Sophie Bolich

Puerto Rican Restaurant Coming to Layton Park

Sabor Divino plans to open in early 2024 serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

By - Nov 20th, 2023 05:09 pm
AsianRican Foods' new location. Photo by Sophie Bolich

Site of future Sabor Divino restaurant, 3300 W. Lincoln Ave. Photo by Sophie Bolich.

Being a small business owner doesn’t come easy. Along with a great deal of hard work, the job also requires a bit of luck, or faith, depending on who you ask.

For Irma Melendez Santiago and Giovany Rodriguez Arroyo, it’s the latter. Since launching Sabor Divino as a mobile operation in 2019, the married couple have dealt with a food truck crash that deemed the vehicle — their livelihood — “a total loss,” subsequent issues with insurance funds and the grim prospect of job-searching amid the early months of the pandemic.

But the couple continued despite the setbacks, and is now preparing to open the first brick-and-mortar location for Sabor Divino, or divine flavor, at 3300 W. Lincoln Ave., in the Layton Park neighborhood. The building at this location was formerly home to AsianRican Foods, which was open as recently as early October, but has since disconnected its phone number.

The new restaurant, set to open in January, will serve breakfast lunch and dinner with an emphasis on traditional Puerto Rican dishes.

Day-to-day, Santiago will split the kitchen duties with her husband, who has always had a passion for cooking, she said. The family business will also get help from the couple’s three children, aged 15, 10 and 5.

On the menu, guests can expect several types of mofongo, a quintessentially Puerto Rican dish and the food truck’s signature dish, as well as other favorites including arroz con gandules, jibaritos, fried chicken, seafood, tostones and various types of stew.

Guests will be able to order individual items a la carte or choose a variety of dishes to pair together, similar to building a buffet plate, Santiago said.

One thing that will definitely won’t be on the menu? Alcohol. The decision comes down to multiple factors, said Santiago, including faith-based reasons and the goal of maintaining a calm, family-friendly atmosphere.

Further, Sabor Divino will always remain closed on Sundays. “We believe that Sundays are for family, Sundays are for going to church,” Santiago said. “That’s our belief, and we hope to empower others to also spend time with their families and do what they need to do.”

Ahead of Sabor Divino’s opening early next year, the family plans to redecorate the restaurant, focusing on creating a peaceful and welcoming space complete with simple decor, rustic tables and murals of Puerto Rico’s lush countryside.

Santiago said she’s looking forward to serving community members, many of whom have already shown support and generosity to the business.

After the crash that totaled the original food truck in 2020, Santiago pivoted to selling desserts in order to support the family and collect funds for a new vehicle. Some customers, knowing the family had recently lost their food truck, paid double for their items, telling Santiago to put the extra towards the business.

After just a few months, Sabor Divino was back on its wheels. This time, in a family-owned, not rented, vehicle.

That help-thy-neighbor spirit has become a common practice within the city’s small-business community, as recently evidenced by business-for-business fundraisers in support of Thelma Carol Wine Merchants, Heirloom MKE and Lopez Bakery.

Beyond the upcoming restaurant, Sabor Divino will continue to grow its mobile arm, with plans to debut a new food truck in Racine next year.

Once open, the restaurant’s hours of operation will be 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Until then, more information and updates about the business are available via Facebook.

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Categories: Food & Drink

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