Chef Cristina Martinez, owner of the popular South Philly Barbacoa and its newer offshoot, Casa Mexico, is planning to expand her holdings on her Ninth Street block.
Martinez confirmed on Instagram that she had entered a management agreement with Connie’s Ric Rac (1132 S. Ninth St.), the longtime music venue next door to Casa Mexico that closed during the pandemic.
Martinez and husband Ben Miller declined to disclose whether the new space — which will have a liquor license, a first — will be a new location for South Philly Barbacoa, an extension of Casa Mexico, or a third restaurant. Miller said he also could not provide a timeline.
It’s been a long journey for the couple since early 2014, when Martinez and Miller started selling lamb tacos and chickpea-lamb consommé out of a cart parked on the sidewalk near their home at Eighth and Watkins Streets.
In 2015, they quit the cart and went the brick-and-mortar route with a location at 11th and Ellsworth Streets (now Mike’s BBQ) before they relocated South Philly Barbacoa to its current location, at Ninth and Ellsworth Streets.
In late 2016, Martinez’s son, Isaías Berriozabal-Martinez, opened a restaurant across Ninth Street, specializing in tortas. He died unexpectedly several months later at 23. Martinez and Miller later operated a restaurant out of that space called El Compadre.
South Philly Barbacoa and Martinez have received lavish accolades and attention. Bon Appétit named South Philly Barbacoa one of the 10 best new restaurants of 2016.
Martinez, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who is a champion of immigrant rights, told her story in the fifth season of the Netflix documentary series Chef’s Table and the Netflix series Ugly Delicious.
She also has been a two-time finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award for best chef in the Mid-Atlantic region.
This post has been updated to reflect new information that the couple’s deal is a management agreement.