I’m a sucker for Latin food. Its probably my heritage, but the food just tastes so darn good to me. On a recent trip to Puerto Rico, my wife and I visited Luquillo beach, a long stretch of beach in the shadow of El Yunque rain forest, unspoiled by hotels, and popular for its tranquil waters, palm trees, and local food. The beach is lined with about sixty food stands, all serving just about the same food, but each attracting its own share of beach-going families who return to the same exact eatery for one reason or another. The smells are incredible, and the food consists mainly of fried food, rice, seafoods, and beer (lots of beer). Which brings me to tell you about Beto’s Comida Latina.
Beto’s specialties are the empanadas – half-moon shaped pastry dough stuffed with various fillings and deep fried. At Luquillo, and all of Puerto Rico, for that matter, empanadas are the street food of the culture. As long as you have hot oil and a cooler full of empanadas and beer, you’re in business. In Mexico, empanadas are more popular as a pastry, filled with cajeta (caramelized goat’s milk) or fruit, like pineapples. However, in San Antonio at Beto’s, they have taken the icon of Caribbean street food and combined it with the flavors of Mexico to produce a fantastic blend of two cultures.
There are seven different empanadas to choose from. The Chicken Poblano is generous with the meat and the poblano pepper adds a punchy flavor with a hint of heat. The tomatillo sauce gives it a tangy flavor but does not make the empanada soggy (any liquid in the empanada is going to cause problems frying anyway, but Beto’s gets it right). The Beef with Red Chile, likewise, has a healthy amount of meat and the sauce is not too spicy. The Calabacita con Puerco is a pleasant addition to the menu, and one of my favorites. The calabacita (in this case, tatuma squash) is a tasty stew with nice-sized chunks of pork added to it.
I’ve also tried the Grilled Fish Tacos here and they’re quite good. The cilantro cole slaw topping the tacos add a nice texture to the fish and the corn tortillas and poblano sauce round out the flavors well.
The menu allows you to build your own combination plates with tacos, empanadas, or quesadillas, so be sure to try a few things. The combos also come with rice and beans which most restaurants pay little attention to. Beto’s makes sure that even these side dishes are worth remembering.
The restaurant is located in the beautiful Alamo Heights section of town, an upscale part of San Antonio that prides itself on its beautiful homes. It is somewhat of a small place, but they do provide additional seating with an outdoor patio. I have always found the wait staff to be friendly and attentive and willing to make my visit pleasant. When you go, just be sure to try the empanadas. No one else in town makes them like Beto’s.