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Café Corto Coffee, NaRai Thai, 3 Margaritas 

Dine & Dash

click to enlarge Arepas from Cafe Corto

Café Corto Coffee Gallery

115 E. Kiowa St., 577-4347

As excited as I am each time I encounter one of Café Corto's addictive arepas (the Colombian cornmeal-and-dairy discs) at lunchtime — like in the killer ajiaco soup or arepa de pollo sandwich — I'm equally thrilled to start my day with the Huevos Pericos ($5) at breakfast. Like a co-opted English muffin of sorts, or Spanish-speaking Egg McMuffin (for you fast-food types), the gluten-free dish halves the arepa and sandwiches in a scrambled egg patty and avocado slivers with sautéed onions and tomatoes.

Aside from needing a touch of salt, it's pretty perfect with accompanying spicy aji sauce and a café con leche ($4.30/16-ounce), consisting of three Spanish Peaks-roasted espresso shots and half & half with raw cane sugar steamed in. It's fairly sweet, but kept in check by such strong coffee flavor. All in all, a morning meal that makes my travel bug wish it were Bogotá bound. — Matthew Schniper

click to enlarge Special Red Curry with Kabocha Squash from NaRai Thai Restaurant.

NaRai Thai Restaurant

805 Village Center Drive, 531-5175, narai-thai.com

For no good reason, I haven't been back to NaRai since 2008, when I made two review visits which I very much enjoyed. Five years later, it's refreshing and reassuring to see that nothing appears to have changed, quality-wise. Friends I randomly bump into and my waitress all recommend the Special Red Curry with Kabocha Squash ($11 at dinner/$9 at lunch). I opt for beef instead of chicken or tofu and a temperature of hot instead of Thai hot, which had scorched me proper on a green curry on my last visit.

Here, the hot smolders perfectly for my taste, playing beautifully into the almighty culinary sweet/heat dynamic; the squash's sugars gift counterpoint to the dark red curry and chili burn. I only wish there'd been more kabocha chunks, though the thin beef slivers hold their own amid bell pepper slivers floating in the floral, basil-rich, coconut-milk-silky stew. — Matthew Schniper

click to enlarge Chile Verde from 3 Margaritas Family Mexican Restaurant.

3 Margaritas Family Mexican Restaurant

3956 N. Academy Blvd., 573-5065

If you have anywhere to be, ever, I recommend not using the under-construction Austin Bluffs Parkway to get to 3 Margaritas. Time constraints led me to order the chile verde ($11.49) to go, but I still had a few minutes to appreciate the colorful dining room full of Latin pop music, pink concrete floors and a picture of owner Jesse Perez, with a family "thank you" for eating at the independently owned location.

Back home, I cracked open a bag full of fresh chips and pico; warm, rolled flour tortillas; and a bowl of funky, oily green-brown liquid. The verde stew winds up tasting incredible, though, full of bold, slightly metallic flavors (from the tomatillos, garlic and onions) that ooze over your tongue and coat the inside of your mouth with a warming heat. And its cubed pork languidly falls apart under pressure. — Bryce Crawford

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