Sin tradiciones, no hay nada.

Tradition is everything in Latino and Hispanic cultures.

For many Latino people in Philly, finding a taste of home can make all the difference. Thankfully, Philly’s robust multicultural food scene means there are a lot of places where you can find that comforting plate of arroz, savory arepas, or crispy empanadas to feel that much more connected to identity. From Mexican corner stores and the 40-plus restaurants that make up South Philly’s Puebla-delphia, to Arabic-meets-Hispanic supermarket chains in North and West Philly, to Borinquen urban farms in Norris Square, plus #DineLatino and Gusto Philly fund-raising events, homestyle cooking from the Caribbean and Central and South America is not far away.

But for every South Philly Barbacoa success story, there are dozens of under-the-radar Latino businesses carving their own paths and preserving their cultural cuisines.

They encompass a broad diaspora: Dominican, Peruvian, Venezuelan, and more. While the 1990s saw an immigration peak among Mexicans to Philly, since 2010, more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans have moved here; after Hurricane Maria, another 3,400 arrived, and have been leaving their mark on the culinary scene.

Today, Philadelphia is the second-largest city home to Puerto Ricans outside of the island, after New York City. As with other people of color, cultural awareness and representation across the diaspora — especially in food spaces — remains a call to action.

Here is where Philadelphia’s Hispanic and Latino chefs, artists, entrepreneurs, and community activists go to eat, shop, and gather:

GROCERIES

Where to find Latino staples in the Philly area.

Cousins Fresh Market

Go here for: Diverse Hispanic staples — especially cocina criolla of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic

The aisles at this supermarket chain are often loud with multilingual conversations: The shop caters to Northeast Philly’s long-standing Latino population, but also the area’s many Middle Eastern families.

Amy Rivera-Nassar, pop-up queen of Fishtown’s Amy’s Pastelillos and cocurator of Gusto Philly, frequents the Cousins at Fifth and Berks Streets with her Lebanese husband, not just for her growing food business, but for family meals at home — from Puerto Rican cilantro, plantains, yuca, and yautía to Lebanese basturma, dates, and labneh.

Laiza Montañez, a social media content producer of Dominican and Puerto Rican heritage, drives from the greater Northeast to Cousins for its size (think: ShopRite big), variety, and options. She likes Cousins’ large selection of affordable organ meats like liver and chicken gizzards for making Dominican hígado encebollado, or Puerto Rican mollejas en escabeche: boiled green bananas marinated in a vinaigrette with pickled chicken gizzards, onions, peppers, and spices, popular at family parties, birthdays, and other gatherings.

“I’m considering making art dedicated to Cousins,” jokes Gerard Silva, a text artist and director of exhibitions and community outreach at Fleisher Art Memorial. Silva, born in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, goes to Cousins for one specific item: the Puerto Rican coffee brand Crema, but often leaves with more.

📍 Multiple locations, including 6411 Woodland Ave., 5429 W. Girard Ave., 5704 Baltimore Ave., and 3117 W. Ninth St., Chester, 📞 215-729-1515, 215-877-8500, 215-747-8700, 484-483-2500, 🌐 cousinsfreshmarket.com, 📷 @cousinsfreshmarkets, 🕑 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Supremo Food Markets

Go here for: Colombian and Peruvian snacks and condiments

Kristal Sotomayor, programming director at Philadelphia Latino Film Festival, likes West Philly’s Supremo for the well-stocked shelves of Peruvian products. Sotomayor comes here when not road-tripping to Sardi’s in Bala Cynwyd for charbroiled chicken or “Little Lima” in Paterson, N.J. — the largest Peruvian enclave outside of South America — with their mom.

At Supremo, Sotomayor finds crucial pantry items like amarillo paste, crema de aji tari, cancha saltado (toasted chulpe corn), Sillao Kikko soy sauce, and, of course, Inca Kola.

Colombian chef Margarita Perez-Lora comes here from Delaware County to indulge in nostalgic antojitos like Juan Valdez coffee, arequipe (dulce de leche), Nestlé Milo chocolate malt beverage (her children’s favorite), Bocadillo Veleño, guava paste snacks wrapped in plantain leaves, and obleas, round wafers sometimes topped with a sweet creamy spread. “The fact that I can find brands and products made in Colombia makes me feel at home,” Perez-Lora says.

📍 900 East Orthodox Ave. and 4301 Walnut St., 📞 215-533-0923 and 215-387-3070, 🌐 supremofoods.com, 🕑 Orthodox Avenue: daily 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Walnut Street: 7 a.m.-11 p.m.

Juniata Supermarket

Go here for: Good deals on fresh herbs and pantry items

For those who can’t make it to the Italian Market in time, Juniata in the Northeast has a lot of budget-friendly produce. The bodega-style store, originally from New York City, is Montañez’s stop when in need of plátanos ($5 for two bunches), large bags of Carolina rice ($4), fresh herbs, and cans of pimientos rojos (two for $3) to make homemade sofrito.

“Just down the street from us is Juniata Supermarket that made me feel right at home the moment I stepped inside for the very first time,” shares Radhi Fernández, founder of hot sauce company FAIYA, which is inspired by his love for “eternal summers” back in the Dominican Republic. “It just felt comforting to know I was going to be able to keep buying the same things like garlic paste by Baldom I’d grown up seeing,” he says.

📍 1054 E. Lycoming St., 📞 215-289-2855, 🌐 juniatasupermarket.com, 📷 @juniatasupermarket, 🕑 Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

El Paisa Supermarket

Go here for: Regional and hard-to-find Mexican ingredients

South Philly’s concentration of Mexican grocers, like El Paisa on Seventh and Tasker Streets, has been around for decades, and they remain vital places where people congregate, exchange resources, and stock restaurants.

“It’s my favorite Mexican grocery store. You can get dried shrimp that you would use to make mole: you grind up the shrimp and put it in your mole sauce and put it with some cactus,” says chef Alex Tellez, who runs the Mexico City-inspired menu at Kensington’s Sor Ynéz. The Mexican-born chef finds El Paisa convenient for regional Mexican products when cooking for family. His go-to items include Mexican squash, morcilla, chicken and pig’s feet, and Oaxacan poblanos. Bonus: Tamales are often sold out front for a grab-and-go snack.

📍 1549 S. Seventh St., 📞 215-334-1404, 🌐 facebook.com/elpaisasupermarket, 🕑 Hours vary

La Bodega Venezolana

Go here for: Specialty Venezuelan products, especially sweets and snacks

Don’t be fooled by its name, La Bodega is actually a warehouse filled with large quantities of tequeños, cachitos, cachapas, mandocas, quesos, and more.

Gil Arends, co-owner of Queen Village’s Puyero Venezuelan Flavor, makes a beeline to a small corner-back office to grab childhood favorites like Toddy chocolate milk powder, Nestlé Savoy Toronto Chocolate Covered Hazelnuts, and Pirulin rolled wafers. “We’re not going to forget who we are. We’ll let the [United] States adapt to us, and we’ll help influence as well,” says Arends.

La Bodega also takes orders and custom requests through WhatsApp.

📍 4011 G St., 📞 WhatsApp: +58 424 6643515, 🌐 facebook.com/LaBodega.Venezolana, 📷 @labodega.venezolana, 🕑 Mon., Thu.-Sat. 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Norris Square Neighborhood Project gardens

Go here for: Medicinal herbs, plants, and abundant vegetables native to Puerto Rico

The defining principle at Las Parcelas and Villa Africána Colobó on North Palethorp Street, run by the Norris Square Neighborhood Project, is sustaining an agricultural ecosystem that not only feeds el barrio but also carries on the legacy of Black history and Puerto Rican food culture.

Doña Iris Brown, born and raised in Loíza, the center of West African enslavement in Puerto Rico, built six fincas filled with farm stands, butterfly bushes, African huts, and green spaces all used for harvesting and learning, with the help of neighbors and her organization, Grupo Motivos. Tours are open to the public, where you’re encouraged to (respectfully) touch, taste, feel, and see this impressive urban oasis up close. You can also buy organic fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, lettuces, pumpkins, squashes, and peppers, plus garden plants and flowers at their community farm stand every Saturday, 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. There are cooking demos at La Casita’s outdoor kitchen, and kids can explore colorful storytelling artifacts in Villa Africána Colobó. Volunteers, work-study students, interns, and cooks from the neighborhood share duties in overseeing the land.

Brown and her peers are part of a larger movement that connects seasonality and the way food is grown with the way it is prepared and eaten, a philosophy shared by other Latino restaurants in Philly like Rittenhouse’s Bar Bombón, where founder Nicole Marquis serves a plant-based menu inspired by her childhood summers in Río Piedras “immersed in language, family, and good food.”

📍 Las Parcelas at 2248 N. Palethorp St. and Villa Africána Colobó at 2263 N. Palethorp St., 📞 215-634-2227, 🌐 facebook.com/myneighborhoodproject, 📷 @myneighborhoodproject, 🕑 Daily 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

RESTAURANTS

Where to find Latino comfort food.

Freddy & Tony’s

Go here for: Classic Puerto Rican cooking

Freddy & Tony’s is a must for iconic Puerto Rican dishes: arroz con gandules, pernil, and mofongo. The restaurant has been here for three decades and has served many generations of Philly families. “We actually had our company dinner there before COVID. I like the pernil, plátano maduros, or tostones. Those are my go-tos; that’s my baseline,” says Obel Hernandez Jr., who runs Bean2Bean coffee roasters in Port Richmond with his father. Plan ahead: The menu is large and the hours vary.

📍 3001 N. Front St., 📞 215-426-0920, 🌐 facebook.com/FreddyandTony, 🕑 Mon.-Sat. 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m.

El Coquí

Go here for: Puerto Rican and Dominican pastries

Panaderías like El Coquí are essential for morning meals in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. El Coquí bakes sweet pan sobao, flaky pastelillos de guayaba, mango and piña, paired with un cafecito. Eating here feels like a warm hug from your abuela, and, of course, no one leaves hungry. Plus, most pastries are under $5.

📍 3528 I St., 📞 215-634-5508, 🌐 facebook.com/ElCoquiPanaderiayResposteria, 🕑 Mon.-Thu. 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 7 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

Parada Maimón

Go here for: Catering your next fiesta

Since 2014, the bright, tropical-colored restaurant on the corner of 12th and Callowhill has fed Puerto Ricans and Dominicans with bountiful buffet-style portions of chivo (goat), tripleta sandwiches, fried snapper, and fresh juices. While Parada Maimón offers diners both takeout and sit-down options, the restaurant also does family combo meals and catering so you can create a custom meal for a crowd.

📍 345 N. 12th St., 📞 215-925-2000, 🌐 paradamaimon.net, 📷 @paradamaimon, 🕑 Mon.-Sun. 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Jezabel’s

Go here for: Argentinian empanadas

The northern Argentine cafe is a go-to for traditional savory, baked, round beef empanadas. Owner and chef Jezabel Careaga moved her bakery to Spruce Hill in West Philly back in 2019, expanding the menu to include an array of lunch options, alfajores, and meal kits perfect for pickup and delivery. Try veggie-friendly options like Puerto Rican sound and visual artist Raul Romero’s new obsession, the fugazza: leeks, onions, and mozzarella cheese.

📍 206 S. 45th St., 📞 215-554-7380, 🌐 jezabelscafe.com, 📷 @jezabels.phl, 🕑 Thu.-Mon. 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Tierra Colombiana

Go here for: Great Colombian food

Originally opened in Hunting Park 30 years ago, owner Jorge Mosquera moved the location to a larger space, building a classic white colonial fortress on the iconic North Fifth Street.

Go here for one of Colombia’s greatest hits: bandeja paisa, a smorgasbord of flavors and textures piled high with fluffy white rice, hot black beans, fried pork ribs, over-easy eggs, and creamy sliced avocado. Tierra Colombiana, and sister restaurant Mixto in the Gayborhood, turn formal dining by day into dance parties at night, just like the atmosphere you would find in Bogotá.

Tierra Colombiana has a very loyal following — not just among carnivores. “It’s my favorite restaurant,” says Gabriela Sanchez, a vegan Puerto Rican and teaching artist at Power Street Theater. “I really enjoy their seafood menu, especially the paellas and red snapper,” says Cartagena-born Perez-Lora.

📍 4535 N. Fifth St., 📞 215-324-0303, 🌐 tierracolombianarestaurant.com, 📷 @tierracolombianarestaurant, 🕑 Sun.-Thu. 8 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 8 a.m.-11 p.m.

Kampar Kitchen

Go here for: Weekly dinners cooked by Philadelphia’s best up-and-coming food entrepreneurs

Owner and Malaysian chef Ange Branca launched this kitchen incubator during the pandemic as a platform to spotlight and celebrate underrepresented foods. In less than a year, Kampar Kitchen has hosted chefs from Haiti, Trinidad, Mexico, Colombia, and Chile who create some of the most exciting homecooked dinners.

“The platform has been great for testing the market, feeling feedback … and to have the support and people who believe in me and share the same values,” says Perez-Lora, who’s known for her traditional Colombian empanadas: ground beef with peppers and cumin, and chicken with mushroom, cheese, and spinach fillings.

Sign up for its newsletter to learn when weekly dinners return — featuring Mexican country cooking from Puebla-born chefs and #SopeSunday creators Julio Rivera and Mariana Hernandez, cakes and pastries from Chilean baker Cote Tapia-Marmugi, and others.

📍 1901 S. Ninth St., 📞 610-416-0137, 🌐 kampar-kitchen.square.site, 📷 @kamparkitchenphl

Sazón

Go here for: Venezuelan comfort food

The first Venezuelan restaurant opened its doors in Northern Liberties, almost 17 years ago.

For Brewerytown filmmaker and photographer Stephanie Ramones, Sazón was the first place she discovered when she arrived for grad school a decade ago, and, after stepping inside the casita-decorated restaurant, was immediately transported home. It has carried through lockdown when she would order takeout of her favorites to get by. “One of the big things about being pescetarian since high school is that Sazón respects it and cooks my food [and gluten-free foods] separately, which is very rare for Latinos, and I appreciate it,” she says.

Her order ranges depending on who’s joined her, but usually include tequeños, fried cheese pastries sometimes served as cheesesteak bites, empanadas de queso, which are much larger and denser to many people’s surprise, arepas, overstuffed sandwiches of both vegetarian and meat combos, and pastry chef Robert Campbell’s signature artisanal chocolate “clásico” and “orgasmotruffles.

“It’s super important we try to hold on to these places that may not have immediate connection to Philadelphian culture at large, but they help make Philadelphia home for Venezuelans like me, too,” she says.

📍 941 Spring Garden St., 📞 215-763-2500, 🌐 sazonphilly.com, 📷 @sazonphilly, 🕑 Thu. 5-9 p.m., Fri. 5-10 p.m., Sat. 1-10 p.m., Sun. 1-9 p.m.

About the writer:

Alisha Miranda is a freelance food, travel, and culture writer based in South Philly. Her work has been featured in The Inquirer, Billy Penn, Edible Philly, and Thrillist. You can follow her musings on social media @alishainthebiz or learn more at alishainthe.biz.