A charming and distinctive Lakewood-adjacent restaurant is opening a second branch in a hot-hot neighborhood. The restaurant: Latin Deli. The neighborhood: downtown Dallas.
Fernando Barrera, who owns Latin Deli with his wife, Lydia, says that they're aiming to open the new restaurant in early spring. They're going into the beautiful old MKT Building, aka the Katy Building, on Commerce Street, across from the JFK Memorial and El Centro College, in a space that was briefly a poorly received restaurant called the Mello Cafe.
"If you look out the door, the Kennedy monument is right in front of you," Barrera says. "We're excited to be downtown. There are a lot of offices, and we already have a bunch of customers who come from downtown."
He's also a believer in the idea that any downtown should have a deli. "I'm a deli, and a deli in a downtown area is always good," he says.
He opened the first Latin Deli in 2011 with a menu of sandwiches, crepes, salads, baked goods, and coffee drinks, and it is truly a restaurant like no other. Berrara is Mexican, but he champions all Latin-American cuisines.
"I do dishes from Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, but I add my own touch," he says. "My Cuban sandwich, I do not press it. The way I do it is more like they do in Puerto Rico. People say, 'That's not a Cuban,' but it's my food, the way I do it."
His best seller is his chicken sandwich, which features thick chunks of white-meat chicken with pork and thinly sliced red onion on good ciabatta bread. His crepes — which he does in savory versions such as the vegetarian, as well as sweet, such as the one with strawberries and bananas — are hugely popular.
Attentive customer service is also a big factor in Latin Deli's success. Yelpers speak highly of Barrera's accommodating personal touch.
The downtown Latin Deli will offer basically the same menu as Lakewood, but he's still mulling the hours.
"We're not familiar with the downtown schedule, but we want to be available, so when we first open, we'll be open from 7 am to 9 pm," he says. "For for first month, we'll try that and see how it goes. If it's not working, then we'll close at 5 pm."
This is Barrera's second stab at expansion. In 2014, he opened a taqueria called Taqueria Latina, just a few blocks away from Latin Deli. His well-prepared ingredients, including house-made tortillas, got raves, but he discovered how dramatically a neighborhood mien can change from block to block. He shut it down in 2015 but hopes to reopen.
"People call and ask, 'Why did you close taqueria?'" he says. "I want to find another location and reopen it. But for now I'm focusing on the deli downtown."