Eastway Drive reopened recently after a 16-month Lynx bridge project. It’s a great time to explore international cafes and groceries along this diverse east Charlotte corridor.
Want to sample Liberian food? Visit Nubian Queens. How about some Guatemalan baked goods? Try Panaderia El Quetzel. Vietnamese eats? Go to Lang Van.
For Central American home-style food, it’s Deli La Cabaña. Behind the counter you’ll usually find co-owner Elba Villatoro. She and husband, José, bring recipes from her home village of Santa Rosa de Lima in El Salvador. “No formal training – what I learned as a little girl,” says Elba.
It’s grandma cooking – simple, hearty stews like your abuela would simmer all day long in a big pot at the back of the stove. Nothing’s spicy, all cafeteria style, so just point at what looks tasty.
Look for carne guisada: beef with big chunks of potato and carrot in a mild tomato broth. Or hilachas: shredded skirt steak cooked with tomatoes, tomatillos and onions. Don’t miss the pastelitos: little cornmeal empanadas stuffed with shredded chicken, potato and carrot.
“It’s the food we ate growing up in Guatemala – flavorful stewed meats and vegetables served alongside rice and thick handmade corn tortillas,” says UNC Charlotte professor Eric Hoenes.
Thick tortillas are distinctively Central American. “You’re meant to break off pieces for dipping in food, rather than rolling food in them like you do with Mexican-style pressed tortillas,” Hoenes says. “In Guatemala (and probably El Salvador) people will say that they haven’t really eaten unless they’ve had tortillas of this kind with a meal. In rural areas especially, it’s common to eat six or more per sitting.”
A few folding tables and chairs line the small space, but most folks are waiting for takeout – Central American men in work clothes, moms with kids.
Reach Tom Hanchett, historian with Levine Museum of the New South, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't miss the new exhibition “¡NUEVOlution! Latinos and the New South.”
Deli La Cabaña
7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Sunday. 925 Eastway Drive (across from Garinger High School); 704-566-0640