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May 4, 2017

Authentic Latin cuisine with a creative twist

Matthew Harrison / Collegian

Matthew Harrison / Collegian


Ever wonder where to get a good Cuban sandwich around Amherst?

Well Latino’s restaurant is the place to go. Yes, the sandwich that has taken Miami by storm is now right here in Amherst.

Tucked away behind the Moan and Dove and just to the left of the Hess station in South Amherst, Latino’s is a little eatery that is serving traditional and non-traditional Latin cuisine. While most dishes are inspired from the two co-owners’ home countries (Mare from Honduras and Pablo from Puerto Rico), influences from Central America, South America and the Caribbean can be tasted throughout most menu items.

When asked how they came up with their recipes, owners Mare and Pablo explain, “Most of our recipes are family inspired, but we have many originals creations as well. We experiment with ingredients a lot in the kitchen. The green banana sandwich was conceived and invented in our restaurant, as far as we know.”

Indeed, the green banana sandwich is unique and delicious. Substituting the typical bread for fried green banana slices, Latino’s sandwiches beef and cheese in-between and tops it off with lettuce, tomato, avocado, onions, a special house sauce and offer up a generous helping of their homemade Latin coleslaw on the side. This sandwich is only $6.99 and will leave the consumer’s stomach stuffed. But the green banana sandwich isn’t the restaurant’s only unique creation.

According to the owners, their most popular dish is another non-traditional plate called puerco con cilantro (pork with cilantro). Let’s be honest, who doesn’t like cilantro? This involves cooking up tender, bite-sized pieces of pork and mixing them with a concoction of fresh cilantro, chopped juicy bits of tomatoes, and flavorful onions. A towering portion of yellow rice, black beans and fried plantain slices are served on the side. The sheer amount of food Latino’s offers up in this plate can serve as dinner for days to come, and will only set you back by $9.99.

An additional feature that makes Latino’s all the more special is that all food is made fresh on site. They prepare authentic Hispanic food using ingredients typically found in their home countries, including plantains, which tend to be less sweet than bananas.

At Latino’s, plantains are central to many dishes on the menu. They look like big green bananas, but due to their high starch content, they require cooking prior to eating. Plantains are a staple to many countries and regions around the world, primarily in tropical regions. Pablo explains, “They are very important to Latino cooking. We can incorporate them in breakfast, lunch or dinner.” Just a few ways in which Latino’s has managed to use plantains in their cooking is by slicing and frying them into chips, making them into a sandwich, and substituting big slices in place of pasta for their own unique spin on lasagna.

The sandwich that simply can’t be missed is the Cuban sandwich. Heaping piles of succulent, juicy pulled pork shoulder and ham are stacked between two slices of Cuban bread along with Latin coleslaw and cheese, and then pressed like a panini. This sandwich is amazing. Once this sandwich is picked up, it is impossible to put it down.

Normally, pork shoulder is tough and chewy, but Latino’s pork shoulder falls apart in your mouth. When asked what his secret was to making the meat so tender and juicy, Pablo responded, “I can’t reveal too much of our secret, but it is slow roasted overnight in a special blend of spices, then cooled to a certain temperature.” The Cuban sandwich goes for $8.39, and is well worth a try. It may just be the best dish they have on the menu.

Although it has only been open since August 2009, Latino’s is quickly making a name for itself for its authentic and delicious Latin-style cooking. One critique that can be made is that some dishes may have too many onions, but this is a small afterthought to a wholly satisfying experience with their South and Central American style cooking.

Latino’s menu is constantly changing, as the staff is always experimenting with new ingredients and recipes. Starting next week, they will be offering express lunch specials from 11 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, which allow customers to create their own combination of meals. Be on the lookout for Latino classics, such as pinchos and empanadas in the near future.

If that’s not enough, Latino’s delivers until 3:00 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, and are also available for catering. If you’re looking for an old-world Hispanic experience with a touch of creativity, head on down to Latino’s, where the prices are right and the portions are hearty.

Brendan Murphy can be reached at brendanm@student.umass.edu.

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