Latin American restaurants on Long Island: Our critics' favorites
From the cooking of Cuba and Colombia to the cuisines of Mexico and Peru, Long Island has seen a significant rise in Latin American restaurants, with authentic flavors and high-quality results.
Here are our top picks.
Selections by Newsday's food staff.
Corazon de Cuba(Credit: Barbara Alper)
Corazon de Cuba, Long Beach: Vibrancy defines this pulsating, bi-level Cuban spot, where live music fills the place on weekends. From Cuban-born chef Oscar Juarez come such picks as smoky ham croquettes, crunchy-creamy shrimp fritters, a bright salpicon (seafood salad), sizzling marinated roast chicken (pictured) and moist lechon asado, or roasted pork. Finish with the restaurant's signature rice pudding empanadas.
Corazon de Cuba in Long Beach serves Long Beach salpicon, an appetizer salad of calamari, shrimp, scallops and mussels.
Tocolo Cantina(Credit: Barbara Alper)
Tocolo Cantina, Garden City: Mexican cuisine by way of California is the strength of Tocolo Cantina, a bright and refreshing restaurant in The Gallery at Westbury Plaza. Modern, trim and very busy, it's a festive destination with fine margaritas, plus Coca-Cola sweetened with cane sugar. Recommended: Berkshire pork; slow-cooked lamb; Baja-style fish tacos; Yucateco guacamole with habanero chiles and cool mango (pictured); queso fundido with chorizo; Mexican corn on the cob with chipotle mayo, piquin peppers and Cotija cheese; roast chicken; hanger steak with poblano peppers; tres leches cake; churros; rice pudding; and spiced Mexican hot chocolate.
Mexican street corn (corn on the cob with chipotle mayo, queso blanco and chili piquin) is served at Tocolo Cantina in Garden City.
Pollos El Paisa(Credit: Nicole Horton)
Pollos El Paisa, Westbury: Not surprisingly, there's usually a long line of people waiting for tables at this bright Colombian spot in a diner-like building. The big draw is golden, glistening rotisserie-roasted ''national chicken'' (the Spanish translation of its name; pictured), as well as a roster of other satisfying choices. Not to be missed is the chicken soup, filled with meat, giblets and cilantro. Fish soup is a worthy meal in itself; meat platters are hearty and heaping.
Shrimp in creamy garlic sauce is served at Pollos El Paisa in Westbury.
Verde Kitchen & Cocktails(Credit: Heather Walsh)
Verde Kitchen & Cocktails, Bay Shore: Verde Kitchen & Cocktails excels with both food and drink, considerable creativity and the absence of cliches. There are two dining areas that draw a youthful crowd. One has high tables and bar chairs; the other, more traditional seating in a live greenhouse. Recommended: guacamole with smoked fish and shrimp; queso fundido with spicy chorizo verde; fluke aguachile, similar to ceviche; ''Mexico City street tacos,'' especially the pork shoulder-and-pork belly one; the guajillo-chile marinated pork chop; bread pudding made with warm churros; rice pudding with candied orange and mezcal-soaked raisins; and a banana split with fried plantains and coconut ice cream. (Pictured: Pato a la Plancha, pan roasted duck breast, with duck confit enchiladas, roasted brussel sprouts, shaved onion, crema, and salsa pasilla.)
The "guacamole trio" at Verde Kitchen & Cocktails in Bay Shore includes one with smoked fluke and shrimp; another with roasted poblano pepper and pomegranate seeds; and a third version with onion, tomato and lime.
Oaxaca Mexican Food Treasure(Credit: Barbara Alper)
Oaxaca Mexican Food Treasure, Huntington: Unchanged over nearly two decades, this Huntington standby, with its terra cotta floors, heavy wood furnishings and ceiling hung with Mexican beer banners, continues to offer rousing fare. Start with chef-owner Alejandro Gonzalez's deeply flavorsome posole, or pork-hominy soup, and move on to Mexico City tacos on soft corn tortillas. Both the taco de lengua (tongue) and taco al pastor (grilled pork) ace the authenticity test. Pork tamales are moist, well-seasoned, irresistible. (Pictured: Chicken enchiladas.)
Tamales Oaxaca with chicken are served at Oaxaca Mexican Food Treasure in Huntington.
La Fondita(Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)
La Fondita, Amagansett: The Hamptons' unofficial capital of Mexican food, La Fondita is a modest, exceedingly casual operation, full of good feeling and tasty fare. The recommendations include chiles rellenos stuffed with cheese, chipotle-chicken tacos, chicken enchiladas with salsa verde, flautas with shredded beef, a Baja-style fish taco made with fried cod, and nachos supremo, with cheese, refried beans, cheese, pico de gallo and your choice of meat. Carnitas, or roasted pork, is especially good. Likewise, the spicy, crumbled chorizo sausage. (Pictured: shrimp tacos.)
Homemade tacos filled with carne asado (grilled steak) are served at La Fondita in Amagansett.
Casa del Campo Dominican Restaurant(Credit: Marisol Diaz)
Casa del Campo Dominican Restaurant, North Babylon: Along with live Latin music and killer sangria, this friendly Dominican spot serves up a repertoire of super-satisfying dishes. Standouts include flaky chicken and cheese-filled empanadas (pictured), tostones rellenos (stuffed plantain cups) with skirt steak, juicy pernil asado (roasted pork) and copper-skinned roasted chicken. You can also get your hands on a first-rate Cuban sandwich. Finish with the good-and-gooey tres leches cake.
Tostones rellenos, little stuffed plantain cups filled with juicy skirt steak filling, is served at Casa del Campo Dominican Restaurant in North Babylon.
Besito(Credit: Jeremy Bales)
Besito, Huntington: To the two Long Island branches of Besito, add a third soon, expected to open later this year in West Islip. You'll also find Besitos in Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. The growing empire began with the Huntington restaurant, followed by its Roslyn counterpart. They're stylish, dependable and represent the high end of local Mexican dining. That starts with outstanding, made-to-order tableside guacamole (pictured). You'll also savor the chiles rellenos, mole poblano, fish Vera Cruz-style, pork carnitas and assorted tacos, as well as the serious commitment to Margaritas. (The second location is at 516 Old Northern Blvd., Roslyn; 516-484-3001.)
Corn tamales are served at Besito in Huntington.
CaraCara(Credit: Jin Lee)
CaraCara, Farmingdale: Authentic Mexican dishes get a few creative tweaks at this attractive spot where twinkling candles are set into little wall niches. Begin with guacamole, prepared tableside. You'll find rich comfort in chicken tamales laced with kernels of fresh corn (pictured). Tacos on soft corn tortillas -- whether filled with chicken, steak, shrimp or fish -- taste truly Mexican. Another standout is cochinita pibil, pork slow-cooked in a banana leaf. Finish with house-made berry tres leches cake.
A plate of berry tres leche dessert is arranged for a photo at Caracara in Farmingdale.
Taqueria Mexico(Credit: Newsday / Gordon M. Grant)
Taqueria Mexico, Riverhead: Many of the patrons at this modest eatery have roots in Mexico, and they are a discerning audience. To satisfy them, Taqueria Mexico makes spare, elegant tacos with homemade tortillas. Try the toothsome tongue; the subtly fiery tacos de longaniza, or Mexican spicy sausage; and lush, braised pork carnitas (pictured) -- all are topped with cilantro and chopped onion. Also of note, the tacos' various fatter, more extravagantly topped cousins: sopes and huaraches. Tamales are also excellent, as are the daily special meat entrees.