Who is Alex Cruz? Founder of Alex Latin Cafe!
Owner Alex Cruz and his mother opened Alex Latin Restaurant and Cafeteria with one goal in mind. They wanted to bring the native cuisine of Honduras, their home country, to diners in Louisiana.
The result of that effort is a parade of competing and complementary flavors that will both delight and surprise you. Before you dive in, though, Cruz offers just a bit of guidance to help decode the flavors. “People sometimes make the mistake that Mexican food is Latin food,” Cruz says. “Our food is not as hot, as spicy, as Mexican food.”
The cuisine of Honduras runs more to the flavorful and well-herbed.
Hints of basil and allspice meld with the vibrant crunch of bell pepper and lightly sautéed onions before giving way to the slightly acidic sweetness of the tomatoes. In dish after dish, the flavors blend together, with high notes peeking up to stand out for just a moment before falling back into the mixture, a mixture that is as near sublime as any other spice palate in the region.
“It’s tropical food, much different from Mexico. It’s not spicy. The spicy is on the side,” Cruz says. Try one of their meat dishes—perhaps a flank steak or a grilled pork chop—and you’ll understand just what he means by tropical.
Subtle citrus permeates almost every dish. And he offers up one other key fact about the food that will prepare you for the experience. “The food is fresh. Every product, fresh.”
Cooking with fresh ingredients is a signature part of Honduran cuisine, and it’s something Cruz grew up with in the country of his birth. Honduras is never far from view, either. The blue-and-white, spangled flag of the small, Central American nation hangs in the window by the door.
The flag is a constant reminder of Cruz’s home, more than 3,000 miles away. Honduras lies south of the Yucatan peninsula, between Guatemala and Nicaragua, on the Caribbean side of the isthmus. Cruz spent much of his youth in Honduras, and as he tells it, his mother cooked like this when he was a boy before the family moved to the United States.
“These are all her recipes from back home,” Cruz says.
And it’s his mother in the kitchen cooking, as well. That’s her, smiling and waving to you through the window at the register, a brief exchange that underscores the “family” in this family restaurant. It’s impossible to select “the” signature dish for Latin Food, and it’s all delightfully unique.
If your first visit is in the morning, begin with the Honduran breakfast. It’s enough food for two, but you won’t want to share. The Honduran breakfast begins with fluffy, light scrambled eggs that have been perfectly seasoned.
A side of fried black beans provides a rich, smoky addition to the plate, while two fresh, homemade tortillas steam on the side. For a small extra charge, add a grilled pork chop, chicken breast, or strip steak.
The pork chop, which we highly recommend, comes seasoned and grilled to perfection, smothered under a hash of bell pepper, onion, and tomato. Snuggled in between the eggs and the beans, a stack of fried plantains eagerly awaits dipping in the cup of house-made crème fraîche, a sweet-and-tangy way to end the meal. You shouldn’t feel too guilty when you realize you’ve eaten every morsel on the plate.
As the old saying goes, eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.
And don’t fret. At Alex Latin Restaurant and Cafeteria, you can do all three.