Thursday, November 11, 2010

Los Latinos

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I love the old-school neighbourhood shopping strip - you know the one - set back just a little from the main road, 45-degree angle parking set into the kerb in front.  There is usually a fish & chip shop, a hot bread shop and always something random like a bulk nappy outlet or "Yvonne's Yooniverse of Yarn".  More and more, though, there are empty, shuttered shops.  Such would be the case for this little strip in Mitchell Street, Maidstone, if not for Los Latinos - a little ray of Latin American sunshine!

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I was lucky enough to have dinner with Deb of Bear Head Soup who, aside from being an absolute sweetheart, is a fellow Mesoamerican food tragic.  We thought we would duck the crowds by meeting at 6.30 pm on a Wednesday but even then the little place was packed.  Service is slow but don't hold that against them - they are absolutely snowed under!

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Los Latinos serves food from across Central and South America with drinks to match.  We chose Guava and Grape ("uva", related the Latin for eggs, from whence comes "ovary" - sorry, frustrated linguist here) varieties of Jarritos soft drink which is served in all good Mexian taquerias in the States.  They were teeth-achingly sweet but good.

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We waited and waited and were just planning our escape to plan B (Hung Vuong) when the food finally began to arrive.  First we had one of the specials of the day, arepas, a Columbian version of El Salvadorean pupusas.  These stuffed pancake-like snacks differ in that they are made with different sorts of flour.  Both snacks use corn flour but the masa (flour) for arepas is not treated with lime as is masa harina (sounds scary, is actually totally natural - lime is an alkaline mineral substance that encourages the skins to separate from the kernels.).  The flour or masarepa for these had a slightly coarser texture, not unlike a thick-grained polenta.  They were stuffed with a stretchy white cheese and were absolutely delicious.  The sauce on the side was a tangy green tomatillo salsa that complemented the rich yet simple cheese perfectly.

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Chorizo, $6

This was so incredibly yummy.  Little disks of authentic chorizo, fried so their edges began to curl up, in a rich tomato, capsicum and onion sauce.  This is the best chorizo I have had since first having it in London many years ago.  It came with two home-made tortillas which I have to say I found somewhat thick and stodgy, but I think they were meant to be thick like that for dipping.

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Chicken tacos, $10.50

We went for the chicken tacos too, three tacos a steal at $10.50.  These were good with tender chopped chicken, a simple tomato and onion salsa and a spoonful of benign guacamole in a home-made tortilla (thankfully much thinner than those served with the chorizo).  They came with a mild chilli sauce and a very smoky chipotle BBQ-style sauce.  The tacos were good but I think Los Latinos has more exciting things on the menu.

Pupusas, $10

My friend K with whom I had travelled in the States had eaten pupusas the night after I left and she had raved about them.  I had sighed and thought there was no chance I could try these little babies until I was next in the States, and then as if by magic the review appeared in Age revealing that there was a pupuseria not just in Melbourne but right near me!  These are so, so yummy.  They are stuffed pancakes similar to the arepas but made with masa harina, the same dough used to make tortillas and tamales.  These were stuffed with a little mashed beans and tangy cheese.  They came with a super-tangy slaw and a little pot of mild chilli sauce.  Fantastic!!

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I can't wait to back there with the family; kids would love the arepas and pupusas in particular.  Be patient with the service if they are busy.  They are applying for a liquor licence.  It is so great to see the bright little shopfront among all the other "dead" shops in the strip and I can only hope this trend will continue across Melbourne, that niche restaurants can find a foothold in these dying strips where there must be cheaper rent, simultaneously revitalising them.

Thank you Anonymous (commenter on Pho Tam) for suggesting Los Latinos!  I love getting all your tips and suggestions for reviews or dishes to try.  Keep them coming!

Los Latinos on Urbanspoon

Los Latinos
128 Mitchell St, Maidstone (map)
Phone:  9318 5289
Hours:  Wed-Thurs 5pm-9pm, Fri 5pm-10pm, Sat noon-10pm, Sun noon-9pm

Wheelchair Accessibility
Door:  Moderate-sized "lip"/small step to enter.
Layout:  Small but could accommodate if not a busy time.


  1. Its pretty yummy!!! Can't wait to go back and try that Colombian soup!!

  2. So glad I live in the west! Seems like it's already a matter of choose your timing with thought, though.

  3. Funny, we went on a Friday and made a reservation - expecting it to be packed - and it was half empty. The service was still on the slow side, but so friendly and welcoming that all could be forgiven.

    My only gripe is that the non-meat selection is severely limited...but the bean and cheese pupusas were so delicious I don't think I'll mind eating them every time we go!

  4. I wonder if I can make it a personal challenge to go and eat in every single restaurant you've reviewed on this blog.......... :p

  5. Wow...awesome find...I am definitely going here!

    I did not even know about this strip. My kids LOVE Sth American food, and it is so hard to find in Melb.

    I think you have just set our dinner plans for a night this week.

  6. Hey lauren, as soon as I read your post, my mouth began watering at the thought of those great melty-cheesy arepas! So glad I don't live too close, would be very tempting to duck in and pick up some arepas to go!!

  7. I am glad you liked it. Thank you for doing the review!

  8. What a great place, the Chorizo and chicken tacos look delicious. I'm in Melb on Mon but not time to try alas!

  9. Thank you for the hot tip, love your blog, Ate at Los Latinos last night and the food was delicious. Nice to have something different for a change. Thanks heaps!!

  10. Bought some takeaway from them today and they were very yummy. It was our first time eating authentic latin American food too. Didn't know we have this hidden gem just around the corner, another thanks for the tip!

  11. Muchas gracias for your comments! African, Asian, Eastern European and now Latin American. The West is the best!!!

  12. Looks great! Must make a point to head there with mum when she comes to visit

  13. We had lunch here on Sunday. Fantastic food, drink & relaxed atmosphere. Pupusa's stole the show. Great tip!

    We didn't book, but got there early. By the time we left, all tables were full. seems the word is out.

  14. Went there with one of our kids last night - fantastic food, very filling, slightly slow service but worth the wait. Thanks for giving me the heads-up about this little gem, Lauren.

  15. Yum! just live round the corner and can't wait to try it out!

  16. Yay finally a decent Mexican place in the West. Until I discovered this place on your blog I was eating at Taco Bill in Kensington (only for the half price margaritas, I swear).

    Apparently they do brekky now too which I'd be interested in trying. I went to Q11 in Sth Melbourne which is supposed a Mex brekky place - not so good.

    P.S Sorry for the mass comments. I've just recovered from a Summer of eating myself into a coma and I'm catching up with all the blogs :)

  17. Monica I loooved getting your comments, it was like a blizzard of comment love! Los Latinos are just thriving - if you friend them on Facebook you can get updates when they have specials like paella nights. Good on them!

  18. Had dinner there on Friday night. The food was fantastic! Will definitely be coming back again.


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