Once known as a city with a Tex-Mex establishment on every corner, Dallas and its burbs are now playing host to a virtual parade of Latin dining palaces. Here and there, you'll see Peruvian, Colombian, Caribbean, and even Ecuadorian places vying with El Fenix and Mi Cocina for Big D's dining dollar. Many of these establishments are strictly strip-mall, mom-and pop ops, while others, such as Zaguan Latin Café & Bakery, offer full table-service dining. Still, this cathedral of Venezuelan consumption should be considered first-and-foremost a bakery, for indeed the only culinary misstep I've encountered there was with the single dish I ordered in which pastry of some kind wasn't a part.
Unfortunately, that sole misfire was with Arroz Con Pollo, a dish done well at other establishments. Zaguan's version combined chicken, rice, peas, carrots, and corn, but unfortunately, the chicken was left too long on the grill and was therefore dry and almost flavorless. Luckily, the sweet fried plantains presented on the side were well executed.
Every other dish I've tried at Zaguan has proven successful.
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On an earlier visit, the famous cachapas were loaded with sweet corn flavor and were quite a treat. Ditto the Argentinean empanadas, made with whole wheat flour and stuffed with savory beef and chicken. This time, I began my repast with Arepas, which are savory Colombian/Venezuelan corn turnovers stuffed with beef and cheese and chicken and cheese and cooked on the grill. These babies were flawlessly executed, and a reminder that if you're dining at an establishment that is also a bakery, then pastry items will probably be baked fresh all day. Plus, if you're looking for variety, Zaguan offers 15 different types of Arepas, including prosciutto, tuna, egg, and vegetarian.
Best of all, if you're looking for a sweet treat, the choices here are almost limitless, including churros, merengues, palmiers (sweet puff pastries), and just about every kind of cake imaginable. After due consideration, I settled on an alfajore (cookie), which was a generous soft filling of dulce de leche sandwiched between two very crumbly vanilla cookies. Light and airy, instead of heart-stoppingly rich, the alfajore was the highlight of my visit.
Service was paced at Latin leisurely, so if you want a quick lunch, you might want to visit another place. As for me, I'll be tempted to return to Zaguan to give other non-pastry dishes such as Pork Loin La Habana and Salmon Santiago a try to see if they come off better than the Arroz Con Pollo. If not, at least I know where to come for empanadas, arepas, alfajores, and other bakery delicacies.
Zaguan Café & Bakery
2604 Oak Lawn Ave.