I live in a part of Philadelphia that is dominated by Latin tenants and homeowners. So, to honor them, this week’s theme brings it home with a little Latin flavor.
1. Have you ever passed by a building so many times that you began to wonder what was actually inside? That’s how I felt about Pura Vida. The tiki umbrellas always intrigued me, especially since Philadelphia is no island paradise. Spending some time at this small BYOB Latin restaurant, I found a moderately-priced eatery that serves staple items and dishes that explore new territories.
Despite the cheesy rope lighting and hot air inside, the facility had a kind, knowledgeable staff and appetizing fare. The $5 guacamole was delightful with its potent lime and cilantro flavors. And the $7 Pura Vida appetizer with grilled zucchini, yellow squash and mild cheese in a creamy curry sauce was worth a return visit.
Pura Vida’s blend of Mexican, Central American, South American and Caribbean dishes must have caught on by now. While the joint has been open two years, owner Charles Alvarez attributes the business’ success to word of mouth.
But there is a second ingredient is of equal importance. “I try to be more original, more rustic [than the competition],” he said. “How we marinate the meats. We make our own dried rubs and we let them marinade for 12 to 16 hours before we grill them.”
Whether you’re looking for a Sangria soda, a Cubano sandwich, Mexican enchiladas, Guatemalan tamales or Ginger Chicken soup, Pura Vida satisfies. But don’t visit with an empty wallet: a “cash only” policy is in play.
527 Fairmount Ave.
Monday to Thursday
11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Noon – 10 p.m.
2. During my first trip ever to the attractive, quaint town of Manayunk, I got a chance to visit an exciting store – Latin American Treasures. Located in the heart of busy Main Street, this boutique offers a mix of handbags, jewelry, paintings, tapestries, ceramic and glass work, children’s books, toys and more.
Understanding what type of clientele and income bracket would be needed for the store to be successful was part of the two owners’ business plan for Latin American Treasures. “We don’t sell primary products, so we need people who have a little extra money to spend,” co-owner Ariana Audisio said.
Supporting a mix of Philadelphia-based Latin artists and artisans who come directly from the countries of Peru, Columbia and Venezuela, the shop offers a wide variety of products and styles.
I particularly enjoyed the journals and scrapbooks made from earth materials like leaves, fruit shells and recycled paper. My other favorite is a top seller – gorgeous gold-painted mirrors carved out of wood, some with flowered glass inlays. I bought one made in Peru for $18 plus tax.
As an added store feature, the owners hung postcard-sized artist cards on the walls to educate guests about the crafters and their backgrounds. Be sure to stop in and see the massive wall of ceramic vases and sculptures. I was amazed at the beauty, variety and craftsmanship of the work.
Latin American Treasures
Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday
11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Thursday to Saturday
11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
4251 Main St., Manayunk
3. The last leg of this Latin-inspired tour is in University City. Mad Mex typically caters to the University of Pennsylvania crowd. However, the array of student deals available is just as advantageous for Temple students. Let me provide you with the goods.
On Monday through Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m., students with a valid ID get half off most food items. This excludes fajitas, tacos, chimis and desserts. If your afternoon is too busy with classes for sit-down dining, no worries. Mex runs the same half-off food special every night from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. It is important to note: the menu has a good mix of items and is vegan and vegetarian friendly.
Now, I do like the food at Mad Mex, but what make this establishment truly special are the margaritas. For fall, Mex has added new flavors to the yummy assortment – blackberry, white peach, Bartlett pear and green apple are the newbies. Raspberry, mango, strawberry, kiwi and original are the old favorites.
Here is the steal: every night from 10 p.m. to midnight, you can get “big azz margaritas” for $6 and, trust me, this glass is huge. Two of these mamas and you are done, if you know what I mean. It is 22 ounces of frozen goodness.
Mad Mex also offers a weekday Happy Hour from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., during which you can get the same margarita special and half off drafts, wings or the smaller 12- or 16-ounce margaritas. Four specials – how awesome. Do it up.
The Shoppes at Penn in Moravian Court
3401 Walnut St.
Colleen Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.