$13 at Sabor! on Bellaire

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Where: Sabor!, 5712 Bellaire, 713-667-6001

What $13 gets you: Delicious authentically prepared Central American specialties.

Sabor! is best known for its fajitas ($11.95) and seafood entrees, such as whole fried tilapia ($8.95) and black clams ($8.50). But I go for the simple, traditional fare – pupusas, plantains, tamales.

I don’t usually like tamales since they’re too often mushy and bland. The tamales you see in local markets come in scary fluorescent-orange husks that look greasy and gross. The tamales at Sabor! are nothing like these. They’re delicate and sweet, like moist cake.

Recommended? Heartily.

Sabor! is set in a brightly painted strip mall in the so-called Gulfton Ghetto. The interior is attractive and intimate, with an unopened bottle of Merlot adorning each table. It’d be a fine choice for Valentine’s Day if you and your date aren’t put off by the large decorative crucifixes lining the walls (or the occasional gunshots outside).

On my most recent visit, I tried a combination plate – Combinado B ($8.95), which includes a tamale (corn, pork or chicken), two pupusas (cheese, pork and cheese or exotic vegetables) and plantains. I went the vegetarian route and got the corn tamale and exotic vegetables pupusas. Everything was dreamy, though I was left wondering what’s so exotic about shredded green zucchini.

With a couple bucks left over, I decided to try the cashew juice ($1.70), which unfortunately was way too sweet and tasted nothing like cashews.

Bonus point: Menus feature Western Union ads to Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. - Todd Spivak

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