I was a little concerned when I stopped in at Dabeni’s Latin, a tiny bakery and cafe in a strip of shops on Michigan Street near Orange Avenue. I had been lured in by the sign out front touting a lunch special. But when I got inside and the friendly woman behind the counter lifted the lids from the steam trays of the three prepared foods offered that day, I had to double check that it said Latin food out front.
On one end was spaghetti and meatballs, on the other end was fried chicken. I don’t usually associate either of those with Latin American cuisine. Fortunately, in the middle, was a catfish stew with chunks of banana looking -- and smelling -- decidedly Latin. That’s what I had, along with a scoop of mofongo, the fried mashed plantains that are such a guilty pleasure.
It turned out to be quite a feast for $7.99 (including drink), even without the dry lettuce and tomato wedges that, I suppose, were meant to be a salad. The mofongo was full of flavor, even beyond the predominant garlic, and I loved the big slab of bacon that sat atop the mash. And the catfish stew, with onions and tomatoes in the mix, was so good that I almost went back for more.
Dabeni’s main feature, however, just may be its baked goods, from cookies to pastries to rolls and cakes. There were so many items available that I questioned whether they were all made on the small premises. The woman assured me that she made everything in the store except the bottled juices and sodas.
I couldn’t resist the slice of tres leches that was calling my name from within the glass display case. It was so wonderfully moist and delicious. I fear I’ll be going back often.
Dabeni’s Latin Restaurant & Bakery is at 239 E. Michigan St., Orlando. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and early dinner (closes at 6 p.m. weekdays and 5 p.m. Saturdays) Monday through Saturday and for breakfast and lunch Sunday. Here’s a link to latinfoodinorlando.com. The phone number is 407-422-6888.