The Americans and the Europeans have been incorporating South American dishes into their cuisine since their arrival to the continent. They not only took new foods such as potato, tomato, and cacao back home but they also learned to make Latin dishes – Mexican and Portuguese – using local ingredients. Later, when Mexican and other South American immigrants came to North America, they brought their culinary traditions with them and taught Americans to appreciate the spicy and tropical flavors of their cuisine. These days, Latin food is widespread in America and beyond it, getting so popular with people that 9 Latin eateries even become listed among the World’s 50 best restaurants. According to the National Restaurant Association, more than 80 percent of Americans eat ethnic food at least once a month, and Latin American food features most prominently among their choices. Blended with local food, Latin cuisine brings to American people culinary diversity and intense tastes able to satisfy the most finicky food connoisseurs.

One of the big three ethnic culinary styles influencing America, alongside Italian and Chinese cuisines, Latin American theme is featured in around 30,000 US quick-service and fast-casual restaurants, 1,6 percent of which are Mexican. Chipotle Mexican Grill and Taco Bell are ranked as U.S. consumer most favorite joints, together with El Pollo Loco and Moe’s Southwest Grill. There were 2,622 Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in 2019 across America, where people could enjoy burritos, tacos, and quesadillas, though burritos, tacos, and salsas are now savored in eateries that do not advertise themselves as Latin American. These dishes have indeed become so common in America that people can now buy them almost at every corner. In Houston, dabbed the fast food capital of America, people can eat tacos in more than 103 taco joints, going to such chains as Taco Bell, Torchy Tacos, El Polo Loco, and Chipotle Mexican Grill. Few years ago, in Columbus, Ohio, the Americans could even taste Latin food from an Argentine food truck, called Barroluco Argentine Comfort Food, that attracted them with delicious little meat pies, empanadas, and garlic pesto, chimichurri.  

Some Latino inspired eateries not only treat their customers to Mexican spicy food but also let them ensconce themselves in restaurant furniture with folklore Latino motifs and patterns. There are several companies from Tonalá – Folcklor Latino, Lacandona, and Magia y Mueble - specializing in handcrafted artistic furniture that export tables, chairs, waiting benches, bars, booths, menu holders, and paintings to America. With annual growth of 22 percent, Tonalá furniture is ranked the fourth among the largest exporting industries to the United States. Artistically made, the furniture of Tonalá companies transforms American restaurants into the extension of Mexico.

Tonalá tables and bars draw people’s attentions with the paintings of Latino men in bright sarapes, charro suits, and sombreros and beautiful women in colorful wide skirts, huipils, and rebozos. They also catch the eye with the appealing pictures of South American sunlit nature, animals, birds, multicolored Mexican patterns, Mexican pottery, and, of course, Latin dishes. Among the American restaurants impressing their customers with the artistic furniture from Tonalá are El Nopal Mexican Restaurant, Rancho Allegre Mexican Restaurant, Los Amigos Mexican Restaurant, La Catrina Mexican Restaurant, Café Con Pan, Habaneros Mexican Grill, and Marachi Mexican Grill. Chefs in some of these restaurants serve popular products from South America such as alpaca meat, quinoa, tomatillos, kwicha, yucca, aromatic chiles, purple corn, tiger’s milk, and maca, showcasing them in sophisticated, finger-licking ways.  

Those people who prefer cooking Latin food at home should first bear in mind that Latin cuisine is not identical to Mexican culinary arts but is much broader. Latin America is a large region with a rich variety of local dishes, each of which has its unique flavor. It is true that Latin cuisine does share with Mexican food many similarities: their dishes include corn and tomatoes originating in Mexico. Yet Mexican people are also fond of black and pinto beans, cocking them watery, thick, or dry and serving them at every meal. Legumes, however, are not the essential part of other South American cuisines. Unlike Mexico, many of them have been influenced by Portuguese cuisine and prefer such dishes as caldo and churrasco. Located mostly along the coasts, they are also home to various seafood dishes, the most famous of which is ceviche.

Some Mexican and Latin American food can be cooked at home, if people want to feed their guests with Latin specialties. They can put on the table not only burritos and salsa but also more exotic food such as empanada, a popular pastry in Latin American cuisine, stuffed with either meat or cheese, or vegetables, or fruits. Those who can obtain leaf wrappers and masa, starchy, corn-based dough, can prepare tamale, a traditional Mesoamerican dish. Local cooks stuff masa with meat, cheese, vegetables, or fruits, and then boil or steam it in a leaf wrapper. For dinner, lovers of Latin cuisine can cook the traditional Brazilian dish feijoada, a stew of black beans cooked with meat and served with rice and vegetables, sausages, and a side dish farofai.

Whether people go out to eat in ethnic restaurants or flaunt their culinary talents at home, Mexican and Latin American cuisine will offer them a rich choice of unique dishes to sample, together with different regional condiments and drinks that will please the most demanding palette.