2400 SW 29th St.
With the weather barely above freezing these past weeks, the body craves something warm and nourishing. Instead of boring standards like chicken soup, maybe now is the time to indulge in a heaping, hearty bowl of guiso, a Latino variation of classic stew. La Esquina specializes in guisos, offering popular favorites like chile verde or guiso de res en salsa de tomate, as well as regional specialties like the sinus-clearing chile Colorado con papas (each $5.99 with tortillas), and a meaty pork variation, too.
El Buen Gusto
2336 SW 29th St.
El Buen Gusto is a popular destination eatery, with hungry masses coming to sample its handmade, authentic El Salvadoran pupusas. For the uninitiated, pupusas are thick, bready corn tortilla pockets stuffed with cheese and whatever else, from beans to crispy fried pork. Two unique offerings are the edible flowers ayote and loroco used as fillings for about $3. Also, Gusto expanded its menu, adding more Salvadorian dishes, with precise explanations in both Spanish and English.
Berta’s Mexican Cafe
635 SW 29th St.
Berta’s Mexican Cafe looks so good, you will want to try what’s in each steam tray. They’re filled with home-cooked, authentic dishes. While the menu changes from day to day, offerings include creamy chicken molé, crispy stuffed peppers, nopales in tomatoes and peppers and some of the best menudo in the city. Whether fighting a hangover or not, this traditional mix of broth, tripe and hominy ($9) is a meal unto itself.
Tortas El Chavo
721 SW 29th St.
South-of-the-border tortas, or sandwiches, are pure works of culinary art, and the cooks at Chavo are the true definition of sandwich artists. With more than 25 torta creations on their menu, selections include jamon y queso and Cubanas and exclusives like the Hawaiana (ham, pineapple and cheese, $8.50) or the Acapulquena (tilapia, shrimp and cheese, $9.00), all loaded with lettuce, tomato, avocados, beans and chipotle.
2109 SW 29th St.
No, this isn’t about the chicken-fried steak sandwiches where, as the commercials remind us, the meat “hangs over the bun.” (Though, oh man, those are good.) Let’s talk about Indian tacos ($7.49). This particular location started selling them on a lark, and they became a huge hit. Fresh fry bread is topped with spicy ground beef, hot beans, cheese and other fixings to make it an anytime treat.
Okie’s Chicken & Grill
2631 SW 29th St. 634-6543
Cruising down 29th, it’s hard to miss that bright yellow happy face beaming bright to passersby. This little American indie fast food joint has been building a little fan base. The regulars will tell you to try the catfish special ($5.49) with two crispy-yet-tender, deep-fried fillets with golden fries, fresh bread and a soda. The menu also features burgers, hot dogs, fried chicken and even a gizzards and livers plate.
Paleteria y Neveria Monarca
2424 SW 29th St.
Whether it’s ice cream in flavors that most people never knew existed (cucumber, queso or cantaloupe, anybody?) or cool respados covered in sticky-sweet juices like tiger’s blood or sour apple, Monarca is more than an ice cream parlor. Healthy options include coctel de frutas ($5) with strawberries, pineapples, cucumber, watermelon and cantaloupe. Also, don’t overlook the Diabolito ($3.25), a signature respado that perks up every taste bud with chili and chamoy on shaved ice.
— by Louis Fowler, photos by Mark Hancock and Shannon Cornman