My proudest south-of-the-equator find is a wildly simple Ecuadorian establishment, Mi Cuidad. This blissfully deserted home-style restaurant is one of my favorite haunts. Practically everything on the menu is made in-house, and the friendly bunch of regulars that populate the low-slung tables are loyal types whose sunny disposition breeds happiness.
The first thing that rolls out to every table is a basket of just-warmed French bread with a small bowl of spicy aji (Ecuadorian salsa) and creamy butter. The kitchen will gladly keep refilling your basket with toasty little rounds, so you have to be really careful not to load up on this freebie.
I always start my feast with one or two corn cakes that come planted with a big square of melted white cheese draped across the top. If I'm in the mood for meat, I order up a plate of juicy, sunset-orange rib tips, and make sure to request an order of the homemade French fries.
The charming owner is a gregarious fella that greets every customer like family and ends up doing almost everything himself. From running food and delivering bread, to bussing tables and making cocktails, he's a hands-on sort of gentleman that turns every experience a quietly relaxing evening. Just like the beaches of South America, it's a place you never really want to leave.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Misty Tosh