Mojitos, Caipirinhas, & Other Temptations to Bust the Budget (and Diet) at La Duni Latin Cafe

2 Aug

The La Duni restaurants receive lots of recommendations on Chowhound as a must try for out of town visitors.  More than that, the La Duni restaurants are also neighborhood favorites for Knox-Henderson and Oak Lawn.  As popular as these restaurants are, I can’t believe I didn’t visit one until a few weeks ago.

Our destination was the McKinney location in the fabulous Knox-Henderson neighborhood.  Knox-Henderson, pedestrian and pet friendly, is unlike any other neighborhood in Dallas.  People can walk to restaurants and shops here.  People can take their dogs for patio dining here.  It doesn’t even feel like Dallas… where’s the extra large parking spot for the family sized SUV?  Urban oasis among the otherwise highway-heavy, trafficky scenery?  Sort of.  This neighborhood is also insanely trendy, and therefore, expensive.

La Duni Latin Cafe is priced similarly to many other restaurants in Knox-Henderson.  You can enjoy a sandwich for under $10 and entrees for under $20.  It’s mid-range pricing for Knox-Henderson and by all means reasonable, even when judged by the suburban eye.  But you can’t come to La Duni and just get a sandwich.  People flock here for the drinks and the desserts.  The food is just something to fill the time and stomach void between those two dazzlers.  To La Duni’s credit, the food can certainly stand on its own.  But the drinks and the desserts are out of this world.  We started the evening with a pisco sour (a popular Peruvian cocktail), a margarinha (a hybrid of margarita and caipirinha that makes the best of both these worlds), and a couple of mojitos.  All were pleasing to the crowd, all were relatively strong.  Don’t worry, I didn’t drink all of them by myself, I was dining with friends.  And at $10/cocktail, I can’t afford to be an alcoholic at La Duni.  The cocktails were excellent, but they were actually more expensive than our dinners, as all of us ordered sandwiches.  A couple of plates:

Slow Roasted Lomo ($8.95)


Citrus marinated pork loin with avocado, tomato, manchego cheese, mayo, and greens.  The menu indicates that the diner has the choice of bread between a freshly baked popover or Peruvian Pan de Yema.  However, the waitress must have decided our table looked like popover fans, as we were not given a choice and all of our sandwiches came on the popover bread.  Not that I’m complaining.  I found the soft, airy interior of the popover with its crusty, harder shell truly delightful.  I’m a sucker for freshly baked goods.  Just reason #101 why Donna can’t do the Atkins diet.  The sandwich came with a choice of yucca fries or side salad.  I chose the salad in an attempt to balance out the calorie count (I was without a doubt getting dessert!).  Fresh greens and simple vinaigrette, an excellent companion to my citrusy, slightly smokey pork loin sandwich. 

Peppered Picanha ($8.95)


Marinated and grilled pepper crusted beef loin with watercress, tomato, chimichurri sauce, and manchego cheese.  This fellow diner also noted the charming novelty of having a sandwich on a popover, though he did think that the Peppered Picanha was a little on the dry side.  Perhaps a slice or two of avocado would have helped this sandwich.  They provided the perfect amount of moisture in the Slow Roasted Lomo.

Then it came, the much antipicated dessert, Quatro Leches Cake.


At one more “leche” than traditional tres leches cake, it’s got to be good, right?  This soaked in creamy goodness, drizzled with carmel delight, melt in your mouth moist delicacy is perhaps La Duni’s most famous dessert.  $7.25 is a little steep for a slice of cake, but the portion is large enough to share.  The drinks and entrees were nice enough, but this ending definitely topped it all.

My only objection with this meal was the barely passable service.  Between every course (if you can even consider drinks a course) was a lengthy wait. 

So I confess to the Knox-Henderson/Oak Lawn residents, I am jealous.  I wish La Duni was my neighborhood eatery.  It’s an attractive place to relax after work with the luscious cocktails, a chic place for celebrations with those fabulous cakes and desserts, and a reliable choice for a weeknight dinner with those affordable entree options.  But it’s also the kind of place where I’ll be busting the budget and busting the diet asking for one more margarinha or another slice of cake.  The full dessert and cocktail-inclusive experience at La Duni will run you a pretty penny and require a few miles of payback on the treadmill.

Rating: 4 / 5

La Duni Latin Cafe
4620 McKinney Ave
Dallas, TX 75205

2 Responses to “Mojitos, Caipirinhas, & Other Temptations to Bust the Budget (and Diet) at La Duni Latin Cafe”

  1. Scott 08/09/2007 at 10:52 am #

    Another nice write-up, Donna. Next time you go, try the pabellon criollo–simple perfection. And if you can get it on a good day, their warm milk chocolate cake pudding is arguably their best dessert. (The execution has been a little sloppy in recent times, with the custard not always penetrating all the way through the cake, leaving a dry core.) You also ought to try their brunch sometime.

  2. Russell Maddicks 08/09/2008 at 9:50 am #

    Hi, I have to agree with Scott, the Pabellon Criollo is done really well. I also liked the Margarita, Caipirinha blend, which hit the spot. Nice.

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