Lancaster is a melting pot of cultures, so it’s not surprising the county boasts several Latin restaurants spotlighting old and new delicious culinary offerings. If you dare to step outside of your food comfort zone, you can sample them all, from traditional Mexican tacos to Spanish paellas with a twist.
It’s Hispanic Heritage Month and as part of the celebration, La Voz Lancaster decided to go on the road in search of Latin eateries, with menus that are full of global flavors, in the northeast part of Lancaster County.
Here is what we found.
If you are craving Mexican food, La Borimex in Hinkletown and Castañedas Mexican restaurants in Denver have you covered.
Been there, done that? Hungry diners can find a stomach-filling bandeja paisa at Aromas del Sur in Ephrata or enjoy the flavors of the Caribbean with a Puerto Rican mofongo at La Casita in New Holland.
Fresh ingredients are the foundation to the meals the entrepreneurs behind these restaurants offer. Their goal is to deliver big flavors from their small kitchens and a dining experience that leaves you feeling like part of their family.
La Casita Restaurant and Bakery
To honor and celebrate his Puerto Rican heritage, owner Tito Colón opened La Casita two years ago in New Holland. This small shop is a neighborhood favorite.
La Casita spotlights Puerto Rican classics like arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) cooked in a caldero (a cauldron similar to a Dutch oven) and pernil asado (slow roasted pork shoulder in garlicky citrus marinade).
Another crowd pleaser is their mofongo, whichis essentially a mashed mound of plantains into which seafood, meat or vegetables are added. It is served as a side dish or as a main course, and it's typically accompanied by rice and beans.
La Casitas’s Puerto Rican empanadillas (beef, ham or seafood empanadas) and their tripleta, are very popular among their customers.
The tripleta is an island invention that combines grilled chicken, ham and beef with flavorful condiments that are topped with cheese on a slightly sweet roll similar to a French baguette.
“Some days people line up during breakfast hours to wait for these items that are traditionally consumed at lunch or dinner,” says Colon’s mother-in-law, Yayi Rivera, who prepares the daily meals.
La Casita serves breakfast daily. Bakery items include fresh bread and an assortment of Puerto Rican pastries.
Location: 117 E. Main St., New Holland
Hours: Mon. - Wed. 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., Thurs. - Sat. 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Closed Sun.
Price range: $1.25- $9.89
Contact: 717-354-5783, lacasitanewholland.com
La Borimex Mexican Restaurant
For authentic, mouthwatering tacos, chimichangas (a flour tortilla filled with rice, cheese, beans, pork or shredded chicken), quesadillas, fajitas, huevos rancheros (a vegetarian breakfast of corn tortillas and fried eggs topped with plenty of warmed salsa), enchiladas, flautas, chiles rellenos and more, check out La Borimex. The menu includes 10 different kinds of fajitas, tacos, burritos and tortas in abundance.
The torta is a Mexican sandwich with meats, cheeses, refried beans, avocados, spicy peppers and anything else you can think of. Tortas are traditionally “half drowned” or “well drowned” in spicy salsa.
Among their most popular dinner platters are the pescado frito con tostones (fried fish with fried plantains), chimichanga de pollo (chicken chimichanga topped with sour cream and avocado and served with rice and beans) and bistek encebollado (tender steak grilled with onions and green peppers).
“The food here is very, very good. The flavor is amazing,” said Ildefonsa Padilla, a Lancaster city resident who frequents La Borimex.
The restaurant’s name combines owner’s Lito Giron’s Mexican heritage in Oaxaca and his wife Angela Lopez’s Puerto Rican ancestry. The "Bori" part comes from the term "Boricua," the indigenous name for a person born in Puerto Rico.
The owners’ mixed culinary heritage is reflected on the dessert menu, which includes the crowd-pleasing Mexican-style fried ice cream and Puerto Rican flan, a baked creamy custard topped with caramel.
Location: 1623 E. Division Hwy (Rt. 322), Hinkletown, east of Ephrata
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 10 a.m. - 8 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. Closed Sun.
Price range: $1.50- $11.99
Contact: 717-733-2105, laborimex.com
Aromas del Sur
Enormous plates of goodness are the specialties of Aromas del Sur. The principal owner of the restaurant is Colombia native Arturo Buitrago, but this is a family business and so family members help run it.
Aromas is well known for its empanadas. “They are our number one seller. We easily sell about 1,000 each week,” says Joshua Buitrago, Arturo’s son.
“We make them with corn dough. It’s a special mix that, if not done right, is going to really mess up your empanadas,” he says.
The restaurant’s traditional spread includes the bandeja paisa, a regional dish from Colombia, with rice, beans, chorizo, plantains, pork strip, arepa (corn patty) and beefsteak topped off with a fried egg for good measure.
“This is big. It’s a hearty meat-lovers dish that is traditionally prepared by the wives for the working men after their hard day of labor,” Buitrago says.
Other patrons’ favorites are the cazuela stew that combines tilapia, shrimp, calamari, clams and mussels in a creamy or broth-based soup, and the Spanish paella with tilapia, shrimp, calamari, clams and mussels all mixed with yellow rice, peas, and carrots.
Location: 48 S. State St., Ephrata
Hours: Tues. - Thurs. 11 a.m. - 8 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Sunday 12 noon- 7 p.m.
Price range: $1.50 - $28.00
Contact: 717- 738-0101, aromasdelsur.us
This Mexican restaurant opened earlier this year, a tribute to owner James Castañeda’s grandmother.
The menu includes plenty of platters and specialties for lunch and dinner including burritos, tacos, tortas and quesadillas. With plenty of choices on the menu, guests can eat as little or as much as they want.
One of the favorite dishes are his grandmother’s tacos al pastor, with grilled seasoned pork, pineapple and onion, stuffed into a corn or flour tortilla and topped with fresh cilantro.
The chimichangas and the molcajete are two of the most popular dishes, according to Castañeda.
A molcajete is a round shaped, mortar-like dish made of lava rock and filled with grilled steak, grilled chicken, chorizo and grilled onions topped with green sauce and cheese, served with rice, beans and tortillas on the side.
“People also love the pollo loco, which is grilled chicken and we serve it over rice with cheese sauce,” says server Denisse Quacken.
Denver resident Kathy Marcus is a frequent visitor at Castañeda’s.
“This is not cookie-cutter food. You can tell when things are made fresh. Nothing on this plate has been sitting around all day,” Marcus says. “My favorites are definitely the enchiladas and the empanadas. So tasty.”
Location: 336 Main St., Denver
Hours: Sun. - Thurs. 11 a.m.- 8 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m.- 9 p.m.,
Price range: $2 - $14.99
Contact: 717-336-0044, castañedasmexicanfood.com