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    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.

    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?¦.

    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.

    An interesting statistic: In the United States, the incidence of heart disease is almost four times higher than it is in Colombia. I mention this fact because when I opened the menu of Colombian dishes at Oh! Que Bueno, I swear I could hear my mother yelling, "If you don't eat your vegetables, you'll get sick!"

    Housed in a small, nondescript fast-food makeover off fast-traveled South Semoran Boulevard, the family spot was formerly the Sunrise Restaurant, a schizophrenic endeavor that served omelets for breakfast, Chinese food for lunch and Vietnamese at dinner. No such confusion at O!QB ... the bill of fare is so constant it doesn't vary from morning to 10 p.m. close.

    Housed in a small, nondescript fast-food makeover off fast-traveled South Semoran Boulevard, the family spot was formerly the Sunrise Restaurant, a schizophrenic endeavor that served omelets for breakfast, Chinese food for lunch and Vietnamese at dinner. No such confusion at O!QB ... the bill of fare is so constant it doesn't vary from morning to 10 p.m. close.

    There's not a veggie among the listings of tipicos (traditional dishes), platos (combination plates) and bocaditos (appetizers; literally "little mouths"), unless you count corn, rice and red beans. Don't look for anything green. How do the fit and sound people of Colombia go through the day without their hearts attacking them? Maybe Mom was wrong and taste does count for something.

    There's not a veggie among the listings of tipicos (traditional dishes), platos (combination plates) and bocaditos (appetizers; literally "little mouths"), unless you count corn, rice and red beans. Don't look for anything green. How do the fit and sound people of Colombia go through the day without their hearts attacking them? Maybe Mom was wrong and taste does count for something.

    Take, as an example, the "bandeja campesina" ($9.95), a "farmers meal" that's half dinner, half breakfast. White rice, savory red beans, a thick link sausage and a large slice of fried pork skin (more like thick bacon than the crunchy snacks) join a typical morning repast of steak, fried eggs and corn cake. There's enough food to last most of the day, and each bit tasted as authentic as the presentation. And I tell a slight lie -- there was green in the form of a creamy slice of avocado.

    Take, as an example, the "bandeja campesina" ($9.95), a "farmers meal" that's half dinner, half breakfast. White rice, savory red beans, a thick link sausage and a large slice of fried pork skin (more like thick bacon than the crunchy snacks) join a typical morning repast of steak, fried eggs and corn cake. There's enough food to last most of the day, and each bit tasted as authentic as the presentation. And I tell a slight lie -- there was green in the form of a creamy slice of avocado.

    The "mariscos" menu offers fried red snapper (frozen rather than fresh), mojarra, a small tropical fish, and various shrimp dishes. I tried camarones al ajillo ($10.95) and was rewarded with several plump shrimp swimming in a garlic and butter sauce liberally spiced with cilantro and excellent when spooned over the rice. Green plantain fritters -- CD-sized disks of fried cooking bananas -- were surprisingly moist and tasted great dipped in the garlic.

    The "mariscos" menu offers fried red snapper (frozen rather than fresh), mojarra, a small tropical fish, and various shrimp dishes. I tried camarones al ajillo ($10.95) and was rewarded with several plump shrimp swimming in a garlic and butter sauce liberally spiced with cilantro and excellent when spooned over the rice. Green plantain fritters -- CD-sized disks of fried cooking bananas -- were surprisingly moist and tasted great dipped in the garlic.

    The bites of sweet plantains ($2) were fried almost to caramel without turning to mush, and a sugary delight. I have yet to really acquire a taste for arepas, the flat, grilled corn cakes that are like a thick tortilla and are served with everything from shredded beef to a slice of bland queso blanco, but they're available in all their permutations. A popular treat for carnivores is the morcilla black sausage ($2.50), like German blood sausage or English black pudding with a hot-pepper kick.

    The bites of sweet plantains ($2) were fried almost to caramel without turning to mush, and a sugary delight. I have yet to really acquire a taste for arepas, the flat, grilled corn cakes that are like a thick tortilla and are served with everything from shredded beef to a slice of bland queso blanco, but they're available in all their permutations. A popular treat for carnivores is the morcilla black sausage ($2.50), like German blood sausage or English black pudding with a hot-pepper kick.

    Service is polite and prompt, and protein fans will shout, "Oh! Que bueno!" for the ethnic cuisine.

    Some of the best-kept dining secrets are hidden in the crevices of huge, obnoxious shopping plazas. Pollo Rico is a delicious example. Sitting in a corner of the Lake Fredrica Shopping Plaza on State Road 436, the restaurant's tiny storefront gives no indication of the treasures within.

    Inside, the humble eatery's off-white walls are adorned with colorful Peruvian tapestries, crafts and dolls. But the festive decorations barely hint at the feasts that await.

    Inside, the humble eatery's off-white walls are adorned with colorful Peruvian tapestries, crafts and dolls. But the festive decorations barely hint at the feasts that await.

    The bountiful cuisine of Peru -- a country with a high poverty rate but a wealth of good cooking -- is characterized by lots of hot peppers and root crops like yams, yuca and countless varieties of potatoes. It bears strong resemblance to Cuban food but has an unexpected Chinese influence. The flavors and textures are surprisingly comforting.

    The bountiful cuisine of Peru -- a country with a high poverty rate but a wealth of good cooking -- is characterized by lots of hot peppers and root crops like yams, yuca and countless varieties of potatoes. It bears strong resemblance to Cuban food but has an unexpected Chinese influence. The flavors and textures are surprisingly comforting.

    On this particularly cold and rainy night, the "caldo de pollo" ($4.50), Peruvian-style chicken soup, was the perfect remedy. Big enough to be a meal itself, it's loaded with noodles and large chunks of carrots and potatoes in a rich, deeply seasoned broth.

    On this particularly cold and rainy night, the "caldo de pollo" ($4.50), Peruvian-style chicken soup, was the perfect remedy. Big enough to be a meal itself, it's loaded with noodles and large chunks of carrots and potatoes in a rich, deeply seasoned broth.

    Next came the "yuca a la huancaina" ($5), which are thick, hearty slices of yuca (a root crop similar to a potato but denser, with more of a bite), deep fried and served on a plateful of spicy cheese sauce.

    Next came the "yuca a la huancaina" ($5), which are thick, hearty slices of yuca (a root crop similar to a potato but denser, with more of a bite), deep fried and served on a plateful of spicy cheese sauce.

    Meat-and-potato people -- which I am -- will enjoy the "lomo saltado" ($9), tender strips of beef stir-fried with tomatoes, onions and french fries in a savory brown sauce with a Chinese flair.

    Meat-and-potato people -- which I am -- will enjoy the "lomo saltado" ($9), tender strips of beef stir-fried with tomatoes, onions and french fries in a savory brown sauce with a Chinese flair.

    Hot peppers, or aji, are a Peruvian staple. The "aji de gallina" ($7) is a delectable blend of shredded chicken and thick potato slices in a creamy sauce with tantalizing specks of red aji. The texture is like a very thick chicken and dumplings -- perfect on a cold night.

    Hot peppers, or aji, are a Peruvian staple. The "aji de gallina" ($7) is a delectable blend of shredded chicken and thick potato slices in a creamy sauce with tantalizing specks of red aji. The texture is like a very thick chicken and dumplings -- perfect on a cold night.

    The high point of the meal was the "papa rellena" ($3), so amazing, I'd throw down a sumo wrestler for one. This is without a doubt the best rellena I've ever had: a huge mashed-potato ball stuffed with ground beef, sliced egg, olives and raisins, and then quickly fried until the outside is crispy. The potato pocket is served with thinly sliced lime-marinated onions and a very hot sauce made from green aji.

    The high point of the meal was the "papa rellena" ($3), so amazing, I'd throw down a sumo wrestler for one. This is without a doubt the best rellena I've ever had: a huge mashed-potato ball stuffed with ground beef, sliced egg, olives and raisins, and then quickly fried until the outside is crispy. The potato pocket is served with thinly sliced lime-marinated onions and a very hot sauce made from green aji.

    I don't believe any meal is complete without dessert. My server, who was friendly and eager to help, suggested "alfajor" ($1.20), a "sandie" cookie with a dulce de leche filling -- totally to-die-for. An Inca Kola (which tastes a bit like red cream soda) made the perfect chaser.

    I don't believe any meal is complete without dessert. My server, who was friendly and eager to help, suggested "alfajor" ($1.20), a "sandie" cookie with a dulce de leche filling -- totally to-die-for. An Inca Kola (which tastes a bit like red cream soda) made the perfect chaser.

    Peruvian fare is famous in South America, but I predict its popularity will steadily grow on this one. It's the new "Southern comfort" food. And with Pollo Rico on the map, the South will rise again.

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