Latino's Restaurant
10708-98 St.
11 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week

Food: 4 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 3 of 5 Suns
Service: 3.5 of 5 Suns

Dinner for two (excluding beverages and tip): basic, $25; loaded, $55

Decisions, decisions, decisions.
When it comes to taco/tortilla choices in Latino/Mexican/Tex-Mex cooking, where do you start?
Tacos, tortillas, corn tortillas, flour or wheat tortillas, corn shell tortillas, crispy tortillas, taco shells, crispy tortillas, masa tortilla, steamed tamales – all originating in a single round portion of unleavened, mostly corn flour bread.
Then there’s the popular names for tortillas and tacos with fillings — rolled (enchilada), folded (quesadilla), topped with grilled meat and onions (fajita), extra-thick (pupusa), closed-end wraps (burrito).
Finally, there’s no end of tortilla/taco variations based on place, i.e. the geographic regions of Latin and South America,  individual country preferences, regional cooking within countries. 
In Canadian multicultural tradition, Edmonton’s Latino’s Restaurant anchors the north end of a string of Vietnamese  businesses on 98 Street south of 107 Avenue.  
Just about everything on Latino’s menu is very, very good. Whoever’s in the kitchen is a professional chef cooking with love. Everything is fresh, hot and visually attractive.  The portions are bountiful indeed.
But it’s all variations on the same theme – tacos or tortillas with ground/chopped spicy chicken, pork, beef and/or cheese, topped with salsa, sour cream, chopped tomato and lettuce, accompanied by pico de gallo (a light tomato/onion salsa), bean sauces, rice made yellow with turmeric, plus more tacos or tortillas.
The dishes our party ordered — flauta and gringa appetizers, the super burrito, chimichanga with shredded pork and pupusas —  all fell within the theme.
The only non-taco or tortilla dish on the menu was the plato rancheros – a sizzling skillet of beef strips, onions, green and red peppers tossed with a zesty ranchero sauce.  But on another plate came the extras — yellow rice, refried beans, mole sauce, salad and, of course, tortillas. What a surprise.
Everything was tasty, fresh and tangy. Latino’s, mindful of Canadian fear of spicy heat, sends out most of its dishes fairly mild, with accompanying sauces in their own containers to heat up  or cool down the particular tortilla variation. 
We happily worked our way through six dishes. But once done, it was hard, without taking notes and photographs, to remember what was what.
Also impressive were the presentations. Most of the dishes were artfully arranged  variations on lettuce, yellow rice with sauce, strips of sour cream and sliced, folded or rolled tortillas.
Dessert – normally an afterthought in small ethnic restaurants – was excellent. Latino’s has a tropical frozen yoghurt I’ve not seen elsewhere, topped with fresh fruit. A slice of home-made Spanish flan (custard cake with chocolate sauce) was quite heavenly, a sweet send-off to the evening.
For authentic, small-restaurant Latino/Mexican dining, (excluding trendy spots like El Cortez, Tres Carnales and Julio’s Barrio) Latino’s is the best in town. Assuming, of course, that you love tortillas.
The Gallery Lounge in the spanking new all-glass Hyatt Place Hotel in the downtown’s east end was a terrific venue for the 123rd Art of Conversation, the monthly gathering of friends, readers and listeners started by Capital FM’s Rob Christie and myself over ten years ago.
The second-floor lounge comfortably held some 200 conversationalists. The river valley views were panoramic and the décor - a bit of ‘60s Austin Powers -  is fun. Hyatt Place does not have a formal dining room, but has a lounge menu. The roast beef sliders on offer were first-rate.
Art of Conversation CXXIV, The Christmas Gathering, will be hosted as per tradition by the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald in the Empire Ballroom on Thursday, Dec. 22 from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. 
There’s never a cover charge for the Art of Conversation, and it’s open to all who enjoy a good conversation. But for Christmas, we are asking a $20 cash donation be made at the door to one of several Christmas charities – including The Christmas Bureau and The Sun’s Adopt-A-Teen Christmas gift program for under-privileged teens.