by Tatiana Lopez
Latin American culture is often perceived as homogenous. Yet, every single country is diverse and unique in aspects such as cuisine, customs, and fashion. Austin has recently gained popularity as a food mecca, and with heavy Latin American influences in the city, local businesses strive to provide authentic Latin food that represents the culture of their respective countries.
Here are four of the most authentic places in Austin where you can get a taste of different Latin dishes.
Location: 1201 East 6th St.
Meat, tango, and soccer are some of the things that come to mind when you hear the word Argentina. Co-owner of Buenos Aires Café, Paola Guerrero, claims that Argentinian culture is much more than that. The business was founded in 2005 by her mother Reina, who opened Buenos Aires Café with the hope of creating an environment that resembled her native Argentina.
The menu includes recipes from Paola’s grandmother and other dishes with some Austin influence, which makes the café truly authentic. Paola says one of their goals is to get involved with the community and show what Argentinian culture is all about, which is why all their dishes are made with local, organic products. Their food helps them reminisce about the good times in their home country, which is why they have worked hard to create a unique environment. As soon as you enter the restaurant, you will feel like you were transported to South America. The food, decoration, and music will make your visit an unforgettable experience.
If you go to Buenos Aires Café, the empanadas are a must. You cannot leave without trying the café’s cuatro leches dessert, which will make you come back for more.
Location: 1720 Barton Springs Rd
Venezuelan food is all about authenticity, and it is no surprise that people from other cultures are able to identify Venezuela’s traditional dishes. The flavors are so exquisite and unique that people always end up coming back for more. Austin is lucky enough to have Four Brothers, a Venezuelan food truck that went into business in February of 2015. The owners have a clear mission, which is to create a business that offers great service and authentic Venezuelan food. The quality of the food matters, but Four Brothers owner Pedro says they also value the interaction with the customers, especially with local Austinites.
Arepa, a type of corn patty, stands out from the menu of Venezuela’s traditional dishes. Other countries in Latin America have their own version of arepas, but what is so unique about Venezuela’s corn patty is the method of preparation. They come filled with chicken or beef, cheese, avocado, corn and beans. Four Brothers’ tequeños are also a must, and after tasting them, you will realize regular cheese sticks are a thing of the past.
Location: 1700 Montopolis Dr
Gladys Benitez knew she wanted to be a businesswoman in college. Benitez grew up in Miami: a melting pot of different Latin cultures. This environment, her mother, and her driven character led her to open Café Nena’i. Her café is unique in the sense that it offers a wide variety of Latin American foods, which is something that Gladys felt Austin lacked. One of her main goals is to reflect the multi-cultural aspect of Latin America through food.
Café Nena’i’s products are all artisan and handmade, and its menu includes sweet and salty treats. The café is perfect for an afternoon with friends filled with coffee and pastries, or Sunday brunch with the family when the empanadas and arepas are the freshest.
You will experience the diversity of Latin American culture through the exquisite tangerine cake and alfajor. Or through the famous Cuban cortadito, which will make you feel like you are in Miami.
Location: 2409 East 7th St.
Colombian cuisine is all about rich and diverse flavors. Even the most exigent tastes will find at least one Colombian dish exquisite. From seafood to the famous arepas, Colombian food will make you feel like you are eating at home with your family. Colombian cuisine reflects the welcoming spirit of its citizens, and Casa Colombia is no different.
Every region of the country has its own traditional dishes, and Casa Colombia’s menu includes a variety of those recipes. The coastal area’s signature dishes include fried fish with coconut rice and shrimp with vegetables. Colombia’s cuisine revolves around meat, which is why you will find bistec encebollado or sirloin steak with onions in almost every restaurant throughout the country. •
Tatiana Lopez, who was born in Colombia and raised in Costa Rica, is a second-year Public Relations student at the University of Texas. She loves learning about new cultures as much as she loves popcorn and donuts.