There’s Puerto Rican food. And then there’s the "Other Puerto Rican Food." That’s how Juan and Elizabeth Aponte categorize the style of food they love to eat and cook.
The owners of the tiny Lakewood cafe, Old San Juan, have been serving straightforward Puerto Rican dishes like pernil and mofongo since 2010. At the end of this month, they’ll expand to OSJ International, a Lakewood cafe that will serve "Other Puerto Rican Food" influenced by a grab bag of cultures. They plan to open that restaurant around Aug. 30. They intend to keep Old San Juan running just as it always has. And guess what? Another restaurant serving Puerto Rican cuisine also is on the way to Tacoma.
Juan Aponte calls his style of cooking at OSJ International a bit more refined than what diners will find at his more casually themed Old San Juan, which serves slow-cooked, fried or braised meats paired with rice and plantains, in typical Puerto Rican fashion.
At OSJ International, dishes will reflect a confluence of cultures - Korean, Argentinian, Italian and other farflung flavors. Aponte acknowledged that the concept sounds scattered - and it is. But he made this point - Puerto Rican cuisine, as with most island cuisines, was fashioned over many generations from a multitude of influences from Spain, Africa and beyond. Modern Puerto Rican food has been similarly influenced, just on a larger global scale.
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Until recently, Old San Juan appeared to be the only South Sound cafe serving Puerto Rican food. With OSJ, that brings the tally to two. And here’s a third I’ve been writing about recently - Soul will open this week in the Proctor neighborhood. That restaurant will feature Puerto Rican cuisine on a menu sharing space with Cuban and Dominican Republic cuisines, as well as other kinds of Latin food and Southern American style soul food. At Soul, Puerto Rican pernil will be served alongside Peruvian tamales and Southern style fried catfish with greens.
Soul had planned on opening Aug. 16, but a permit delay moved the opening to Aug. 23.
Natural Allah and Jennifer Zaskorski are the co-owners, they also own Vinum and Wine Lounge in downtown Tacoma. In the kitchen at Soul is Maria Torres, a Le Cordon Bleu graduate. Soul will operate in the upstairs dining space that was formerly home to the Old House Cafe.
Old San Juan11109 Pacific Hwy SW, Lakewood, 253-584-0528
Soul2717 N. Proctor, 253-761-7685, facebook.com/TacomaSoul