SAN ANTONIO -- The writing was on the wall when Leonel Alvarez arrived at 2447 Nacogdoches Rd. The words: La Marginal.
"The name La Marginal maybe for another culture means something different," said Alvarez. "It was what we call here the 'access road.' In Puerto Rico, they call it La Marginal."
Lost in translation is the location of that access road in Puerto Rico. It's said to be "the" hangout spots native sons and daughters recall.
Alvarez, the former waiter turned manager, stepped into the shoes of ownership in 2000. He had the restaurant experience but he needed to immerse himself in the culture and the food. The 46-year-old took private lessons before enrolling into the culinary program at San Antonio's St. Philip's College.
"In the Latin culture, I think we have a lot to offer," he said. "Not just Mexican food."
The Mexican born Alvarez made well on his mission. His culinary background was European and American food. Soon patrons started craving his traditional and gourmet Puerto Rican creations.
"To me, Puerto Rico even though it's a small country, it has a large variety of different types of food," he said.
Open seven days a week, La Marginal offers a popular lunch buffet and a la carte dishes. The prices are, generally, under $20.
Framed in colorful mural of Old San Juan, Neighborhood Eats sat down in Alvarez's restaurant to taste the fare.
On the appetizer side, the chef provided tostones with mojito sauce, empanadas, sorullitos and relleno de papa. Delicious!
Next, shrimp in Creole sauce under a tower of mofongo. Que Rico! The same, If not better, can be said about the pernil, the slow roasted pork.
Neighborhood Eats really warmed up the Puerto Rican styled stew called chicken fricassee with wine sauce, olives and tomatoes.
It would have been a sin to leave La Marginal without trying the plantain. Umm... awesome!
We got to wash it down with imported cola from Puerto Rico. Finally, the chef slipped in a tiny bit of tasty flan.
La Marginal strives very hard to serve a flavor filled and comfortable Latin focused experience. It's place where you can enjoy live music, good food and breath in every spice.
That is this week's edition of Neighborhood Eats. If you have a suggestion for Marvin send him an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), tweet him(@mhurstkens5) or post to the KENS 5 Facebook page. Don't forget to hashtag it #KENS5EATS.