A Bite of Latin America
Apr 10, 2019 04:57PM
● By Dawn Garcia
Wandering the streets of the Gaslamp District or Old Town San Diego is like giving a kid $50 and telling them they can get all the candy they want. There are a lot of choices, and taking advantage of the sensational and eclectic array of Latin-inspired food feeds the inner child of gluttony.
Mexican food is a staple in Southern California, and in the Gaslamp you’ll stumble upon the colorful family eatery known as Las Hadas. This family-owned Mexican eatery and bar invites you in with the scent of homemade tortillas and spices and the sound of happy patrons. Owned and operated by Alan Gomez, Las Hadas was born out of a love of family cooking. In fact, Gomez and his father, Fred, opened the restaurant together. Alan’s mother Ruth and brother Robert help manage the restaurant, while Alan works in the kitchen crafting traditional and contemporary takes on Mexican favorites. His traditional tacos and in-house nachos are on point, as are the margaritas.
When you’re ready to depart to the vibrant essence of Spain, Café Sevilla is calling. Located off of Fifth Avenue in the heart of Gaslamp, Café Sevilla is where to go when tapas, sangria, and flamenco beckon, with the longest-running live flamenco show in Southern California every Friday and Saturday night. Guests are treated to traditional upscale Spanish cuisine and traditional Spanish dance, eluding to the passionate, robust, colorful Spanish culture. When it comes to cuisine, I highly recommend trying the Journey Through Spain menu, as well the extensive menu full of gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options. Café Sevilla offers live Spanish music nightly at its tapas bar, and should you find yourself thirsty, do indulge in the margarita la mancha, barbacoa, Oaxacan flower, or the Jalisco margarita.
Chilean cuisine is known for taking basic ingredients and utilizing as much of nature as possible. Berta’s Latin Cuisine gives diners a taste of the country with all the love of your favorite aunt. Berta just Berta was born in Chile and is one of 11 children. Her love of cooking comes from culture, and she says it is part of her soul. Berta’s restaurant is the warm place you’ll go to for Chile on a plate. While Berta may not be a classically trained chef, she is a home cook who shares classic Chilean dishes while continually modernizing with infusions of other Latin American cuisine. With this array of Chilean empanadas, papas choriadas, plantano frito, Colombian tostones, mango avocado salad, carne la parilla (Argentinian style), and range of Chilean, Spanish, Brazilian, Mexican, and Dominican fare and more your palate will not be bored.
Maybe the movie The Chef incited a newfound frenzy for Cubano sandwiches, but in the Gaslamp, you’ll be transported to little Havana, thanks to Havana 1920. Serving up authentic Cubano cuisine, Havana 1920 has the vibe of Cuba in its heyday, including the hearty cuisine, rum, and playful personality with which Cubans are synonymous. Whether you’re in the mood for arroz con pollo, croquettas, ropa vieja, bistec Havana, or empanada vegetariana, Havana 1920 has you covered. Sure, it also serves traditional Cubano sandwiches, but its menu offers much more than that, including a plentiful amount of island loving rum. With over 100 rums available, this is where you’ll want to come to when smoking a hand-rolled Cuban cigar while drinking seems like the right thing to do.
Little-known facts about Mexico, Spain, Chile, and Cuba.
1. Mexican food hasn’t changed much over time. In fact, most dishes can be traced back over 2,000 years. People continue to live off the land, utilizing beans, corn, peppers, fruits, chocolate, poultry, and pork.
2. In Spain, cine (dinner) is eaten much later than most other cultures. Dinner is traditionally consumed between 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., but tapas are served as a snack around 6 p.m.
3. Traditional Chilean curanto is prepared on a lush island on the northern shore of a Chilean archipelago. Meat, seafood, and potatoes are placed in nalca leaves and cooked underground in a wood-fire pit.
4. Cuba is the world’s second-largest grapefruit producer. Traditionally, rice and green plantains are served with grapefruit juice. In Cuba, food is served all at once rather than in courses.