This New Threesome Bites Into Latin Culture

HOUSTON: HUGO’S1602 Westheimer, (713) 524-7744
Chef Hugo Ortega, who earned acclaim at Houston’s Backstreet Cafe, serves up regional fare from his native Mexico at Hugo’s in the trendy Montrose area. Its menu reads like a travelogue: ceviche from Veracruz, moles from Oaxaca, and squash-blossom soup from Mexico City. Inside a sunlit ’20s-vintage building, the design, including tin-topped tables, iron chandeliers, and Mexican pottery, completes the journey.

NEW YORK: NOCHE, 1604 Broadway, (212) 541-7070
A lively, aptly theatrical addition to Times Square, Noche straddles the restaurant-nightclub divide con brio. The Caribbean, Central, and South America all show up on chef Michael Lomonaco’s menu, which is loaded with creative ceviches, tamales, empanadas, and entrees like Ecuadorian shrimp in peanut sauce. A stage facing the colorful bi-level dining room showcases Latin bands and other live entertainment a few nights a week.

CHICAGO: FOGO DE CHAO, 661 N. LaSalle St., (312) 932-9330
Here, a parade of costumed gauchos carve 15 different cuts of skewer-roasted meats until you cry “Parra! ” (Or until you use the “stop” indicator provided plate-side.) Dining at Brazil-based Fogo de Chao is a carnivorous revel importing the cowboy churrascaria tradition. Though the service is unique, there’s nothing foreign about the food, which includes top sirloin, rumpsteak, pork ribs, leg of lamb, and pork loin. Finish with the ultra-light papaya cream dessert. —