Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
When we think of celebrations, we think of parties. And parties mean treats. Luckily, authentic Hispanic desserts are an easy find in Port Arthur. With all the options on the table (literally), we’ve done the leg work to give you our list of must-try sweet treats during this month-long celebration of all things Hispanic Heritage.
If you’ve never sipped horchata, you’re in for a real treat. Traditional horchata falls in the agua fresca category. “Fresh waters” are a familiar staple in most Mexican establishments. The drink is a smart combination of condensed milk, cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, rice and water. Each place will have its own twist on the recipe, and we love this “fish bowl” full of horchata at Taqueria Magañas, a Mexican Grocery/Authentic Mexican restaurant on Gulfway Drive in Port Arthur. After munching on their ever-so-spicy salsa, you’ll appreciate the cooling affects of this creamy, dessert like beverage. ¡Salud!
Bunuelo A La Mode
Taco Rey has been in the business for 60 years. This beloved family-owned restaurant has been passed down to a new generation of owners, and they are committed to Mrs. Ramirez’s familiar recipes of yesteryear. The Bunuelo A La Mode is one of Taco Rey’s best-selling desserts. It combines their cinnamon coated fried flour tortillas with vanilla ice cream. The other yummy treat on the table, is their legendary fried yeast bread sopapillas, made fresh in-house each day. The Sopapillas are sprinkled with cinnamon and served with the perfect spoonful of honey.
Our advice: Order the sopapillas 15 minutes before ending your meal. When we say fresh, we mean fresh.
The Tres Marias
La Michoacána Tradicional: Paleteria Neveria Ice Cream & More is Port Arthur’s go-to spot for all things sweet, savory and fruity. As the name implies, all of the recipes come straight from the Mexican state of Michoacán, and Michoacán is known for its production of milk, eggs honey and beeswax. The Tres Marias, named after the owner, Maria Vargas, includes three custom scoops of ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate drizzle, sprinkles, cherries, M&Ms and two wafers, all inside a baked waffle bowl. Cue the Chorus. Trust us, it’s a good as it looks, and you will not want to share!
Our Advice: In case you experience a sweet treat overload – you shouldn’t since the traditional ice cream is on the mild side of things – you can counter it with their famous elote en vaso (grilled street corn in a cup) or famous tostadas.
Platanos Fritos con Crema or Maduros
Los Compadres Pupuseria is an authentic Salvadorian and Central American restaurant in Port Arthur, serving up traditional fair and these lovely plantains. Wherever plantains grow in the world, ripe fried plantains are sure to be wildly popular. The darker they are when raw, the sweeter and less starchy they become on the stove. When fried, you get a dark caramelization and soft golden interior that makes for the perfect treat any time of day. In Central America, platanos fritos (fried plantains) are are served with cream (crema) and a small block fresh cheese (queso fresco), like the picture above. Yum!
A bit of Context: Some cultures enjoy fried plantains as a dessert, but for many Hispanic countries, they are simply a must-have side dish or even a restaurant appetizer. In Nicaragua and Costa Rica, for example, they are most often paired with a dish called gallo pinto, which is a red bean and rice staple; while in the South American country of Guayana, they are often hard fried, sprinkled with sea salt and paired with rice, beans and meat cooked in coconut milk. There are many ways to enjoy plantains, but we suggest you stop into Los Compadres Pupuseria to enjoy your first, and certainly not last, platter of plantains.
Café con Leche
Speaking of Nicaragua, our last sweet offering comes from a newer spot in Port Arthur called Nicaraguan Caribbean Kitchen. At the Kitchen, you can enjoy Nicaragua’s favorite instant coffee drink, Presto. It is served in a steaming hot cup of milk with a side of sugar. You can add as much Presto as you’d like, then enjoy the sweet coffee just like native Nicaraguans do in the comfort of their own home. Presto, and you have coffee!
Coffee around the World: Café con leche (coffee with milk) is a Spanish drink enjoyed in Spain, Central America, Cuba and other Hispanic communities around the world. Typically, the drink is enjoyed with a higher ratio of milk, and the coffee is more like espresso. Together, the two ingredients create a latte type coffee.
Rico’s arrived on the Port Arthur scene just 6 months ago. When you walk through the doors, you feel like you’ve stepped into a traditional Mercado. Well, we guess you have, since everything in the store has been hand-made in various regions of Mexico. Did you catch that? Hand made! From shoes, to clothing, jewelry, pottery, decor, purses, children’s toys, party favors and even homeopathic soaps, medicines and remedies, you’re sure to find a unique treasure to bring home. Rico’s will help you look and feel the part as you celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month together with us!
Here is a short list of Spanish words from today’s Sweet Treat Adventure:
- Comida- Food
- Postre- Dessert
- Dulce – Candy
- Paletería Neveria – Ice Cream Parlor
- Aqua Fresca- Fresh Water
- Mercado – Market
- Helado- Ice Cream
- Taquería – A restaurant specializing in tacos
- Buñuelo – Lightly fried pastry
- Salud – Cheers!
Well, you’re all set. We hope we’ve inspired you to satisfy your sweet tooth, try something new and visit one of these authentic restaurants in Port Arthur. We are thankful for our Hispanic community and are celebrating them all month long! ¡Buen Provecho!
Written and Photographed by Callie Summerlin