-in-the-wall eateries closely guard their recipes for pollo a la brasa the same way that pie-makers guard their recipes for pizza sauce. And while Peruvian-style chicken has yet to establish itself in this city's culinary lexicon, you'd be hard-pressed to coax the fowl formula from the cooks, waitstaff and proprietors at Brazas Chicken, all of whom defend their secret like Túpac Amaru defended his Incan pride.

Occupying a corner of an Edgewood strip plaza, the bustling full-service restaurant forgoes the fast-food ambience typical of pollerias. Earthy tones exude a warmth inside the inviting, though somewhat cramped, interior while Andean objets d'arts and the predominantly Peruvian staff lend the place an air of authenticity.

As far as chicken goes, you won't find a better deal. A whole roasted pollo, hacked into quarters, can be had here for a paltry $8. The spit-fired bird is, typically, rubbed in a marinade comprising (but not limited to) salt, paprika, cumin, black pepper, garlic, lemon juice and vinegar, resulting in crispy, herb-speckled skin and incredibly moist, fragrant and flavorful meat. I particularly enjoyed drizzling the juicy morsels with zesty chimichurri and a creamy piquant sauce made from the Andean herb huacatay, or Peruvian black mint.

A whole chicken will easily satisfy two, possibly three, diners depending on which side items you order. I opted for the maduros ($3), or sweet plantains; arroz con frijoles ($4), long-grain rice and beans; and good ol' fashioned papas fritas ($3), aka french fries. Ravaging the succulently salty chicken, then downing a chubby fried plantain ripened to a wonderful sweetness was a gratifying act.

But that didn't stop me from indulging in the papa a la huancaina ($5), a starchy specialty of boiled potato halves lathered in a huacatay-infused cheese sauce the consistency of béchamel and served over a bed of lettuce. The cold salad was a nice prelude to the chicken ' though, really, I found myself eating bits and bites from all the dishes on the table at once.

Those dishes also included Peru's national dish, ceviche ($10). Cured in citrus and peppered with aji limo, a Peruvian red chili, every sliver of the uncooked, cilantro-flecked tilapia offered a tantalizing tang and took me back to when I first sampled the dish in a seaside restaurant in Lima. The inclusion of thinly sliced rings of red onions, sweet potato and canchita, roasted kernels of maize, provided texture and a cooling balance to the dish.

Bubble gum-flavored Inca Kola ($1.50) and chicha morada ($2), a cider made from purple corn and sweetened with pineapple, sugar and cinnamon, are both equally palatable beverages.

A dulce de leche-layered sandwich cookie known as an alfajore ($1.50) was a sugary chew, while the lucuma ice cream ($3), made from a popular Peruvian fruit, had a pistachio-like flavor reminiscent of Indian kulfi.

With influences from Spain, North Africa, Japan, China and Italy, Peruvian cuisine has long been heralded, and its emergence on the global stage was astutely predicted most recently at Madrid Fusion 2006, one of the premier gastronomic events in the world. Brazas Chicken may not offer the full culinary spectrum from the South American nation, but what it does, it does well.

Twenty-five years in the restaurant biz does an institution make, especially in this city, where longevity is usually the domain of chains and eateries catering to diners who are long in the tooth and short on taste. OK, maybe that's a little harsh, but it doesn't take away from the fact that Café Madrid, a humble family-run restaurant, has quietly evolved into a downtown dining institution. What Johnson's Diner has done for Orlando's African-Americans, Café Madrid has done for the city's Hispanics ' it's a community gathering ground where citizens come together to enjoy food and engage in a little social, political and cultural discourse under the whir of ceiling fans.

In fact, many a campaign trail has stopped through Manny Genao's Conway Plaza café, a tropically dated, down-home joint that started off as a Spanish restaurant, but has since morphed into a pan-Latin eatery. A handful of Iberian specialties were retained, including a seafood- and meat-laden paella Valenciana ($50.95) for two, an ideal dish over which to chew some political fat. The rest of the menu comprises a hodgepodge of Cuban and Puerto Rican dishes, not least of which was a bowl of sopa de frijoles rojas ($3.95), a filling mélange of white rice layered with a thick broth of red kidney beans and topped with chopped onions. Enjoying it with buttery slices of Cuban bread makes it a meal in itself. A cup of sopa de pollo ($3.50) proved too salty to enjoy, though carrots, potatoes, vermicelli and wee morsels of chicken gave it elements of comfort food.

A healthy selection of mains ensures something for everyone ' that is, unless you're a vegetarian, in which case you're better off going to the strip-mall Chinese restaurant a few doors down. Otherwise, sharpen your canines and sink 'em into the multitude of beef, chicken, pork and seafood dishes on hand, like the pescado Catalana ($10.95), a sizable slab of grouper lolling in a rich creole sauce with red and yellow peppers, onions and tangy green olives. The dish is served with a heap of fat maduros and a mound of yellow rice dotted with peas, both excellent, but it's the baked fish ' tender, fleshy, flavorful ' that makes it worth ordering. Not as gratifying was the unctuous, over-salted filete salteado ($10.95), slices of steak sautéed in Spanish wine along with peppers, mushrooms, garlic and olive oil. (And before you wonder what I expected of a dish described as 'salteado,â?� that's Spanish for sauteed, not salted.) On previous lunch visits, I thoroughly enjoyed their Cuban steak-and-onion sandwich, as well as the arroz con pollo ($6.95), a couple of well-executed staples sure to console homesick expats.

Milky, not-too-filling tres leches ($2.50) served in a sundae glass tapers off the meal quite nicely, as does the burnt-orange goodness of a beautifully caramelized flan ($1.95). At the prices for which they're offered, both are a steal. Pair one or both with a café con leche ($1.75) and you've got yourself a meal-capper of great value.

The service is deliberate but friendly, and waitresses are always keen to make recommendations. Then again, it's not so much the food or service that has kept Café Madrid in business for a quarter-century, but its patronage and the convivial atmosphere Genao has fostered inside his humble eatery. Here's to another 25.

China and Peru have enjoyed a long-standing diplomatic friendship; now diners can benefit from their culinary partnership. While the traditional Chinese fare is less than remarkable, the flavors of Peru shine. Don’t miss the ceviche mixto, tender citrus-marinated seafood served with a handful of toasted corn nuts. Read Orlando Weekly's full review: http://www2.orlandoweekly.com/dining/review.asp?rid=13329


Teaser: China and Peru have enjoyed a long-standing diplomatic friendship; now diners can benefit from their culinary partnership. While the traditional Chinese fare is less than remarkable, the flavors of Peru shine. Don't miss the ceviche mixto, tender citrus-marinated seafood served with a handful of toasted corn nuts.

When we first started business 10 years ago at Church Street," says Oscar Lagos, owner of Choo Choo Churros, "we had a small cart that we sold fried pastries from – churros. And since there was the train there, my wife named it Choo Choo Churros."

From that small cart the Lagos moved to a little coffeeshop on Bumby Avenue, and then four years ago to Lake Underhill, always keeping the name. "Argentinean people and American people, they both ask, what does this name mean?" Lagos says. Well, to anyone who asks, in the universal language of food it translates into "good."

From that small cart the Lagos moved to a little coffeeshop on Bumby Avenue, and then four years ago to Lake Underhill, always keeping the name. "Argentinean people and American people, they both ask, what does this name mean?" Lagos says. Well, to anyone who asks, in the universal language of food it translates into "good."

Choo Choo has an affinity for small spaces, and there are barely nine tables in the room, with three more outside on a patio. Renovation is going on, but nothing will change the fact that Lake Underhill Road and the East-West Expressway are right outside. That seems to be the only negative Ã? unless you're a vegetarian.

Choo Choo has an affinity for small spaces, and there are barely nine tables in the room, with three more outside on a patio. Renovation is going on, but nothing will change the fact that Lake Underhill Road and the East-West Expressway are right outside. That seems to be the only negative Ã? unless you're a vegetarian.

Much of the food of Argentina and Brazil can be summed up in four letters – meat. Lots of meat, delicious big slabs of it, served in styles and from parts of beasts that some people, even carnivores, would rather not think about. So unless you know Spanish or aren't afraid to ask, you could order "morcilla" and end up with blood sausage, or be served a big order of lemon- grilled sweet breads because "molleja" is such a lovely word.

Much of the food of Argentina and Brazil can be summed up in four letters – meat. Lots of meat, delicious big slabs of it, served in styles and from parts of beasts that some people, even carnivores, would rather not think about. So unless you know Spanish or aren't afraid to ask, you could order "morcilla" and end up with blood sausage, or be served a big order of lemon- grilled sweet breads because "molleja" is such a lovely word.

What you might want to start with is "churrasco" ($12.95), a word that usually refers to an open-flame style of cooking rather than a cut of meat, but which in this case is a two-inch-thick skirt steak that is tender, juicy and unadorned. Here is a chef who doesn't have to season, flavor, dress up or disguise a piece of meat, but knows how to cook for the best effect. The mixed grill, or "parrillada" ($15.95 to $32.95, depending on the number of people) is a popular dish that features a little sample of everything on a sizzling platter.

What you might want to start with is "churrasco" ($12.95), a word that usually refers to an open-flame style of cooking rather than a cut of meat, but which in this case is a two-inch-thick skirt steak that is tender, juicy and unadorned. Here is a chef who doesn't have to season, flavor, dress up or disguise a piece of meat, but knows how to cook for the best effect. The mixed grill, or "parrillada" ($15.95 to $32.95, depending on the number of people) is a popular dish that features a little sample of everything on a sizzling platter.

If you need a break from beef, the sweet corn or ham-and-cheese empanadas – small and dense deep-fried turnovers ($1.50) – are great. There are a couple of chicken dishes "milanesa" (breaded) and a wonderful "Sierra fish" cross-cut steak (usually white fish, but on this occasion, salmon) that was firm but still juicy in a slightly spicy lemon and wine sauce.

If you need a break from beef, the sweet corn or ham-and-cheese empanadas – small and dense deep-fried turnovers ($1.50) – are great. There are a couple of chicken dishes "milanesa" (breaded) and a wonderful "Sierra fish" cross-cut steak (usually white fish, but on this occasion, salmon) that was firm but still juicy in a slightly spicy lemon and wine sauce.

Entrees come with a simple salad, good bread and the sounds of vintage tangos in the background, including some recordings that customers bring in to share from their own collections. (Mention Astor Piazzolla, and you're golden.) The owners are charmingly friendly. Mix in their well-prepared meals and cozy atmosphere and you have a winning combination, regardless of language.

Looking at the various dining options in and around the University-Alafaya corridor, then thinking back on how French fries and gravy purchased from a white truck sustained me for most of my university years in Toronto, I can't help but feel a tad resentful of UCF students, who seem to have an array of dining options in close proximity to their campus. Not that those French fries lathered in thick, dark gravy were bad, mind you ' in fact, just thinking about them elicits a salivary response ' but UCF collegians have it good.

El Corral is one chicken joint that knows how to properly roast pollo in the Peruvian style. And while the owners of El Corral happen to be Colombian, the comida served up at this former Pizza Hut comprises the best South America has to offer. The basket of empanadas ($8) alone is worth the visit: lightly fried, freshly made shells enveloping cheese along with ground beef, chicken and guava. The beef and chicken pockets were superbly crisp and savory, while gooey guava empanadas could've been saved for dessert. Arepitas ($5), mini corn-flour fritter discs, needed a salsa or chunky chutney to complete them ' unfortunately, neither the salty hot sauce (a derivative of Peruvian aji sauce) nor the saltier yellow-green 'secretâ?� sauce added anything to the Venezuelan corn cakes.

But we came specifically for the chicken, and as far as their pollo a la brasa is concerned, it passed the ultimate test. The white meat attained a balanced succulence ' not desiccated, not exceedingly juicy. A variety of combos are available for less than $9, all of which come with a heaping serving of rice (yellow or white), beans (red or black) and a side. I opted for their half-chicken combo ($8.45) with sweet plantains. Apart from the slightly overdone black beans, everything on this plate was palate-perfect, particularly the rub on that spit-fired bird. The plantains, it should be noted, were nicely caramelized, yet not overcooked. Estofado ($10.40), a hearty beef stew blending lima beans, yuca, peas, carrots, corn and green beans, is a comfort dish that, once mixed with white rice, yields a gumbo-like consistency. The dish is well-seasoned without being spicy; the side of fried yuca, regrettably, was a dry and mealy failure. At first blush, the arroz con pollo ($8.95) resembled a dense Puerto Rican mofongo, but the sofrito-tinged hillock easily gave way in fluffy forkfuls of zesty chicken and rice. 'Tropical potato,â?� the side of choice, featured roasted potatoes topped with shreds of cheese and pico de gallo.

Creamy tumbao ($2.50) is an absolute must. The sweet blend of passion-fruit pulp and milk neared empty by the time the food arrived, and I just as well could've ordered another if I didn't need to eat. Whether you opt for mango, soursop, pineapple or strawberry, just know it's an irresistibly refreshing beverage. I did resist ordering tres leches cake ($2.50), only because they were fresh out, but the flan ($2) was spot-on creamy and rich, with enough caramel to sip once the custard was gone.

Expectations are often lowered when it comes to counter-service restaurants, but the service here was quick, friendly and helpful. The flat-screens airing soccer and ESPN Deportes give life to a nondescript interior conducive to fast turnarounds. But given the quality of the El Corral's fare, those fast turnarounds will only result in quick returns.

You dig your grave with your teeth,â?� so the saying goes, and after my meal at El Rey de la Papa (literally, the Potato King), I certainly felt acutely aware of my own mortality. An overload of starches brought me a few inches closer to six feet under, while a thorough scarfing of red meat had the tempo of my pulse beating like a rhythmic death knell. Oh, well. 'Better to pay the butcher than the doctorâ?� goes another saying, and the good-natured meat cleaver here was paid in full. She goes by the name of Jacqueline Sandoval, and on any given night, she can be seen scurrying back and forth from the kitchen to the colorful Christmas-colored dining room delivering gastronomic gifts from her native Colombia.

A fair chunk of menu real estate is devoted to baked potatoes and scores of associated toppings. However, the spuds at Jason's Deli still hold an edge over El Rey's prodigious papas, due in part to the freshness factor of said toppings ' the mixed vegetables here tasted like they came out of a frozen bag. Nevertheless, the quantity-over-quality supreme potato ($7.50) is ornamented with a surfeit of somewhat savory embellishments: cheese, sour cream, butter, ground beef, chicken, shredded beef, ham, bacon, chili, broccoli, peas, green beans, carrots, corn, sweet plantain, mushrooms, tomatoes, lettuce. OK, breathe.

Rustic rib soup ($4.99) served with a plate of rice was a far and away better, if not outstanding, starter. The corn on the cob was missing, but melt-in-your-mouth cubes of beef ribs lolling in a clear broth anointed with cilantro and weighted with lumps of potatoes, carrots and cassava makes it obvious why the soup is a national dish in Colombia. Shredded beef is encased by a pastry shell crunchier than any I've sampled elsewhere, but that just made the empanadas de carne ($1.30) all the more enjoyable. Sandoval serves them with a decanter of a cilantro-heavy hot sauce that you'll want to daub onto every dish within spoon's reach.

Any hopes of a juicy, succulent churrasco ($14.99) went down in flames, those scorching licks charring the hefty slab of an overly well-done skirt steak. Multiple applications of the aforementioned hot sauce couldn't re-moisturize the meat, and the equally desiccated sweet plantains just made the dish drier than a Bogotá winter. To my surprise, the pechuga empanizada ($8.50), or breaded chicken breast, was every bit the juicy, succulent slab of meat that the churrasco wasn't. Pounded flat, the chicken was then coated with an herbaceous breading that makes it a prudent choice for all palates, no matter how divergent. If you're looking to veer off the beaten path, you can always lap up the lengua en salsa ($7), or beef tongue in a criolla sauce. With all the pork, beef, sausage, fried egg and beans, there's enough protein in the traditional bandeja paisa ($12.95) to feed a jungle full of bush dogs.

Desserts, thankfully, forego tubers and meat for milk and sugar ' milky tres leches ($2.50) and silky vanilla flan ($1.50) satisfy. Refreshing smoothies ($3) made with soursop and naranjilla (commonly known as guanabana and lulo, respectively) complement the fleshy feast, and add a little sweet to your meaty meal.

The sleepy barrio of Guavate, in the heart of Puerto Rico's Sierra de Cayey mountain range, has become a haven for palates with a penchant for pork, particularly of the roasted variety. The rotisseried piggies are as much of an attraction as the town's pastoral expanses, so it was a surprising to see just a handful of pork dishes on the expansive menu of this restaurant named after the mountain hamlet. There were no pigs impaled over open-air spits here, but we were excitedly informed that mondongo ($5.99) was available.

Not to be confused with Puerto Rico's national dish, mofongo, mondongo is, as our charming and informative waitress put it, 'drunk food.â?� The main ingredient of the hearty Latin American soup is typically beef tripe, but Boricuas use pig stomach to create the pungent, wonderfully seasoned meal in a bowl. The soup isn't for all tastes, but if you downed a few too many Medalla beers the night before, it will certainly help you regain your sobriety. Each comforting slurp is made all the more so with chunks of taro and potatoes.

If you sour at the sight of tripe, other soupy starters can be had. Less adventurous diners will find the broth of the asopao de pollo ($7.99) just as comforting. My dining partner remarked the chicken soup was reminiscent of her Puerto Rican sister-in-law's asopao, thanks to the inclusion of pigeon peas, olives, red peppers, taro and plenty of rice. For fried beginnings, the assorted meat appetizer platter ($9.99) offers a nice representation of the island's delicacies. Achiote-tinged potato balls stuffed with ground beef and mini meat turnovers begged for a splash of house-made hot sauce. Chicharrones (chicken cracklings) were nuggets of moistness, while alcapurrias, mahogany-hued cylinders of mashed plantains, starchy yautía and ground beef, failed to arouse our appetites.

Boricua kitchens are judged by the quality of their mofongo, and if you're a fan of the mashed-plantain-and-meat staple, you'll have a field day with the more than 20 varieties Guavate deftly churns out. The churrasco mofongo ($16.99) blended wonderfully tender chunks of chimichurri-basted skirt steak into an impressive heap of green plantains flavored with garlic and crispy pork skin. The mofongo didn't suffer from the desiccated texture often associated with the dish, but if you opt to enjoy it with a side of yautía (included), carb bloating is virtually assured. Chillo frito (red snapper, $15.99) was as flaky as it should've been, but it was the accompanying sauces ' a garlicky salsa ajillo and a zesty creole sauce thick with green peppers, onions and capers ' that really livened up the fish.

Such uncompromisingly traditional fare calls for traditional liquid refreshments, and fresh-squeezed juices like passion fruit ($2.99) and lemon ($2.99) are standout quaffs. Desserts, on the other hand, weren't as impressive ' a cinnamon blanket on jiggly tembleque ($3.50) negated any semblance of coconut essence, and creamy flan de queso ($2.99) could've used more caramel syrup.

Still, Guavate's dishes are a notch above other Puerto Rican restaurants in town, and the restaurant has left an indelible mark on regulars. A lease disagreement led to a relocation from East Colonial Drive to South Alafaya Trail, but the drive hasn't deterred patrons. Now if they'd just get that open-air spit â?¦.

Weighty, messy, exotic burgers draw a diverse patronage to this cramped Kirkman Road joint. Hot dogs, beef skewers, arepas and other South American fare are offered, but it's the burgers -- hand-formed patties piled high with lettuce, tomato, white cheese, onion, and a mix of potato chips, pineapple sauce, pink sauce and Garcia's delectable secret garlic sauce -- that rule. Open until 3:30 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 4:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

The building's not much to look at, but there's no missing the brilliant color of La Granja – yellow-orange and lots of it. The only adornment is the name of the South Florida fast-food chain emblazoned in red along with the description: "Pollos y carnes a la brasa," which loosely translates into "chicken and meat on the grill."

The parking lot is usually buzzing with cars, whether it's lunchtime or dinnertime, and on busy days, the kitchen runs out of some items. So there's obviously been a warm reception to this ethnic spot near the intersection of Semoran Boulevard and Aloma Avenue in Winter Park (where Miami Subs used to be).

The parking lot is usually buzzing with cars, whether it's lunchtime or dinnertime, and on busy days, the kitchen runs out of some items. So there's obviously been a warm reception to this ethnic spot near the intersection of Semoran Boulevard and Aloma Avenue in Winter Park (where Miami Subs used to be).

There's a drive-through window, but go inside to see what people are packing away: large plates of spit-roasted chicken, grilled steak and pork accompanied by large helpings of white rice, black or red beans and french fries. The standard "Family meal #1" ($26) includes half a chicken, half a pound each of pork and steak, large rice and beans, large french fries and four sodas. Call it Latin American comfort food (or call it a carbohydrate curse), but the meat is the star of the meal, with its "secret" Peruvian spicing permeated by the flavor of cumin (which is the main ingredient in chili powders). By contrast, the rice and beans are bland, but the fries were thick and tasty.

There's a drive-through window, but go inside to see what people are packing away: large plates of spit-roasted chicken, grilled steak and pork accompanied by large helpings of white rice, black or red beans and french fries. The standard "Family meal #1" ($26) includes half a chicken, half a pound each of pork and steak, large rice and beans, large french fries and four sodas. Call it Latin American comfort food (or call it a carbohydrate curse), but the meat is the star of the meal, with its "secret" Peruvian spicing permeated by the flavor of cumin (which is the main ingredient in chili powders). By contrast, the rice and beans are bland, but the fries were thick and tasty.

The fried bananas ($1.75 small, $2.50 large) are my recommendation for dessert, though the flan ($2) is fine, too. The spare salad ($2/$3.50) is not worth the cost. Other side items are garlic potatoes and fried yuca ($1.75/$3.50). And the meat sandwiches served with fries are a good deal ($4.95). The yellow Inca Cola ($1.15), kind of like a cream soda, is refreshing, even if the Peruvian product is now owned by Coca-Cola. Don't be put off by the potential for carb-loading here – just pick up some of the spicy meat and pair it with a healthy salad at home.

You may not have ever sampled the El Salvadoran pupusa, but if you've enjoyed Venezuelan arepas or Mexican gorditas, then you're likely familiar with the Central American nation's most popular food staple. The puffed rounds are such delicious little numbers that every Nov. 13, El Salvador celebrates National Pupusa Day.

At Las Delicias Grill, the savory pancake-like corn tortilla ($2.50) is stuffed with soft cheese and, optionally, chicharron (ground pork) and refried beans, then grilled and served with a smooth red salsa and crunchy curtido, a type of pickled cabbage akin to sauerkraut. You'll also find heating trays with an assortment of soups and stews ' if you just happen to be suffering from a hangover, the menudo ($5.99) is an appropriate remedy. A clear broth with honeycomb tripe, cassava, potatoes, zucchini and corn on the cob, its heat resuscitates sobriety. You'll also find tasty beef empanadas ($1.99) served with a zingy green hot sauce, tacos and rotisserie chicken.

The 26-seat pupuseria is a popular spot with Salvadoran, Honduran and Guatemalan men craving home cooking, though it's a little hard to find. Just look for the Las Americas supermarket in the nondescript strip mall on Semoran just south of Lake Underhill, and you'll find it situated in the corner of the plaza, adjacent to the Latin grocer. The scene in front of the eatery resembles a street-corner setting in San Salvador, while inside, pupusa-pacified men shoot stick while wistfully singing to native tunes emanating from the jukebox. Note: Credit cards are not accepted; cash only.

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