Latinx American Breakfast Tour

Chilaquiles, empanadas, and conchas, oh my!

Photography by Kim Thomas

When I learned chilaquiles is the typical Mexican breakfast dish, I was a bit surprised. I’m Venezuelan, and a whole plate of chilaquiles, salsa, rice, and beans seemed like a rather humongous meal to start the day, compared to my standard grilled cheese arepa or a couple of empanadas.

To find out firsthand, my wife, Anna, and I packed up our son, Emiliano, and went to La Palapa early one Saturday morning—and thus began our Latinx American Breakfast Tour. 

La Palapa is located in a former Waffle House, and that’s pretty much as breakfasty as you can get, right?

It’s owned by Juan Castellán, who also owns La Guadalupana, one of our favorites in Memphis. We were greeted by Lili, who often takes care of us at La Guadalupana, and were amused by the typical Waffle House layout under the new Mexican decorations. 

The food was great, not only because of its quality, but also because of the service. Lili really customized our meal and gave us a lot of options. Her suggestion to add an egg on top of the chilaquiles was on point. Anna’s huevos rancheros (basically scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions) were served as an omelet, with amazing homemade hash browns on the side, in the most Mexican-American fashion. Emiliano had a couple of delicious fluffy pancakes. What a feast to start the weekend!

We knew that La Palapa was going to be hard to follow, so we waited a whole week to continue our tour at Órale Tacos & Bakery. They opened in January 2023, and I had heard good things about them from multiple sources, especially from my friends who are into baking. 

We walked right past the display case with all the Mexican pastries and sat at a table. I ordered the huevos con chorizo sandwich, which seemed to be a pretty nice Mexican-American crossover. This time, Anna got the chilaquiles. 

I couldn’t help noticing that the families arriving would get pastries and coffee first, and then the chilaquiles (topped with an egg). From my point of view, the pastries are a dessert that you get after the savory nutritious part, kind of like a treat. But every single family would stop at the case, pick a tray and tongs, and then make their choice of pastries before sitting down. 

Orale has all of the standards: conchas, pan dulce, orejas, empanadas, conos, bizcochos, ojos de pancha, besos, polvorones—and more.

Joel Uriostegui, the owner and head baker, sent us a croissant—or media luna (half a moon) as they call it in Mexico—“cortesía de la casa” (on the house). And it was a revelation!

The pastries are his art form, and I was delighted with the richness of the croissant.

It was not only buttery and crispy, as it should be, but a tangy glaze added a personal touch and made it very close to perfection.

Joel told me they get a lot of South American customers because of what they offer. His wife, Teresa, is Paraguayan, and her mother is a master baker. This has allowed them to incorporate other, more unusual elements into their pastries. Argentines, Colombians and Chileans go to Orale because of the alfajores, puffy cookies stuffed with dulce de leche. (Theirs are the best ones I have ever tried.) Venezuelans and Caribbean people go to get their pastelitos de guayaba (guava pastries), both with and without cheese. Outstanding!

We left Órale really happy. Not only did we have a beautiful breakfast, but we took a lot of pastry for the week, and discovered a true gem.

The following day, and true to my roots, we went for Venezuelan empanadas. We like them at Sabor Caribe in the Medical District, but they are closed on Sundays.

Two Empanadas food truck opens at 9 a.m. on the weekends and was our best shot at an early Venezuelan breakfast. 

We have a toddler, so by 9 a.m. we were starving.

Luckily, their empanadas are big and well-stuffed.

If you have never tried Venezuelan empanadas, there are two things you must know: First, they are made of corn flour, so they are different than the traditional empanada, made of wheat flour; second, you should eat an empanada right after it has been deep fried, so it might take a minute and it will be hot!

The empanadas at Two Empanadas are amazing! Anna got the plantain and cheese, and I had the shredded beef. Emiliano loves the cheese empanadas, stuffed with that salty white cheese that melts. It was a great way to end our Latinx American Breakfast Tour!

La Palapa
5255 Summer Avenue

Órale Tacos & Bakery
2204 Whitten Road

Two Empanadas food truck
1150 North Germantown Parkway

Alejandro Paredes is a Venezuelan journalist who has been in Memphis since 2014. He is communications director at Advocates for Immigrant Rights. He has been involved in environmental and social equity initiatives and showcases Latínx culture as a musician under the alias of Alex Walls. He also collaborates with Cazateatro Bilingual Theater Group. @panarkista

Kim Thomas is a lifestyle blogger and photographer based in Memphis. Launched in September 2010, her blog, KP Fusion, provides of-the-moment fashion, style, and beauty tips and trends with a little Memphis flavor thrown in. @kpfusion