Turning up the heat in Cleveland is simple—just take a gourmet-cation to a spirited haunt specializing in south-of-the-border fare. Follow your nose to Fulton Road, where the Caribe Bake Shop begins doling out Puerto Rican delicacies, both sweet and savory, daily from 7 a.m. Come for the award-winning Cubanos, stay for the fried bananas and tres leches.
For Salvadoran seekers, look no further than West 25th where Pupuseria y Antojitos Guanaquitas presents perfect pupusas and empanadas. In Old Brooklyn, art abounds at Sabor Miami Café as Mariela Paz pays homage to her Honduran roots and Floridian fascination. And Lulo—aptly named after a tart Colombian fruit—serves sublime tropical escapes in their sub-level restobar and upstairs Pan-Latin café.
Celebrate Good Times
Horchata, tamarindo and margarita flights will whet your appetite for the mammoth menu of mostly-Mexican selections at Arepazo Latino and Bar in Lakewood. At Twisted Taino in Parma, the robust menu features a mashup of flavor influences from Columbia, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Mexico. (Cleveland Scene dubbed Jose Miguel Melendez’s mofongo “the best in Cleveland.”)
And you can’t miss the Mexican flag facade of Villa Y Zapata, poised at the corner of West 85th and Madison on the near west side. Inside, a wagon wheel light fixture illuminates the humble dining room walls papered with the smiling faces of sombrero-donning patrons commemorating their most special occasions.
Every Day is Taco Tuesday
A well-timed peek inside the visible kitchen at Blue Habanero reveals glimpses of the kitchen crew hand-pressing tortillas to assemble an assortment of succulent street tacos. Hola Tacos’ three locations have officially one-upped the famous fast-food Mexican Pizza with their “Birria Pizza,” adorning a pair of flour tortillas with beef slow-simmered in guajillo; ancho and chipotle peppers; and a generous sprinkling of chihuahua cheese.
More of a Good Thing
Fourteen years after opening their popular Puerto Rican dining room, Rincon Criollo, in Gordon Square, Nydvia and Papo Ruiz expanded in 2020 with a second location called Take 2 now offering cafe service and a rotating menu in the Stockyards neighborhood. After 11 years of operation, Barroco now boasts three outposts in Lakewood, Willoughby and Westlake for enjoying artisan arepas and craft cocktails. And palates aren’t the only thing expanding at Cleveland Mofongo, where its Puerto Rican proprietor hints growth is forthcoming.