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Grade-a Family a-fare

Relative newcomer Sin Fronteras hits the ground running

Pierna at Sin Fronteras

Greg Bollinger

“De nuestra familia a la tuya” spreads across the top of Sin Fronteras’ menu, which, in English, means “from our family to yours.”

These words could not have been any truer during a recent visit to the newly-opened Latin American eatery, where my dining companions and I received impeccable service from Sin Fronteras co-owner Katie Hudson and a gracious tableside visit from chef and co-owner Victor Flores.

This idea of “family” resonates throughout Sin Fronteras, which specializes in Honduran and Mexican fare. The dining room is cozy and casual, encouraging patrons to speak freely with one another. You’re greeted with chips and salsa. (Order all the salsas, especially the hot, ginger red.) Portions are plentiful, making plates easily shareable. Flores’ mother, who runs the kitchen across town at Las Tres Fronteras (7940 E. 21st St.), passed down many of the dishes on the menu to her son.

Separated by two countries and 200 miles of tropical vegetation, the fodder for Mexican and Honduran cuisines is closely related but far from identical. Permutations of “new world” ingredients like masa (corn) cakes, tortillas, tomatoes, avocado, and beans have produced regional dishes that lend the appearance of shared DNA, but when these gastronomic genes find expression they yield markedly different outcomes.

Despite the narrow band of Mexican food impressed into the collective American consciousness, Mexico has seven different culinary regions and an index of flavors and preparations as diverse as any world region of comparable size. For example, the distance between the northern state Chihuahua (the influences of which can be found in Tex-Mex cuisine) and the southern states Puebla and Oaxaca (home to molé and habanero peppers) is comparable to the distance between Paris and Naples—two European cities with food styles so distinct you’d have to willfully confuse them with one another.

Honduran food mostly overlaps with recipes from coastal and southern Mexico. Similarities abound, but where Honduran food and Mexican food most notably depart is in their use of chiles. Honduran food, like most Central American food, is decidedly less spicy than Mexican fare.

Sin Fronteras fashions itself as a family restaurant capable of catering to picky and adventurous eaters alike. Diners craving more familiar fallbacks can order nachos ($8.99), quesadillas ($7.99), and burritos ($6.99–$8.99), all of which come with a choice of carne asada (grilled beef steak), mild or spicy chicken, or al pastor (spicy pork seasoned with orange juice), which I recommend.

For the uninitiated, the Honduran recipes provide a refreshing introduction. These dishes have a slightly lighter touch, which makes them perfectly suited for summer dining.

At $7.99, the chichuron con yuca is not only a bargain, it is stick-to-your ribs comfort food that, in any other setting, would cost twice as much. The dish consists of generous cubes of crispy pork belly, airy, fried yuca, fresh cabbage, and a pickled onion garnish. An expertly rendered chichuron (similar to a cracklin’ but with a higher meat-to-fat ratio) is one of life’s simplest pleasures. Yuca—the tuber from which tapioca starch is extracted—has a flavor reminiscent of potato and superior crispability. While this dish might sound heavy with its two fried elements, it is light and elegant.

Other noteworthy plates from the Honduran menu include the pierna ($8.99), a breaded chicken thigh and drumstick served with either sweet plantains or tajadas (green plantain chips). For those who prefer white meat, the pechuga is a breaded chicken breast and is available in small and large portions ($5.99 and $9.99, respectively), making it suitable for either children or adults.

The steaming, vibrant marinera soup ($13.99) is a coconut-based seafood extravaganza featuring mussels, shrimp, fish, surimi (crab stick), a whole blue crab, and green plantains. The broth is reminiscent of a Jamaican curry, revealing an Afro-Caribbean influence, and the dish awakens with a fresh spritz of lime.

Not to be ignored are the pupusas ($2.50 each)—thick, griddled masa cakes stuffed with your choice of beans, cheese, jalapeños, or pork, and served with curtido (a pickled cabbage condiment). The Honduran empanadas ($7.99) come in two varieties: flour and corn. The flour empanadas are delicate, flaky hand-pies, browned and exceptionally bubbly, while the corn empanadas are smooth and with a thinner, crackly shell. Both have a mild filling of beef and rice, and ordering a mixed plate (i.e. one flour, one corn) is permitted.

Sin Fronteras also offers a variety of agua frescas (“fresh waters” made from juices and nut milks). The melon was the table favorite, though the Honduran horchata—made from rice milk and flavored with peanuts—was thinner and less sugary than the Mexican version. The only aspect of our meal that missed the mark was the flan. Flan is a temperamental custard that quickly overcooks, and the piece we received was slightly curdled and less silky than the flan perched atop the neighboring table’s chocolate cake. It took everything I had not to reach out and steal a bite—which is what I would have done at home. Instead, I remembered my manners and began plotting my return.

Sin Fronteras
Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–9 p.m.
4909 S. Peoria Ave. | 918-932-8342

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