Here are Newsday’s top 10 Latin restaurants for 2018.
Note: Most dishes mentioned are samples of the restaurants’ menus and may not be available at all times. Seasonal changes and dish substitutions are common.
Café Buenos Aires
Café Buenos Aires (23 Wall St., Huntington): When Hugo Garcia opened his singular Huntington restaurant in 2007, his goal was to introduce Long Island to the cuisine of his native Argentina, from seafood ceviche and plump, golden empanadas to parrillada mixta (mixed, grilled meats). In the ensuing decade, he's also made Café Buenos Aires one of the Island's most dependable spots for classic tapas (tuna-stuffed piquillo peppers, shrimp in garlic sauce, serrano ham with manchego cheese) as well as Spanish and Latin American specialties such as paella and tacos. The spacious restaurant takes in a dining room, bar and, in season, tables outside on Wall Street. As the night progresses, watch out for impromptu tangos. More info: 631-603-3600, cafebuenosaires.net
A lobster salad with claw and tail meat, avocado, hearts of palm, corn, tomato and green scallion, served at Cafe Buenos Aires in Huntington.
Coral Tapas and Wine Bar
Coral Tapas and Wine Bar (215 Atlantic Ave., East Moriches): Spain, once a bastion of time-honored foodways, has become a seat of culinary innovation. You can taste both at Coral -- while you take in spectacular views of Moriches Bay. The kitchen does right by the classics, from paella to tapas (highlights include patatas bravas, garlic shrimp, croquetas of Iberico ham). But executive chef Roberto Leon also ventures into molecular gastronomy, the modernist style pioneered by the great Spanish chef, Ferran Adria, which explains the special-effects opener of lush smoked oysters, unveiled from under a cloche, sending out little plumes and sporting both a hint of chorizo, and a flavorful cloudlet of lemon "air."More info: 631-703-3479, coraleastmoriches.com
Chicken-chorizo croquettes served at Coral Tapas and Wine Bar in East Moriches.
El Rodeo (130 Montauk Hwy., East Moriches): This authentic Mexican restaurant is the third jewel in a triple crown owned by the Rojas family, who also own Taqueria Mexico and Taqueria Cielito Lindo, both in Riverhead. The décor is no-frills (though possibly more-frills than the others) but food is on point. Tacos, made with homemade tortillas, are exemplary, particularly the campechanos, filled with beef, pork and sausage. Tamales, so often ponderously dense, are light and tender. Meat mains are consistently fine, as is the pozole, a spicy soup thick with exploded hominy kernels and hunks of braised pork. More info: 631-909-2666, elrodeony.com
Pozole soup with pork and corn at El Rodeo in East Moriches.
Gingerbites (730 E. Jericho Tpke., Huntington Station): Haitian fare is a true fusion cuisine, the result of native Caribbean recipes and ingredients being transformed by generations of African slaves and European colonizers. You can taste this cultural phenomenon at Gingerbites, a chic little eatery that, despite its location, seems thousands of miles away from Jericho Turnpike. Owner Marie Michele Destil presides over the dining room and the kitchen, where her specialties include griot, crisp cubes of herb-marinated pork; accra croquettes made with the tropical root, malanga; festival fries, a medley of sweet potatoes, yuca and breadfruit. Heat seekers will groove on the pikliz, the spicy-sour condiment that can enliven any savory dish. More info: 631-427-2483, gingerbitescatering.com
Stuffed plantain cups are served at Gingerbites in Huntington Station.
La Fondita (74 Montauk Hwy., Amagansett): Get in line for some of the brightest, most authentic Mexican flavors in the Hamptons. La Fondita is the most casual member of the East End's Honest Man Restaurant Group (Nick & Toni's, Rowdy Hall, Townline BBQ) but the culinary standards are just as high -- as is the celebrity quotient. The restaurant is little more than an enclosed stand with a few counter stools, but there are picnic tables on the lawn, and Adirondack chairs around the pond out back. You'll want to get into the soft-corn tacos filled with either shrimp, smoky carne asada, spicy chorizo sausage or fried fish. Great chicken tortilla soup and hearty tortas (Mexican sandwiches), as well as surprisingly good salads, plus Mexican drinks and desserts. More info: 631-267-8800, lafondita.net
Shrimp tacos, one of the delicacies served at La Fondita in Amagansett.
La Vicharra Grill
La Vicharra Grill (62 Landing Rd., Glen Cove): Gold, in all its resplendence, is the predominant color at La Vicharra Grill. There's the glossy sheen of cancha, roasted and salted corn kernels, a dish of which graces each table; the vivid Huancaina sauce that blankets slices of pale boiled potatoes; the mellow yellow of chupe, corn-enriched shrimp chowder; the burnished skin of a fried half chicken, flanked by bronze-edged roasted potatoes. These dishes are among the Peruvian treasures served at La Vicharra Grill. The décor here is modest, service can be spotty, the liquor license comes and goes. But we've not found better Peruvian food on Long Island. More info: 516-801-1314, lavicharra.com
The Huancaina o Ocopa appetizer at La Vicharra Grill in Glen Cove.
Lucharitos Taqueria & Tequila Bar
Lucharitos Taqueria & Tequila Bar (119 Main St., Greenport): After six years and one expansion, Marc LaMaina's rollicking North Fork Mexican, has settled into its status as a Greenport landmark. Bring the kids for lunch, bring the party after dinner, this is crowd-pleasing fare. The fearsome countenances of the Mexican wrestlers known as luchadores adorn the walls; on the plates you'll find more than a dozen types of tacos (including such rarities as lobster, coconut shrimp and vegan mushroom). There are burritos and empanadas and house specialties such as the "Superfly Snuka" (barbecued pork topped with pineapple) and Long Island barbecued duck nachos. More info: 631-477-6666, lucharitos.com
Every day, a different empanada filling is featured at Lucharitos Taqueria & Tequila Bar in Greenport.
Pollos El Paisa
Pollos El Paisa (989 Old Country Rd., Westbury): The very definition of a going concern, this 14-year-old Colombian restaurant located in a decommissioned diner, is busy from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Chicken in every guise is recommended, from the bronzed rotisserie birds to the rich chicken soup, loaded with giblets and heady with cilantro. The menu covers all the Colombian bases, though, including the belly-busting bandeja paisa, which features steak, pork rinds, beans, rice, plantains, avocado and a fried egg. More info: 516-338-5858, polloselpaisali.com
The shrimp in creamy garlic sauce at Pollos El Paisa in Westbury.
Taco 'Bout It
Taco 'Bout It (40B E. Main St., Riverhead): The cozy eatery, with a handful of tables and boldly painted walls, can be tricky to find -- it's behind Haiku Sushi -- and is the latest venture for the owners of Boom Burgers in Westhampton Beach and Mattituck. Anthony Catanzaro and Anthony Cicogna enlisted chef Alejandro "Chicki" Ramirez, a native of Oaxaca, to create a traditional menu that includes tacos made with fresh tortillas, husk-wrapped tamales, quesadillas, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, tortas and beverages including Jarritos sodas, horchata and the tart hibiscus tea called agua de Jamaica. More info: 631-574-8787
Steak and shrimp fajita is served at Taco 'Bout It in Riverhead.
Verde Kitchen and Cocktails
Verde Kitchen and Cocktails (70 E. Main St., Bay Shore): It starts with a good Margarita, and goes up from there. Verde Kitchen & Cocktails reaches the top tier of Mexican restaurants for fine imbibing, lively food, absence of cliches and considerable style. There's exposed brick and reclaimed wood and the glass walls of the dining room are adorned with living plants. The menu veers from the traditional (guacamole, queso fundido, street tacos) to more adventurous fare such as Berkshire pork chop with tamarind glaze, spring vegetables, garlic-habanero salsa and toasted peanut or chintextle-chili-rubbed swordfish in a charred banana leaf with hoja santa pesto. More info: 631-665-6300, verdekitchen.com
The "guacamole trio" at Verde Kitchen and 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.