Lito’s Latin Cuisine
4220 66 St
With Sarah off working the Olympics, I’ve been given the responsibility of taking care of her cat. So on my way to complete all the required feeding and petting duties, I stopped off at Lito’s Latin Cuisine for dinner. Hidden behind a large McDonald’s on the edge of Mill Woods, this tiny shop sells everything from pupusas to fajitas, which might explain the general usage of Latin in the name.
As I’ve mentioned before, this entire genre of food comes to me as a mixed bag. Sure, you can find tacos everywhere, but they so often lack the authenticity that makes them good. Part of what I like about this restaurant is the blanket branding. Without a country of origin mentioned in the name, it offers the restaurateurs a bit of free license with the food. Which is exactly what I found. The menu, which offers around 15 items, has roots in a few countries and includes dishes like flautas, tacos, tamales and sopas. Don’t look for pico de gallo, because you’ll be getting the Honduran version known as chimol.
Hoping in some ways to have tacos al pastor (to compare with 3 Amigos), I was saddened to discover only shredded beef or chicken on the menu. My sadness was short lived, and I didn’t hesitate for a second in placing an order for the first item I saw on the menu(more on that later). Chatting up the young waitress, she mentioned they’ve only been open a month. She explained that the previous owners were rarely opening any more, not really caring about the restaurant, and it’s something they wanted to change. So not only are they open on a regular basis, but longer hours to boot. I have to say it took all of a minute to feel like I was back in Central America, because every guy in the place was pulling off the common whistle/mouth calls. I don’t want to sound out of place, but nothing says Latin gentleman to me like machismo. They also sell mixed dry goods like flour, beans, and chilis.
Eventually my order was handed over, and I was off. So what did I order. Sopa de Mondongo, which comes with one tortilla. Opting for the small portion, I was blown away by the size (what does a large look like). The tortilla was fresh and quite thick. Not as small in diameter as the tortillas in Honduras, it had a very Salvadoran vibe and was definitely destined to be filled with cheese and beans a la pupusa. Dumping the container into the biggest bowl I could find, I was surprised by the sheer amount of tripe and tendon. Which may explain why the soup was literally swimming in oil. Maybe a night in the fridge, would have helped to skim a fraction of the excess.
Rich in flavour, the soup included cabbage, carrots and a root vegetable I couldn’t pick out. Along with massive chunks of tripe and tendon, a chunk of corn was found at the bottom. Squeezing in fresh lime helped cut some of the richness, while the corn added a sweetness which worked to counter some of the spicy heat. This definitely brought back memories of my time down south, but the copious amount of fat could play serious havoc on our lazier North American lifestyles.
With such a massive portion of goodies, I spooned off about half of the tendon and tripe for a close up before going back in the bowl. Pretty impressive right! Now if only the tacos were stuffed with similar goodies. Maybe it’s been my luck as of late, but combined with my recent experience at Korean BBQ House, I’m beginning to think we have things pretty good on the south side.