There aren’t a lot of similarities between the landlocked blackland prairie of North Texas and the sea-splashed islands of the Caribbean. And the differences go well beyond matters of geography and weather.
While waves of immigration have brought cuisines from all over the world to DFW, the dishes from the string of islands between Florida and South America remain sadly underrepresented. There are a few Cuban and Jamaican restaurants here, but no one’s going to confuse Dallas or Fort Worth with Miami, New York or Houston.
But things are looking up. Case in point: Jibaritos’, a little slice of Puerto Rico that opened in a Bedford mini-mall recently. Serving authentic Puerto Rican dishes in a casual setting, Jibaritos’ delivers fresh and flavorful food, along with friendly and efficient service. (Jibaritos’ shouldn’t confused with another Puerto Rican restaurant, El Jibarito, in Arlington.)
When we arrived, there appeared to be a lot of Puerto Rican diners enjoying their meals here, which we took as a good sign.
And after we tasted our first appetizer — an authentic arepa — we knew we’d come to the right place.
The arepa stuffed with ceviche ($6.99) was light yet crunchy and overflowing with fish. The dish had plenty of bite to it, but wasn’t too acidic. You can also get the arepas — a flatbread that’s a staple of Colombian, Venezuelan, and some Central American and Caribbean forms of cooking — stuffed with cod ($6.99) or octopus ($7.99). The only problem is, if there are two of you, one arepa is definitely not going to be enough to share.
For entrees, we started with the mofongo, a dish made from fried plantains, olive oil and garlic, and a protein. It can be ordered with either fried pork ($10.99), sirloin ($15.99), ceviche or cod fish salad ($16.99), or shrimp or octopus ($17.99). We went with the shrimp, and though the portion size was a bit small, what was on the plate had plenty of garlic-infused intensity, which worked well against the sweetness of the mofongo. There’s also a choice between a garlic and a “criolla” sauce (more akin to a marinara). We went with garlic and didn’t regret it.
Also successful was the pechuga rellena ($12.99), a chicken breast stuffed with plantains, wrapped in bacon and served with the garlic sauce. The chicken was moist, while both the bacon and plantains added texture and sweetness.
The only disappointing part of the meal was dessert, a guava-flavored flan ($3.99) that didn’t really stand out. For the same price, Jibaritos’ also serves tembleque, a coconut pudding, which we didn’t try. Something to look forward to next time.
To cap off the meal, owner Marcos Torrado came out to chat, perhaps to see how the two most obvious non-Puerto Ricans in the room were enjoying things. If all of his meals are this good, then he shouldn’t expect such visitors to be a novelty much longer.