Now, until a few months ago I wasn't that familiar with Puerto Rican cuisine. I was friendlier with its cousins - Cuban, Argentine and Mexican. But, since moving back to Buffalo a year ago, I find Puerto Rican food has taken its place with the wealth of ethnic food that has always found it's way, hand in hand with the immigrants that bring it, to this burgh. Someone told me to that if I was going to venture into this new world of food that I should check out one of the more famous joints around town. And I am so glad I didn't. My first experience was over on the corner of Grant and Amherst. And, quite frankly, it was remarkable.
But first, a little history. The owners, Sal and Yolanda Diaz, are local products themselves, having grown up on the West Side where they still live with their three children. Sal, with his MBA from Medaille, left the private sector because he felt that there was a need for a restaurant that served high-quality Puerto Rican food in this area. Using a lot of his grandmother's recipes and a little elbow grease, the couple, opened the restaurant May 15th and have been going gangbusters since. Now, onto the important stuff - THE FOOD.
I am a huge fan of spiced pork dishes! And Experiencia Latina makes one of the best I've ever had. The Pernil is shredded, well seasoned, perfectly cooked so that it remains moist and juicy by the time it reaches your plate. It comes with yellow rice with beans, also quite delectable. I asked for the 'expanded' plate that comes with tostones (fried banana chips) and a salad. While the salad was nothing to write home about, the tostones were remarkable. Served with a type of sauce/dressing that enhanced the flavor of the chips, not drown it.
On our next trip I started with the Pastelillo that was homemade and delectable. I also tried the Relleno De Papa, a fried potato ball filled with beef, and the size of a baseball. Again, a hit! For my entrée I sampled the Bistec Encebollado, a dish of marinated and cooked strips of steak with onions. The spicing was lovely and the dish exceptional. All plates come with a soda. A full Puerto Rican menu is offered with family packs (feed a family of 4 for twenty bucks!), and catering also available.
There is nothing I love more than good food being prepared by good people. And, as far as I am concerned, Experiencia Latina fits both criteria exceptionally well. Stop over, you won't be disappointed with your experiencia!
388 Amherst Street. (corner of Grant)
Call - 8LATINA (852-8462)
Please visit their website for hours and catering information.