Opened in March of 2020, El Paraiso is located in Urbana’s Broadway Food Hall which hosts several food concepts under one roof. This family-owned business is one of several great vendors at the space in Urbana.
Hungry for some Latin American cuisine, I visited the restaurant and tried a bunch of dishes.
I walked into Broadway Food Hall after parking in the small lot in front and found El Paraiso. When I walked up, I noticed the simple decor and the pretty tiled bar with barstools — which were convenient later when I was waiting for my meal to be made.
Right before noon, Broadway Food Hall had lots of indoor seating available, very spaced. I took my food to go, but the high ceilings, distanced tables, string lights, and casual vibe of BFH was pleasing to see.
I ordered four entrees, a side, and two desserts and took them home to my dining room table.
I love me some flautas, so I had to try El Paraiso’s flautas ($7.50). There were three fried flautas stuffed with chicken and cheese on a bed of rice with a side of beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, and a little cup of sour cream. It was a ton of food for $7.50. The flautas were incredible, probably my favorite thing I ordered. They had layers of crunch and serious salty deliciousness. The chicken and cheese were packed with flavor. The fried tortilla exterior had an almost buttery taste from the frying oil that made them so rich without being greasy. The pinto beans were saucy, and the rice was fantastic.
I wanted to pick a side to go with my entrees, and when the cashier explained what llapingachos were, I had to try one. Llapingacho is an Ecuadorean dish made from potatoes stuffed with cheese and then fried on a griddle. El Paraiso’s llapingachos were exquisite. The cheesy potato pancake had a very melty middle with cheesy queso dripping out. It had a soft, smooth mashed potato texture with so many extra flavors. It was served over crisp iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced tomato, and very thinly sliced red onion ribbons — but next time, they can serve it straight into my mouth. This is a must have.
Another entree on El Paraiso’s menu is the taco ($2.50 each). I tried the steak and the chicken taco. The chicken taco had chicken, cheese, and lettuce on a corn tortilla. The chicken taco wasn’t spicy, just enjoyably juicy against the yummy maize flavor of the tortilla.
I also tried the steak taco. The taco came with long strips of steak, lettuce, and cilantro. The steak had a good flavor, and it was a solid portion of meat for a taco.
I also tried the pupusas ($3). Pupusas was a new dish for me, and if you’ve never tried it, El Paraiso’s version is a thick flour patty stuffed with your choice of pork and cheese or beans and cheese, served with a side of cabbage slaw. I chose pork and cheese for my filling.
The patty was lumpy and rustic looking, and it looked like it would fall apart, but it didn’t. It was a tasty, little filled pancake that had a great sausage flavor with a bit of cheese inside. The vinegar slaw was made of cabbage, onion, and carrots, and the slaw had some herby flavors I couldn’t place but definitely liked.
The final entree I tried was the arepas ($5.50). The arepas reminded me of a chicken salad sandwich because of the cold, creamy shredded chicken. Two corn patties held together a huge serving of chicken and avocado filling on top of lettuce. The crisp, thin top and bottom could barely contain the generous chicken middle. The maize “buns” were crispy in some bites and soft like a pita in others. The flavor was mild and well seasoned. The texture contrast between the warm corn cakes and the cold, smooth filling was exceptional. If you like chicken salad sandwiches, you need to try this.
I am a sucker for tres leches cake. El Paraiso sells tres leches cake by the slice for $3, and it was a mighty slice indeed. It could easily have been split between three people. The cake was delicious with a soft, soaked crumb and a fluffly, whipped cream frosting. It was nice and sweet, just like I like in a dessert.
Lastly, I ordered the dessert empanadas ($1.75 for one, $5 for three). This was a fried empanada covered in sugar. Did I think the middle might have chocolate? I did think that. And if not chocolate, I thought perhaps fruit. In any case, the filling wasn’t specified, and because I’m not picky, I went for it.
The inside of the dessert was very airy, and the walls of the interior had a thin layer of queso. This was the first time I had ever had cheese in my dessert. The dessert empanada was perfectly crispy on the outside, and it gave me funnel cake vibes. The fried exterior was savory as was the unexpected white queso, so it actually went pretty well for me — after I got over my assumptions.
It’s not a super sweet dessert; it’s a savory-sweet dessert. So, if you like interesting combinations of food — or you love queso so much that wish you could have queso in your desserts, give the dessert empanadas from El Paraiso a try.
There’s even more on the menu than what I ordered, and each day, there are specials. You can see real time updates from the restaurant by following them on Facebook.
To put your order in, you can call 312-971-7149, order online, or you can order in person at Broadway Food Hall. The El Paraiso staff were friendly and able to answer any questions about the menu, so if you have questions about the menu, they’ll be able to help you.
401 N Broadway Ave
T-F 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sa+Su 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.