8 Latin American Restaurants with Strong Wine Lists

These U.S. Restaurant Award winners pair superior wine with a range of vibrant cuisines including Brazilian, Mexican, Cuban and more

8 Latin American Restaurants with Strong Wine Lists
Tracy Vaught and chef Hugo Ortega are the wife-and-husband team behind some of Houston's most celebrated Latin American restaurants. (Paula Murphy)
Jan 28, 2021

Latin American cuisine covers a broad mix of geographic regions and culinary styles, but spice-forward, vibrant flavors are often the common thread. For these eight Restaurant Award winners, another common thread is their superior wine programs. All eight are open for on-premise dining in compliance with local restrictions for pandemic safety, though many have to-go options as well.

From an all-you-can-eat Brazilian steak house to an upscale Cuban spot to a family-owned restaurant from a Mexican chef, these U.S. destinations have colorful flavors on their menus and exceptional bottles in their wine cellars.

To check out more wine-and-food destinations around the world, see Wine Spectator’s nearly 3,800 Restaurant Award–winning picks, including the 100 Grand Award recipients worldwide that hold our highest honor.

Do you have a favorite you’d like to see on this list? Send your recommendations to restaurantawards@mshanken.com. We want to hear from you!

Note: Opening hours and menus are subject to change as the industry continues to adjust to evolving regulations.


Caracol

2200 Post Oak Blvd., Houston, Texas
Telephone (713) 622-9996
Website www.caracol.net
Best of Award of Excellence

Chef Hugo Ortega founded Caracol as a tribute to the rich seafood tradition of his birth country, Mexico. This theme is evident in the Houston restaurant’s nautical decor, menu and even its name (Caracol is Spanish for “snail,” a reference to conch ceviche). Wine is also celebrated here, and wine director Sean Beck’s list of nearly 400 selections has earned Caracol a Best of Award of Excellence since 2015. Wines from California, France, Germany and Mexico are the core of the list, with highlights featured in a substantial by-the-glass selection. For bottles, there are ample Champagne and Burgundy options, as well as California Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Cabernets. Ortega’s menu features several crudos and seafood dishes like a lobster taquito, seared-tuna tacos and pan-seared scallops. Caracol’s sister restaurants, Backstreet Cafe, Xochi and Hugo's, are also Restaurant Award winners.


El Meson

2425 University Blvd., Houston, Texas
Telephone (713) 522-9306
Website www.elmeson.com
Best of Award of Excellence

El Meson wine director Jessica Garcia in the cellar
El Meson has an inventory of more than 4,200 bottles supporting its wine program, run by Jessica Garcia. (Sara Wright)

There’s a great deal of diversity on El Meson’s menu in Houston, which combines Spanish and Cuban influences. Chef Pedro Angel Garcia's menu includes tapas items like braised pork belly and red-snapper ceviche, plus a range of paellas and Cuban mains like solomillo (grilled pork tenderloin), chicken in garlic sauce and a braised skirt steak with black beans and plantains. Guests can match these dishes with the Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine program, managed by chef Garcia’s daughter, Jessica Garcia, who serves as wine director. The 550-label list comprises many top Californian and Spanish estates, including verticals of reds from Rioja’s R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia and Ribera del Duero’s Vega Sicilia, plus a wide range of Napa Cabernets. Picks from Portugal, the Canary Islands, Argentina, Uruguay and farther abroad bring more variety.


Amara at Paraiso

3101 N.E. Seventh Ave., Miami, Fla.
Telephone (305) 702-5528
Website www.amaraatparaiso.com
Award of Excellence

An overhead shot of food and wine at Amara at Paraiso
There’s a solid wine list to pair with chef Michael Paley’s dishes at Amara at Paraiso. (Courtesy of Amara at Paraiso)

Latin culture is at the heart of Miami, a notion brought to the table at Amara at Paraiso. Chef Michael Paley’s menu is “a love letter” to the melting pot of South Florida cuisine, with dishes like yellowfin-tuna tostada, charred octopus, grilled chorizo and grilled red snapper. Overlooking Biscayne Bay, the waterfront restaurant offers a 345-label, Award of Excellence–winning wine list with a strong showing of Californian, Italian and French picks. Wine director Amanda Fraga has put together substantial selections of Champagne and Burgundy from noted domaines, and there are diverse assortments of Spanish Garnacha, Barolo and Napa Cabernet. Amara is part of a local hospitality group that owns two other Award of Excellence winners, Michael's Genuine and Tigertail + Mary.


Chica by Chef Lorena Garcia

The Venetian Resort, Hotel & Casino, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, Nev.
Telephone (702) 805-8472
Website www.chicarestaurant.com
Award of Excellence

Chef Lorena Garcia in the kitchen in her chef coat
Chef Lorena Garcia has built her career on Latin cuisine. (Courtesy of Lorena Garcia Group)

Venezuelan chef and television personality Lorena Garcia has become a shining star in America’s Latin dining world, with Award of Excellence–winning restaurants in Miami and Las Vegas. Garcia’s Chica at Las Vegas’ Venetian Resort earned its award with a 125-label wine list focused on wines from Argentina, Chile and Spain. Wine director Bernardo Nava’s program offers a mix of Champagnes and sparkling wines, including bottles from California, as well as a diverse selection of whites like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño and Viura. And fans of Malbec can look to the reds from Argentina’s Mendoza region. Those, along with many other reds available on the list, mean the selection is well-suited for the heartier dishes on Garcia’s menu, like grilled beef empanadas, fried chicken, carne asada tacos and several steaks.


Fogo de Chão

117 E. Washington St., Indianapolis, Ind.
Telephone (317) 638-4000
Website www.fogo.com
Award of Excellence

With dozens of locations, Fogo de Chão brings Brazilian steak-house cuisine to cities across the U.S. The restaurant chain is well-known for its all-you-can-eat, rodízio-style dining, meaning waiters bring diners their meat on skewers. But guests should also take note of the chain’s strong wine programs, several of which have earned Awards of Excellence. This includes the wine list at Fogo de Chão’s Indianapolis location, where the 215-label wine list is the largest among the chain’s award winners. Wines from California, Argentina and Chile form the base of the list, and additional categories like Oregon Pinot Noir, Washington Merlot and Prosecco round out the program. These are poured alongside the many steak cuts on chef Neri Giachini’s menu, as well as alternative entrées like Chilean sea bass with mango, cauliflower steak and a seafood tower.


La Cosecha Bar and Restaurant

835 12th St., Paso Robles, Calif.
Telephone (805) 237-0019
Website www.lacosechabr.com
Award of Excellence

Owners Santos and Carole MacDonal in their La Cosecha Bar and Restaurant
Carole MacDonal was a Hollywood producer and writer before she opened La Cosecha Bar and Restaurant with her husband, executive chef Santos MacDonal. (Chris Leschinsky)

The farm-to-table movement meets Honduran cuisine at La Cosecha Bar and Restaurant in Paso Robles, Calif.. Given that this Award of Excellence winner is in wine country, it’s not surprising that Californian wines are featured heavily on its 130-label, Award of Excellence-winning wine list. Wine director and co-owner Carole MacDonal balances that American focus with a range of sparkling wines from France and Spain, as well as several local rosés. There’s a varied list of California whites too, and a vast selection of Paso Robles reds from top estates like Booker, Tablas Creek and J. Lohr. Chef and co-owner Santos MacDonal’s menu offers similar variety with seafood options like grilled octopus, tuna tartare and several pizzas. Guests can also enjoy dishes like duck confit, lamb shank and Alaskan cod.


Mariel

10 Post Office Square, Boston, Mass.
Telephone (617) 333-8776
Website www.marielofficial.com
Award of Excellence

A gnocchi dish at Mariel
Mariel’s version of gnocchi is made from plantains and served with a sauce of garlic and brown butter. (Josh Jamison)

Sumptuous red booths and Art Deco lamps at Boston restaurant Mariel could create the illusion that guests have traveled back in time, while the food virtually transports them to Havana. Chef Thomas Berry’s Cuban-influenced menu is paired with a wine list that earned its first Award of Excellence in 2020. Wine director Michael Adkins has put together 225 labels that are largely focused on regions in France, Spain and California. Well-known Champagnes introduce the selection along with a wide range of small- and large-format bottles. This leads into diverse reds from Ribera del Duero, Bordeaux and Burgundy, as well as California Cabernets and Pinot Noirs from top estates. Expect small dishes like pork empanadas, pipirrana salad and blackened shrimp, and mains like chorizo-baked eggs and a twist on a Cuban sandwich.


Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill

700 Highway West, Sedona, Ariz.
Telephone (928) 862-4444
Website www.mariposasedona.com
Award of Excellence

Exterior shot of Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill
The natural beauty of Arizona’s landscape is on display at Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill. (Courtesy of Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill)

A direct neighbor to Mexico, Arizona is known for excellent Latin American food. There are plenty of places to experience this cuisine in Sedona, a city that attracts travelers from throughout the country. Award of Excellence winner Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill lives up to the state’s reputation, with chef Lisa Dahl’s menu inspired by her travels to Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. She takes advantage of the kitchen’s wood-fired grill for dishes like chicken with charred corn, ribeye steak and a New York strip. Wine director David Dimler’s 135-label wine list enhances these dishes with bottles from California, Argentina, Chile and beyond, plus many by-the-glass picks. Estates like Heitz, Caymus and Dominus Estate are highlighted among the list’s California Cabernets, and reds from Arizona, Italy, Spain and Portugal bring even more options. As an added draw, Mariposa’s outdoor patio offers views of Sedona’s famed red rocks.


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