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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Avenue recommendations: Gainesville’s best Hispanic restaurants

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with some of the Avenue’s favorite authentic cuisine.

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Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, and what better way to celebrate than stopping by some of Gainesville’s best Hispanic restaurants? Check out the rundown of the Avenue staff’s favorites and treat your tastebuds year-round. 

Heather Bushman

Flaco's

Nestled in the corner of University Avenue and Second Street is an unassuming order window, but behind it is an entire world of culture and flavor. 

Flaco’s, a traditional Cuban restaurant located at 200 W University Ave., boasts a menu with specialties like arepas, Cuban coffee and Cuban sandwiches, but that’s only half of its charm. Second Avenue is frequently home to Flaco’s “block parties,” where local artists perform on the front stage and patrons take in the live music underneath the patio lights. 

The restaurant also recently acquired its neighboring building and dubbed it Vecino’s —or “neighbors” in Spanish. It’s now a companion bar to Flaco’s, with specialty drinks and live music on the weekends. While the window offers the option for grab-and-go, the Flaco’s patio and Vecino’s bar invite guests to sit down and stay a while. 

The downtown location makes parking a bit of a hassle, but if you snag a spot (or you’re willing to brave the walk), you’ll find the trip was worth it. Flaco’s isn’t just a restaurant, it’s an experience. 

And good news for night owls — Flaco’s loves a late visit. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 to 2:30 a.m. and closed on Sunday and Monday. 

La Tienda

Traditional Mexican cuisine reigns supreme at La Tienda. The restaurant, located at 2204 SW 13th St., offers an extensive selection of new flavors and old favorites, including quesadillas, burritos, tacos and a specialty sope and huarache. The menu is about a mile long, with vegetarian options and a section for the kids, it guarantees that no one walks out hungry. 

True to its name, La Tienda doubles as an actual store. Authentic Mexican products and everyday groceries can be purchased at the counter, so patrons can grab a bite and get some shopping done while they’re at it. The restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating, and when the sweltering Florida heat goes easy, the patio makes for the perfect lunch spot. 

La Tienda is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

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Veronica Nocera:

Tinker

If you’re craving the comfort of your mom’s fresh arepas or are just looking to give a new cuisine a try — Tinker is the place to go. The Venezualan restaurant offers an array of burgers, hot dogs, arepas, drink and other delicacies, each with a unique selection of toppings and meats. 

The restaurant got its start as a Gainesville-based food truck over two years ago. In October 2020, the eatery made the shift to a brick-and-mortar business — though the food truck still lives, making occasional appearances at local events. The sit-down restaurant is located in downtown Gainesville at 502 S Main St., only a short drive away from UF campus. 

The restaurant shares the same menu as the food truck and hosts an array of inside seating. With a more rustic feel, the local-owned business offers not just a star-studded menu, but a cozy dining experience. 

So whether you’re looking for a culinary home-away-from-home or a quick and tasty bite to eat, Tinker’s got your back.  

Kristine Villarroel

Latin Food Blessing

For the native Quechua people, food is medicine — Latin Food Blessing aims to prove that. 

Situated off West Newberry Road, Latin Food Blessing offers food native to the Quechua people of Peru. The owner, Sarita Tito Cutimanco, comes from many generations of the native Peruvian people and she brings the recipes passed down to her to Gainesville. 

Latin Food Blessing started as a project in local farmers markets after Cutimanco saw the lack of healthy food options in Gainesville. The restaurant opened its doors in January 2021. 

The restaurant serves a variety of healthy options made with fresh ingredients and whole foods, such as the Sopa de Mote, a soup passed down from the Incas, and the antioxidant-packed Chicha Morada, a traditional drink made with purple corn.

Run as a multicultural family business, the restaurant also offers a mix of Colombian and Central American dishes. 

Latin Food Blessing is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Luigi Bencosme

El Indio

Not most restaurants are popular enough to cause a minor traffic jam in the middle of 13th street every day. El Indio, however, is the exception. On most days, specifically at around night time, you can expect the drive-through line to be long enough to extend onto the street, with hungry drivers drooling at the thought of some of Gainesville’s most authentic Mexican street food in sight. 

With two locations, each situated in some of this college town’s business streets, El Indio has established itself as one of the staple Mexican restaurants of this city since 1991. In it’s 30 years of serving the community, El Indio has grown to have a reputation for fresh ingredients and delicious food. As stated on their website, “everything is made from scratch.” 

This restaurant offers all the traditional Mexican food options, including tacos, burritos, taquitos, enchiladas, and quesadillas while also offering some Tex-Mex throwins, such as nachos and taco salads. El Indio doesn’t shy away from other cuisines either; their menu even offers burgers, chicken sandwiches, and fries under the “North of The Border” section. 

El Indio, which is open everyday from 9 a.m. till 10 p.m., also offers a limited breakfast menu.

Even though this eatery functions in a fast-food style restaurant, especially when considering the drive-through, El Indio also has an out-door patio where customers can comfortably sit under a roof and enjoy their plates.

Whether it be in your car as you wait in the drive through, or sitting comfortably in their patios, head to El Indio to try some of this town’s best Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes this town has seen.


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