The Antojitos House is the Latin American comfort food spot you may have not heard of, but will be happy to tell your friends after that first bite.
Tucked off Tualatin Valley Highway, 2900 S.E. Cornelius Pass Road, in Hillsboro, the restaurant opened its doors less than a month ago and is already a crowd favorite.
The woman-run business is owned and operated by Zulmi De La Cruz, a Hillsboro resident of more than 20 years. A self-taught cook through and through, De La Cruz's passion for food was the fuel to make the move and start her own business.
"I never thought I would open one," De La Cruz said. "I love to cook. When I prepare my food at home, I like my plates to look nice and clean. I would post my food on Facebook and say, 'Someday I will open my own restaurant.' I was kind of joking then."
She bought the restaurant equipment from the owner of the previous restaurant, called Antojitos Place, and decided to carry some of the dishes found on the menu.
With her Honduran heritage, De La Cruz added her favorite dishes to the menu like baleandas with a thick flour tortilla, as well as dishes found in El Salvador, Venezuela, and other surrounding countries.
The Antojitos House creates dishes that are rare to the Washington County food scene. Plantain-based dishes are featured, as well as empanadas, arepas and the signature dessert, homemade flan. The range of offerings is important to De La Cruz, who hopes to see the list of dishes expand as her business grows.
"I wanted to focus on everyone, and that is why I had a Latino and English name,: she said. "It's about coming together. Those places that serve what you could cook at home, but wouldn't want to make yourself every day, that is 'antojitos.'"
De La Cruz and her team prepare fresh dishes hours before the doors open at 11 a.m., with plans to be open every day of the week until 9 p.m.
As customers trickle in, De La Cruz said she loves to interact with them and learn what dishes strike their tastes buds.
"It makes me feel excited and to keep going," she said. "It is important to me that the food tastes good. I love to see new people come through the door. When I see the same person come twice in a week, I know they like us."
On a wall in the space, a white board with the question, "What phrase or word is used in your county?" is already filled with hundreds of answers. Some are in languages De La Cruz said she doesn't recognize, a sign that her customers come from all around the world.
"The best compliment I ever received is that this doesn't feel like a restaurant, it feels like home," she said.
The Antojitos House also offers order pickup. To learn more, visit its Instagram, Facebook or its website, theantojitoshouse.com
By Janae Easlon
Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune971-762-1166
Follow Janae at @Janae_Easlon
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