Where to have lunch? The car knew the moment it turned onto Broadway: Beto's Comida Latina. The fish tacos, the empanadas, the quesadillas - all seemed to be calling me. So, a friend and I turned into the parking lot and turned on to the best meal I have had there in ages. I have always enjoyed going to Beto's. The casual atmosphere of the dining room, a few longnecks and the patio out back (too hot for our current heat, but great in the fall), the Latin fare that goes beyond Tex-Mex to embrace Central and South American cuisines. But my last couple of visits were average, nothing to get worked up about. I'm glad to see that has changed. Most everything we had at that lunch was marked by a welcome vibrancy, from the fresh ingredients to the steaming hot nature of the food itself, that was nearly irresistible. The fish tacos were the special that day, with a pair and a salad arriving for $5.99. Don't pass this by if you can. Our version flirted with perfection. The cilantro coleslaw on top was fresh and crunchy, the poblano sauce creamy with just the right amount of bite, and the grilled fish juicy and plentiful. There was a slight bit of water coming from the tacos, but it didn't affect the flavor. It also didn't affect the hold that great fish tacos have. For some reason, this dish has never caught on in San Antonio as well as it should. So, we should be extra thankful that Beto's, among other places, has cultivated a devoted following for them. For those of us who love them, their hold is as gripping as the latest John Lescroart or Michael Connelly mystery. The accompanying salad was topped with pickled red onions and slices of jícama, which added two contrasting yet complementary textures to the crisp romaine. A spinach and mushroom quesadilla bore no trace of the promised chipotle, and it didn't really need it. Who needs more when you have soft spinach leaves and mushrooms melting into one with the corn tortilla thanks to a judicious amount of cheese. A sauté of fresh vegetables, ranging from squashes and tomatoes to eggplant and sweet potato, with a sprinkling of queso fresco on top, made a substantial side dish and a nice balance to the carbohydrates from the tortillas. (Beto's, ever attentive to people's dietary needs, offers low-carb options as well as gluten-free dishes. Ask your server.) But you can't go low-carb and enjoy Beto's signature dish, its flaky empanadas, made with puff pastry. From a choice list of savory fillings, including chicken poblano and beef and red chile, the calabacita con puerco called, and it proved an excellent choice with its stew of squash and pork with a touch of sweet corn. I heeded the call once again when the waiter mentioned mango-rhubarb among the dessert options. The luscious sweet-tart nature of the fruit a good foil for the buttery pastry. Give in to such calls every once in a while. You could be as amply rewarded as we were at Beto's.
Beto's Comida Latina 8142 Broadway (210) 930-9393 Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday $-$$