Latin Quarters Offers an Authentic Taste of Puerto Rico

Todays News

Pictured: The Caribbean appetizer platter, an authentic sampling of deliciously fried items. Photo by Kevin Allen.

It was at the end of a long day hiking in El Yunque rainforest when I first had a taste of what I’m told is authentic Puerto Rican cuisine. It was on Playa De Luquillo on the northeast side of the island. A long line of about 20 open air food and drink vendors set up shop there in the Kioskos de Luquillo. I was struck by the bold flavors and simplicity of the ingredients as my friends and I hopped from vendor to vendor, alternating appetizers and bottles of Medalla Light, the ubiquitous local brew.

Perhaps that’s why I was eager to try Latin Quarters, the newest addition to Sarasota’s Main Street dining scene. I had stopped by with a friend late one night soon after it had opened and found a lively scene: excellent live music, dancing, laughing, cheers-ing. It was elbow-to-elbow joy — an energy I hadn’t felt on Main Street before, and hadn’t experienced since my last trip to Viejo San Juan in 2019.

It was comparatively subdued when my wife, Janet, and I ate there for lunch recently while waiting to pick up our five-year-old daughter after her art class. Janet opted for the chicken fajitas, which came sizzling and steaming from the kitchen. We watched as every other diner took note, and sure enough, within 15 minutes the sound of the sizzle was back and making its way to our neighbors.

But I wanted to recapture that experience on Playa De Luquillo. I gave myself over to the kitchen, ordering the Caribbean appetizer sampler and encouraging them to surprise me. What arrived was a divine arrangement of bacalaitos, croquetas, yuca fries, maduros and empanadilla. And of course, a Medalla Light.

The croquetas stood out with their inviting crunch on the outside giving way to a smoky ham filling. The empanadilla was ridiculous — a perfectly formed crust wrapping marinated chicken like a warm blanket. But it was the bacalaitos that really brought be back. In Puerto Rico, they were served over the counter, the sound crashing Caribbean waves mere yards away.

And right there, in the middle of Main Street, in the renovated storefront that housed Barnacle Bills for 22 years, that I was transported back to that beach and the brief reminder that you can find good in the world wherever you are. But especially when you’re enjoying fried Puerto Rican apps at Latin Quarters.

Latin Quarters’ LQ on Main, 1526 Main Street, Sarasota, 941-362-0435.

Pictured: The Caribbean appetizer platter, an authentic sampling of deliciously fried items. Photo by Kevin Allen.

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