It's Hump Day in the downtown of Kitchener. That means…
America Latina Grocery and Eatery
1120 Victoria Street North
Kitchener, Ontario N2B 3T2
Lunch for two: $20
Having had their store and restaurant in downtown Kitchener’s west end King Street appropriated for development — along with several other businesses (Unity Baking, Rana Turkish, Golden Turtle Pho) — America Latina Grocery and Eatery promptly set up shop in a busy strip plaza at the junction of Victoria and Frederick streets. The moved has changed the complexion of the business, and the food tastes just as good.
After years downtown tucked in behind the three restaurants listed above, the new location — about three times the size — has been open since February. For owner Mynor Garcia, it has changed the complexion of the business with more walk-ins and a wider variety of customers.
Garcia cites, as an example, so-called “snow birds” who have spent time in Central America and want to re-create the meals they had there. They find the ingredients at American Latina as well as the cooking knowledge. All of the food served on the kitchen side is made in-house.
On the grocery side, there are four or five aisles of Central and South American food products and ingredients (if you need cashew apples, panela or epazote leaves, this is a good place place to get them), including salsas and moles, as well as fridges and freezers. I bought some cotijo cheese I needed for a recipe.
In one corner of the store are a half-dozen or so table and chairs for simple, straightforward dining that finds small families, seniors, one-party lunchers and construction crews from the area. A roll of paper towels sits in a stand alongside various salsas and hot sauces. Order and pay and the counter, give your name, take a seat, and staff delivers to your table. There’s a really nice vibe sitting near the large windows.
The menu is five items, most under $5; three tacos (that’s six tortillas, two per taco), beef or chicken, with cilantro, tomato, onion and green salsa will run you $8. They are nicely cooked and simply presented.
Pupusas, a Latin America corn “pancake,” are thicker than others I’ve had with options for five or six types of filling. They are rich tasting and filling (and $2.75 each). The revueltas — cheese, beans, chicharron — are scrumptious.
Empanadas, a Central and South America snack food that is simply delicious, in Colombian style and is different than its Argentine cousin: a crispy corn meal-based envelope provides a defining and luxurious crunch that yields to a potato and beef interior spiced with cumin. Another delicious hand-held. Guatamalan-style tamales are larger than their Salvadorian cousins and have a different spicing.
Churros are three for $5.50, and the other dessert is not at all like the quesadilla you might know: the Salvadoran quesadilla is a different entity entirely. A sweet cheese-bread with a fine crumb and fine texture, this baked good is perhaps much like a traditional pound cake. Made with corn flour, baking powder and sprinkled with a few sesame seeds, there’s a sweetness with an underlying tartness from queso fresco cheese.
The small restaurant and food store is a nice addition to the area.