3 Port Washington restaurants serving fresh Latin cuisine

Camarones al grill is a dish of grilled
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Camarones al grill is a dish of grilled shrimp served over salad with and rice and beans on the side at Mi Ranchito Grill in Port Washington.(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)

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Israel Guzman may not be a household name all over Long Island, but around Port Washington, Guzman ranks as a major player. This year, the El Salvador-born chef-restaurateur opened his third local eating spot.

Guzman came to the United States in 1980. With his wife, Rosa, he launched Mi Ranchito Grill in 1999 and, in 2011, opened Mojito Cafe & Lounge, followed this spring by Mole Mole Fresh Mexican Grill. Here's how the three places stack up:

Mole Mole Fresh Mexican Grill, 73 Main St., Port Washington

ESSENTIALS Sunday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.; wheelchair accessible; accepts major credit cards.

At this snappy-looking counter-serve spot, takeout is a focus. You move down a short line to build the components of your meal. Options include burritos, tacos, "fiesta bowl" and quesadillas. Select a protein, such as chicken, grilled steak, pulled pork, ground beef or barbacoa (softly stewed pulled spiced beef). Add rice, beans and a variety of condiments and sauces, such as mole verde and mole poblano, made with unsweetened chocolate and chilies.

At a recent lunch, the counterman seems impatient. All right, then, a salad crowned with chicken. The white meat cubes are a trifle dry, redeemed somewhat by a bright pico de gallo and supernal guacamole.

Another choice is tacos -- three to an order -- soft corn tortillas stuffed, alternatively, with barbacoa, pulled pork and chorizo. A bit more of each filling would have been appreciated.

New printed menus may solve the problem of having to choose without studying the options beforehand.

Mojito Cafe & Lounge, 109 D Main St.

ESSENTIALS Lunch, Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner, Sunday to Thursday, 4 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 4 to 11 p.m.; wheelchair accessible; accepts major credit cards.

There are two entrances to this friendly Latin restaurant. One leads to the bar area, the other to a separate dining room. Wherever you end up, you'll want to order the pupusas revueltas, irresistible Salvadoran corn cakes stuffed with a lush pork, bean and cheese puree, paired with a spunky slaw and salsa. These go down well with the namesake drink, potent and redolent of fresh mint. Shrimp fajitas are a hit, boosted by a chunky, lively guacamole and sprightly pico de gallo. A fiery winner: chicken enchiladas Mexicanas with salsa verde. Put out the flames with creamy caramel-sauced flan.

Mi Ranchito, 195 Manorhaven Blvd.

ESSENTIALS Lunch, Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner, Sunday to Thursday, 4 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 4 to 11 p.m.; wheelchair accessible; accepts major credit cards.

On warm afternoons and evenings, the outdoor patio of this Mexican-Salvadoran restaurant beckons. Indoors, all is airy and bright, the crew warm and welcoming, the atmosphere festive.

At a recent lunch, pupusas stuffed with zucchini and cheese prove pillowy, delectable. A craving for grilled shrimp is satisfied by skewered shellfish served with fine rice and beans. Authenticity informs the tacos Jalisco, soft corn tortillas crowned with juicy, smoky cubes of grilled skirt steak showered with cilantro and chopped onion, plated with a spirited salsa verde.

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