El Paraiso is the paradise of Latin American gastronomy: Food and drink: Smile Politely


Opened in March 2020, El Paraiso is located in Urbana’s Broadway Food Hall, which hosts several food concepts under one roof. This family business is one of the many big sellers of space in Urbana.

Hungry for Latin American food, I visited the restaurant and tried a bunch of dishes.

The entrance to the El Paraiso vendor has moved into the Broadway Food Hall in Urbana.  There are letters spelling out the name of the restaurant in light blue on a white wall.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I entered the Broadway Food Hall after parking in the small lot across the road and found El Paraiso. When I arrived I noticed the simple decor and the lovely tiled bar with bar stools – which came in handy later when I was waiting for my meal to be prepared.

The interior of Broadway Food Hall with many tables, empty and distant, with circular fabric lights and string lights under the high black industrial ceiling.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Just before noon, the Broadway Food Hall had plenty of seating inside, with plenty of space. I took my food to go, but the high ceilings, remote tables, string lights, and the laid back vibe of BFH were nice to see.

An aerial image of the author's order.  At the top left, there's a slice of white cake next to the pupusas, tacos, llapingachos, flautas, arepas, and a dessert enchilada.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I ordered four starters, one side, and two desserts and took them home to my dining table.

A side view of three fried flautas on a bed of reddish rice in a white styrofoam container divided with beans, lettuce and a cup of sour cream.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I love flautas, so I had to try El Paraiso’s flautas ($ 7.50). There were three fried flautas stuffed with chicken and cheese on a bed of rice with beans, lettuce, pico de gallo and a small cup of sour cream. It was a ton of food for $ 7.50. The flautas were amazing, probably my favorite thing I ordered. They had layers of crunch and serious savory delicacies. The chicken and cheese were full of flavor. The outside of the fried tortilla had an almost buttery taste of frying oil which made them so rich without being greasy. The pinto beans were in sauce and the rice was fantastic.

A close-up of El Paraiso llapingachos shows the dish of orange potatoes with light yellow queso dripping down.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I wanted to choose an accompaniment for my entrees, and when the cashier explained to me what llapingachos were, I had to try one. Llapingacho is an Ecuadorian dish made from potatoes stuffed with cheese then fried on a hot plate. El Paraiso’s llapingachos were exquisite. The Cheesy Potato Pancake had a very melting middle with dripping cheese queso. It had a soft and smooth mashed potato texture with so many additional flavors. It was served over crispy iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced ​​tomatoes, and very thinly sliced ​​red onion ribbons – but next time they can serve it right in my mouth. It’s something we have to have.

A photo taken above shows a white plate with two corn tacos, a steak and a chicken, on a black table.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Another starter on El Paraiso’s menu is the taco ($ 2.50 each). I tried the steak and the chicken taco. The chicken taco had chicken, cheese and lettuce on a corn tortilla. The chicken taco was not spicy, just pleasantly juicy against the delicious corn flavor of the tortilla.

A close-up shot of El Paraiso's steak taco with long charred steak strips with lettuce on a corn tortilla lined.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I also tried the steak taco. The taco was accompanied by long strips of steak, lettuce and cilantro. The steak had a good flavor and it was a solid serving of meat for a taco.

A pupusas is cut in half, revealing the middle of pork and cheese with a small coleslaw next to it on a white plate on a black table.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I also tried the pupusas ($ 3). Pupusas were a new dish to me, and if you’ve never tried it, El Paraiso’s version is a thick flour pancake stuffed with your choice of pork and cheese or beans and cheese, served with a coleslaw. I chose pork and cheese for my garnish.

The patty was lumpy and rustic, and it looked like it was going to crumble, but it wasn’t. It was a tasty little filled pancake that tasted like a good sausage with a bit of cheese inside. The pickled coleslaw was made with cabbage, onion, and carrots, and the salad had herbal flavors that I couldn’t locate but really liked.

An arepa image from El Paraiso shows grill marks on the thin bun with a generous serving of a creamy chicken filled with another bun below.  The arepas is placed on a white plate on a black table.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The last dish I tried was the arepas ($ 5.50). The arepas reminded me of a chicken salad sandwich because of the cold and creamy grated chicken. Two corn cakes held together a huge serving of chicken and avocado filling over lettuce. The crisp and thin top and bottom could barely contain the generous chicken middle. The corn “buns” were crispy in some bites and chewy like a pita in others. The flavor was smooth and well seasoned. The contrast in texture between the hot corn cakes and the cold, smooth filling was exceptional. If you like chicken salad sandwiches, you have to try this.

A large slice of very leches cake sits in a plastic clamshell container with very white frosting and a light yellow cake with a dripping leche sauce at the bottom of the container.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I am a sucker for the very leches cake. El Paraiso sells tres leches cake by the slice for $ 3, and it was really a potent slice. It could easily have been shared between three people. The cake was delicious with a moist, soaked crumb and a fluffy whipped cream frosting. It was nice and sweet, like I like in a dessert.

An empanada dessert sprinkled with white sugar grains lies on a white plate on a black table.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Finally, I ordered the empanadas for dessert ($ 1.75 for one, $ 5 for three). It was a fried empanada covered in sugar. Did I think the middle might have chocolate? I thought so. And if not chocolate, maybe I thought of fruit. Anyway, the topping was not specified, and since I’m not picky, I went for it.

An El Paraiso dessert empanada is opened on a white plate.  The interior is airy and has a thin layer of white queso on the inside.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The interior of the dessert was very airy and the walls inside had a thin layer of queso. It was the first time that I had cheese in my dessert. The empanada for dessert was perfectly crispy on the outside and it gave me funnel cake vibes. The fried outside was tasty, as was the unexpected white queso, so it turned out pretty well for me – after overcoming my assumptions.

It’s not a super sweet dessert; it is a salty-sweet dessert. So if you like interesting food combinations – or if you like queso so much that you would like to have queso in your desserts, try El Paraiso’s dessert empanadas.

There is even more on the menu than I ordered, and every day there are specials. You can see real-time restaurant updates by following them on Facebook.

To place your order, you can call 312-971-7149, order online, or you can order in person at Broadway Food Hall. The staff at El Paraiso were friendly and able to answer any questions about the menu so if you have any questions about the menu they will be able to help.

El Paraiso
401 Broadway Avenue North
TF 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sat + Su 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.

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