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Breakfast with Botero

You'll want to linger at intimate Macondo Latin Bistro.

To see photos of Macondo's cheerful, busy dining room and its equally busy kitchen, check out our slideshow.

On a dreary, rainy Saturday morning, the last thing I expected to find at a restaurant on a quiet downtown street was a packed house. But that was exactly what greeted my breakfast companions and me one recent weekend at Macondo Latin Bistro, a bistro in every sense of the word — from the petite and tightly packed dining room to the drinks listed on a chalkboard behind the bar — that has already found a thriving niche for itself since opening last August.

The receipts still bear the name of Macondo's predecessor, Don Diego Coffee and Wine Bar, which was run by the same Colombian owners. And although the wine is gone now (Macondo's is BYOB, with no corkage fee), the coffee has happily remained on the menu. We certainly needed it that morning, a startling, blustery day that had somehow mistaken Houston for Chicago and March for January.

The Macondo del mar is the restaurant's signature dish.
Troy Fields
The Macondo del mar is the restaurant's signature dish.

Location Info

Map

Macondo Latin Bistro

208 Travis
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Restaurant > Colombian

Region: Downtown/ Midtown

Details

7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.

Colombian breakfast: $8.25

Perico colombiano: $7.95

Morning melt panini: $7.95

Ceviche peruano: $10

Tostones cubanos: $7

Pollo guisado: $8

Macondo del mar: $11

Macondo Latin Bistro

208 Travis, 713-229-8323.

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We set about ordering a round from Diego, the always-smiling man behind the bar who I'm guessing might be the once-eponymous "Don Diego." Two lattes and an espresso cubano into our order, my friend asked about the "milkshakes" that Macondo offers. Fresh fruit juice — the maracuya, or passion fruit, is my favorite — is shaken together with milk, making it a "milkshake" in the truest sense and oddly sort of perfect for breakfast: juice and milk in one glass. We ordered that, too, for good measure.

After rushing to order breakfast (it's served only until 11 a.m., and we'd gotten there at 10:45 a.m.), we took our seats — the last ones, as it was — and my breakfast companions were finally able to take the entire scene in. Even on a gloomy day, Macondo is sunny and warm inside. Smiling, chubby faces beaming from the Botero prints on the walls don't hurt, either, and serve to emphasize the truly Colombian nature of the place.

Breakfast arrived rather clumsily and piecemeal, but a full house and the lack of an ordering system almost ensured it. Although you can order at the counter or sit down and receive full service, Macondo would do well to give numbers to those who order at the counter — it would cut down considerably on the confusion when food is brought out from the kitchen. As it is, the current system resulted in one dining companion looking mournfully on at our full plates of breakfast while she waited patiently for hers. Ours simply got a bit cold.

But what breakfasts they were. My Colombian breakfast was a busy plate of fried eggs, Colombian chorizo, rice and beans, an arepa and a few stocky slices of queso blanco: a complete calentado. The chorizo here isn't as familiar to Houstonians, with a much milder and more herbal taste than our greasy breakfast taco fare. The fat sausage had been cut open while it cooked, its tight skin barely containing the meat inside and snapping pleasantly with each bite. The rice and beans tasted leftover in the right way, the pinto beans and rice nearly fused together, soaking up every last bright bit of egg yolk. Only the arepa, overly thick and dried out, was disappointing.

Meanwhile, my friend had finally received her perico colombiano and was alternating bites of the scrambled eggs with bites of fat, fried maduros. "These are just like my mother would make at home," she said as she pointed to the diced tomatoes and green onions in her eggs. My other friend had chosen something more traditional, and that's what sets Macondo apart at breakfast: options.

His breakfast panini with ham, tomato, eggs and cheese could have been sloppy or dry or uninspired. But the restaurant puts as much emphasis on its American items as it does its Colombian, Peruvian and Mexican dishes. It's a smart move to capture a downtown breakfast crowd hungry for pancakes or French toast as much as they may be for breakfast tacos or chilaquiles.
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At lunch and dinner, however, the menu is strictly Latin American. While there are a few "standard" options, like a chicken pesto panini, why would you want them? Colombian (and Cuban and Peruvian) is where Macondo shines.

The ceviche peruano here is a rough-hewn dish that rivals far more upscale places in town for depth of flavor and character (I'm looking at you, Américas). I thought of Jonathan Jones's wonderful ceviche at Xuco Xicana as I dove into a plate of Macondo's ceviche one recent afternoon. While Jones uses black drum and Macondo tilapia, the roundness and fullness of the leche de tigre here was virtually the same in its mouthfeel: a robust liquid that doesn't just serve to cook the fish, but is rich and booming on its own. Here, lime juice is tempered with the grassy flavor of cilantro while brassily displaying undertones of sweet, fiery habanero.

Tostones on another visit weren't as striking, the plantains cooked to a toughness that couldn't be parted with either incisors or a knife, but I haven't yet found fault with any of the entrées.

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5 comments
Tangerine
Tangerine

It is a nice place, nice decoration and concept, but the food is not as good as I expected . The empanadas we ordered were frozen inside and I'm quiet sure that the beans they serve are canned. In my personal opinion this is the nicest Colombian place in H-Town and it would be great if they improve the quality of food served. And off course, that painter is not Fernando Botero!!

Guest
Guest

Having been made the correction about the painters I have to agree with the mix sentiment in the article. It is a lovely place, the attendants are very nice, the food is ok -not the best Colombian food in town but decent-, yet the serving system needs to improve greatly. Tht was the down note of my experience over a month ago when I visited Macondo for the first time. It was busy but not extremely busy to justify such a serving problems :( I am sad to hear they have not improved. Certainly a reality check is in order.

Riptorn82
Riptorn82

LOL, I'm assuming you had dinner with some guy named Botero, hence the title, cuz as far as I remember the paintings are from this copycat cuban artist botero-wannabe!!!!! please do some research before you publish such nonsense!!!!

AR
AR

I think is a little irresponsible to write an article in such a good media site without even recognizing the painter you are mentioning. The paints hung at Macondos Restaurant are not from Fernando Botero, they are from a Cuban painter that has a similar style, but nothing to do to the famous painter and sculptor. In fact, those paints are for sale....Isn't it kind of awkward to think that Botero is selling his art pieces at a restaurant??? BTW if the author of this article would've checked the paintings closely she/he would've noticed that there is a label under each one of them with the name of the artist and the selling price!

JasonoftheSea
JasonoftheSea

price tags next to paintings in restaurants is tacky.

 
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