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Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

The Pedrique family missed their hometown. So they recreated it.

In addition to the lighter luncheon fare, Cafe Caracas offers a daily special hot plate. So far I've tried asado negro ($7.95) and a baked chicken with mushroom sauce ($7.95). I preferred the asado negro, which is browned beef in a slightly sweet, dark, almost black, sauce. The blander chicken dish just didn't work: The breast seemed dry, the mushrooms rubbery. A breadbasket inexplicably filled with dry Wonder Bread-style toast points accompanies the daily specials. I did much better with the dessert tray, which generally includes flan, tres leches and a delicious sort of chewy coconut cheesecake ($4.25) topped with lightly browned meringue, easily big enough for two.

Just recently, the cafe has begun an à la carte Sunday brunch, featuring arepas, scrambled eggs with tomatoes and peppers, asado negro, fried plantains and black beans. "Believe it or not, that's a typical Sunday breakfast in Caracas," says Carolina. "The families gather together very casually and enjoy a big meal."

The Pedrique family plans more improvements in the near future, such as a case to display Venezuelan candies and sodas. For now, their collection of Venezuelan music CDs is stacked behind the minuscule hostess's podium, just past the rack of glossy brochures for Venezuelan beaches and rain forests, Caracas city maps and other tourist publications. Like the earnest ambassadors they are, the Pedrique sisters often press these upon American visitors. Nellie showed me a well-thumbed picture guide of Margarita Island to illustrate her recent disappointment with Galveston's beach. "You see how pretty our beaches are?" she pleaded. "They are not the same at all as here. You must go there, you will love it." Until I make it, though, I'll be content with the glimpse through Carolina's window.

Got a hot restaurant tip or an interesting piece of food news? E-mail Margaret Briggs at margaret_briggs@houstonpress.com.

Cafe Caracas
8383 Westheimer, Suite 107
(713)334-1449.

Ensalada de gallina: $6.95

Cream of squash soup: $2.95 cup, $3.95 bowl

Cachapas: $6.95

Aqua de panela: $1.25

Coconut cheesecake: $4.25

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