Local Bites: Tropicaleo

Gabriel and Maria Isabel Marrero whetted Birmingham’s appetite for Caribbean foods with some highly popular pop-up shops. Now their Puerto Rican kitchen, Tropicaleo, has a permanent home at 4426 4th Ave. S. in Avondale. This is a bright, cozy space serving authentic Puerto Rican cuisine made with fresh, Alabama ingredients. It’s a perfect fusion of the tastiest aspects of these two cultures, and the hospitality at Tropicaleo is immediately recognizable.

There is something here for everyone, including vegan and gluten-free dishes.

Kids can eat a grilled cheese or chicken and rice for $5. Lunch specials, available Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., include the popular Tropibowls ($7) with a choice of protein (chicken, pork or eggplant), a base of rice & beans or spinach, a choice of sauce (house, spicy vinaigrette or tamarind vinaigrette) and a drink.

There are several sandwiches available including a pulled pork with sweet guava bbq sauce; a Cubano with pulled pork, provolone, pickles, mustard and house sauce; and the Vegano (grilled eggplant, spinach, tomato and hummus). Mofongo ($15) a traditional plantain dish made with mashed, fried plantains comes with a choice of protein and rice. The Carne Frita version, made with fried pork, and the Carne Mechada, with pulled beef steak, are popular choices. Tostones (fried and seasoned green plantains) and amarillos (fried sweet, ripe plantains) are must-have sides.

Late night (the place is open until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday) sees small bites and appetizers ($4-$12) including empanadas (beef, chicken or guava and cheese); crostini with honey, goat cheese, mixed berries and balsamic reduction; platanutres (fried green plantain chips); loaded platanutres with with pork, chicken or eggplant; and sorullos (sweet, fried grist sticks).

Brunch on Saturday and Sunday is served 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with an impressive range of dishes, from a caballo (white rice, egg and bacon) to bruschetta (goat cheese, tomato, aioli and balsamic vinaigrette) and even Insta-perfect unicorn toast (goat cheese, blackberries, strawberries and Nutella).

You’ll want to go for more than just the delicious food at this family-friendly eatery. There’s a children’s book club every Sunday at noon. It’s BYOB (bring your own book). Adults can play (or learn to play) dominos at the same time.

Tropicaleo

4426 4th Ave. S.

Birmingham

205-499-7990

Hours:  Monday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 a.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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