It’s been around long enough, and on this list long enough, that the fact that it fronts a seedy-looking motor lodge should no longer be pertinent. We linger on this not because we’re preoccupied with appearances; it just makes it that much more incongruous and exciting for the first-timer to discover what’s inside: a colorful, cozy bistro with warm, attentive service, good rum-laced cocktails, and some of the area’s best South American cooking. The ideal strategy is to load up on soups (peanut or black bean, both richly creamy and superb) and maybe a salad, such as a lively one of corn, avocado, and greens. Then spring for multiple orders of excellent arepas—griddled, not fried, and stuffed with a variety of fillings, including the zesty (shredded beef, tomatoes, onions, and garlic) and the simple (a warm scrambled egg).
Also good: Pabellon criollo—pulled beef with rice, black beans, and plantains—with avocado; quatros leches cake.