Photo: Mynor Garcia stands at the counter of America Latina. 

I tend to make important midday decisions based on the state of my stomach.

I have a habit of working through my lunch hour and mindlessly munching on a bowl of salad or last night’s dinner leftovers. I know myself well enough to understand that my afternoon, and therefore that of my colleagues, will be better when I leave my desk to eat something delicious.

A bevy of new lunch places have popped up over the last couple of years in downtown Kitchener. I often depend on GoGo Mart, Imbibe and Bistro Nash (inside Entertaining Elements) to get me away from my desk for a little bit.

There’s another player in town, but if you work near the tannery you’ve probably walked by it hundreds of times without really noticing it. I’m talking about America Latina Variety & Deli at 331 King St. W, between Water and Francis. Tucked behind GoGo Mart and facing a parking lot, the store has been around for about 20 years.

Just this year, Mynor and Rachelle Garcia bought the business. Mynor left his full-time job selling cars to become the proprietor.

“He was looking for something he was passionate about,” Rachelle said. “Owning our own businesses was something we’ve talked about since we started dating. The timing was right.”

Rachelle is still juggling her full-time job as marketing co-ordinator at the Centre in the Square with spending weekends at the store.

Anita forms pupusas. (Communitech photo: Kayleigh Platz)

Anita forms pupusas. (Communitech photo: Kayleigh Platz)

During the week, a steady stream of clients come in for pupusas – Anita’s pupusas to be exact.

Anita has been handmaking the thick corn tortillas stuffed with different fillings – beans, cheese, pork, jalapenos – for the last 11 years at America Latina.

“According to the Latin community in town, Anita makes the best pupusas,” Rachelle said. “We knew we needed her to stay on with us to make it a success.”

Anita doesn’t speak much English as she forms, stuffs and grills the pupusas, which she serves the traditional Salvadoran way: with a side of tangy coleslaw and a thin red salsa. It doesn’t matter; words lose their importance when you bite into one.

Since pupusas are one of the original street foods, Rachelle wants people to know it’s OK to get a little messy eating them. They should not be eaten with a fork and knife,;rather it’s best to rip them in half and eat them with your hands (which is what I always do – just remember to let them cool a bit if Anita’s just removed them from the griddle).

Mynor is originally from Guatemala, and he’s excited to bring different traditional foods into the store. Rachelle’s goal is to reach the Canadian community.

“This food is different, and I’d like to encourage people to just come in and try something new,” she said.

They are running the deli much like a startup, even though it was an established business. Rachelle and Mynor are working seven days a week while they figure out the best times to be open and the right stock to order, while dipping a toe into the catering pool. If there are to be setbacks, they want to fail quickly and recover with the right combinations to make old and new customers happy.

It took Rachelle a while to find the right baker, but she’s now bringing in freshly made churros on the weekends. I’ve not had them yet, but I’ve penciled in a trip for this long weekend to stop in at the deli tucked under the rainbow-hued chimney.

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Speaking of which, it’s hard to believe we are entering the traditional last long weekend of summer. If you’re staying around Waterloo Region for Labour Day, I see and hear that… you can kick off your weekend with the bitHound crew. Join them Aug. 28 starting at 4:30 p.m. on the front porch of their College Street office in downtown Kitchener for a pint and some programming discussions… The Grand River Film Festival and Sportsworld Crossing are co-presenting a free screening of the Canadian film The Grand Seduction. The comedy starts at dusk on Friday, Aug. 29 at Sportsworld Crossing. You should plan to bring lawn chairs and expect to be entertained… and finally, dance your summertime blues away at Starlight’s Long Weekend Party. DJ’s 88 and Surreal will be spinning on Sunday, Aug. 31. Doors open at 10 p.m. and cover is $5.

Have suggestions about events I should be checking out? Drop me a line or tweet me @write_girl.