Guava and cream cheese pastelitos were the best of the bunch at Pastelitos Cafe.

There's a general rule of thumb when dining at Vietnamese restaurants that's always served me well: order the dish that's in the name of the restaurant. If it's called Pho Featherbottom, order the pho. If it's called Bun Bo Hue Buttercup, order the bun bo Hue. You'll likely never be disappointed this way.

Pastelitos Cafe
1809 Eldridge Pkwy.
713-632-5178 

This wisdom holds true at Pastelitos Cafe in the Energy Corridor, where pastelitos are similarly the thing to order. This is also the answer our waiter gave my mother and I last weekend at lunch when my mother asked, "What's good here?" He cocked his head as if he'd been asked whether or not it was daylight outside. "The pastelitos..." he eventually told us. "We make them fresh."

"How big are they?" my mother asked. Our waiter made a circle with his middle finger and thumb, holding it up for us to see: about the size of a macaron, it seemed. "Small," he explained further. Feeling flush with this knowledge, my mother—before I could stop her—told him, "We'll take two of each!"

Don't bother with the tequeños.

"Are we really going to eat that much?" I asked her as the waiter trotted away. She had just ordered us a dozen pastelitos—two in six different flavors—not to mention the basket of bulky tequeños (not Pastelitos Cafe's finest offering) hulking on our table like pastry-wrapped lead pipes filled with cheese. "They're small!" she demurred.

They were not small. Each pastelito was the size of a British meat pie, with all the heft of one too. The dozen were spread across two baskets, still steaming hot from the oven. But, as promised, they were clearly made to order—and they were good. 

Spinach pastelitos at Pastelitos Cafe are a favorite.

My favorites of the bunch ended up being the spinach and cheese—with bright green, fresh spinach packing the inner cavern of the pastry—and a sweet guava and cream cheese pastelito that was more of a dessert option, though after the fourth iteration of pastelitos ("Oh look, this one has more cheese in it...") I regretted having ordered so much of the same thing. I was not alone; my mother had similarly given up and—this is how I know she was truly bored—was idly watching the World Cup match on TV along with everyone else in the South American cafe.

So while it's certainly true that the lovely, homemade pastelitos are the thing to order at Pastelitos Cafe, I'm looking forward to experimenting with a few different items on our next visit: perhaps the Venezuelan breakfast platter with black beans, eggs, shredded beef, and arepas with a latte on the shaded patio. But I'll probably still order a guava and cream cheese pastelito for dessert. 

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