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Jan 15, 2001 01:19 PM

Anyone try the new Latino's in Philly?

  • d

My wife (who is 1/2 Cuban) and I love Latino food and are always looking for new (and good) Latino places to eat. We have been to Azafran and Cibucan (which are two of our favorites) as well as Pasion (which, along with others, we feel is overpriced, overhyped, and serves average food). We have not tried Tierra Colombiana (N. 5th St.) but have heard that it's pretty good (?).

We are interested in knowing if anyone out there has eaten at Cuba Libre (10 S. 2nd St., which granted, does has a lot of hype and glitz to it), Mallorca (119 South St.), or Valanni (1229 Spruce St.). It is good to see Latino restaurants beginning to take hold in Philly but GOOD Latino food is hard to come by. We DO NOT mean Mexican food, which is NOT Latino in the purest sense. If anyone knows of any other good Latino places (or Spanish, Portuguese) please pass them on! Thanks, David

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  1. I would recommend Tierra Colombiana. I have been there three times for lunch and it is excellent. Wonderful friendly service, good colombian and cuban food, and a yuca con mojo to beat all mojos I have ever had. They have specials each day of the week, and the cafe con leche is the real deal. I can't say enough about this neighborhood haunt. Not fancy, just straight up good eats.

    1. Hi David:

      Being 1/2 Cuban myself, I am always on the lookout for some good Cuban soul food. Azafran is excellent as you mentioned, and Pasion is good for a more upscale meal (I actually used to work there so I know the menu pretty well!) and the ceviches are fabulous.

      Tierra Colombiana in North Philly is great, inexpensive and serves ENORMOUS portions. I love the "aranitas" of shredded fried plantain with a garlic dipping sauce, similar to a Latino aioli. Great drinks and the best black beans since my dear departed mother's. I just recently had dinner at Cuba Libre and while I enjoyed it, the place is such the new hip place to "see and be seen", it is so crowded it is impossible to sit at the bar for a drink while waiting for your table. But the food *is* quite good. I'd recommend the Bistec Cubano or the Pechugo de Pollo. The Lobster Empanada appetizer was too "fried" (read: greasy) and fishy tasting for me, but the other apps were tasty. Great Mojitos and good service, but I get real clastrophobic in crowds, so I won't go back until the hype dies down a little.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Katie Benes
        Jan Klincewicz

        Cafe Habana is pretty authentic Cuban fare. No fusion stuff, just good old-fashioned Ropas Viellas and plantains etc. LOTS o' garlic on the pork !! Prices reasonable, service slow .. Knock back some rum drinks while you wait ....

        1. re: Jan Klincewicz
          David De Silva

          as you can see from the recent entries on Chowhound, I (and others) don't think the food at Cafe Habana is very good at all. Yes it is tradtional Cuban without the fusion but it is also very untraditional in that it is extremely poor quality and about as bland as it comes! I love the atmosphere and will return to sit at the bar and sip a Mojito with the great music playing, but unfortunately I won't go near the menu again. Go to Azafran, Cibucan, and from what I hear Tierra Colombiana (where I'm going next).

      2. g
        Gabriel Solis

        I can understand the desire to find good Cuban food in town, and the desire to limit posts to Cuban restaurants, but I'm not sure I understand why you say Mexican food is "NOT Latino in the purest sense." (not that good Mexican food is any easier to find in Philly.) Are Brazilian, Argentinian, Nicaraguan, Spanish cuisines also NOT Latino in the purest sense? Is it simply that you didn't want recomendations for Mexican restaurants, that you have some political agenda, or is there something in the use of the term Latino/a that I don't understand.

        I'm sorry if this sounds in any way hostile--I really don't mean it too, I'm just puzzled by this sentence and want to understand what it means.


        5 Replies
        1. re: Gabriel Solis

          Gabriel, I sincerely apologize if I have offended you in any way by my comments. I in no way intended to infer that Mexican's are not Latino's or that Mexican food is not Latino food. But, I personally do put the foods in different categories/types myself. Having had authentic Mexican and Cuban food, I find them to have distant similarities but in general to be vastly different.

          I guess what I was trying to say is that I didn't want recommendations for Mexican restaurants (and I guess I should have just said that). I love Cuban, South American, Puerto Rican, etc. food but I am not crazy about Mexican food. I would still be interested in your recommendations for any Latino (including Mexican) places to eat. Again, my apologies to a fellow chowhound! David

          1. re: David
            Gabriel Solis

            No, no, no offense. Really, I was just trying to understand what you meant. I agree, the tendency on the part of the American media to think of Latin cultures as a single thing is ridiculous, a point made most powerfully by a trip to, say, a Brazilian, a Mexican, and a Cuban restaurant. THough I share your love of Cuban food, I can't say I've really eaten any in Philly. Let us know if you find any more down-scale (in comparison with, say, Cibucan) Cuban fare. I'd love to find a cheap, quick, home-food Cuban or Puerto Rican (or Dominican) place. The kind of place you can get a plate of Ropa Vieja or Pernil Asado with rice (or Mofungo) for a few dollars.

            Good eating,


            1. re: Gabriel Solis


              Tierra Colombiana in North Philly is just what you're asking about. Delicious down home style Cubano soul food, inexpensive, and enormous portions with the requisite carbohydrate oveload of beans AND rice AND plantains as a side with all the entrees. Mojitos to warm the soul as well...[sigh]...I need to go back! Service can be a little spotty, but well meaning and friendly. There is a great nightclub upstairs from what I understand, but I haven't had the pleasure of hanging out and putting on my salsa dancing shoes, yet!

              I suggested the new Cuban place, Cafe Habana, opening on 21st Street as a venue for the Chwhounds dinner get together. If anyone else is interested I'll see what I can find out about the place, if it's open yet, etc. and post on the board if enough folks would like to check it out.

              1. re: Katie Benes

                Where is this located in North Philly? Is it close to center city? And is it safe at night? Sounds wonderful and I love Cuban food.

                1. re: Otis

                  Otis, Tierra Colombiana is located at 4535-39 N. 5th St. I have not eaten here but have been told by many that it is excellent Cuban food. I have heard that the neighborhood is a little rough so I would think that you might have to be somewhat careful at night, but people I have spoken to have gone there at night so it can't be that bad. I don't know how far North from Center City it is though. I hope to visit there soon.

                  I would also direct you to Cibucan, which is considered Latino Fusion food but I think is very good. It's at 2025 Sansom. There is also a place called Cafe Habana that just opened up as well at 102 S. 21st St. Haven't eaten there but it's supposed to be traditional Cuban, and it's BYOB. Good eating!

        2. Check out this blurb from the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday 1/21/01:

          Tastes of home

          The Latinization of Center City continues. On 21st Street between Chestnut and Sansom - around the corner from recent entry Cibucan - two sons of Cuba are putting the final touches on Cafe Habana, which promises to be a suitably lively, 50-seat restaurant-bar. The mojitos may begin flowing as soon as next weekend. Owners are Juan Fernandez, a banker with PNC, and Miguel Fernandez (no relation), an architect at Ueland Junker McCauley Nicholson. Both Philadelphia transplants from Miami, they met at a friend's house and chatted up the idea of an authentic, traditional Cuban restaurant. "Not fusion," says Miguel, who in a previous life was a manager at Lario's on the Beach, the South Beach spot owned by Gloria Estéfan. They've brought in chef Venturo Gonzalez, who has a cruise-ship past. Moderate prices ($10.50 to $17.50 entrees); dinner and brunch only at the outset.

          Might I suggest this as a venue for the ChowHounds get together?