Amidst the gray, slushy Alaskan spring, Tropical Latin Food on Boniface Parkway provides Anchorage’s tastebuds with a one-way ticket to sunny Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
“The music, the decor, the language spoken, will fill all your senses with the enchantment of Latin culture,” is what their website claims — and the statement holds true.
Tropical Latin Food wraps up Dominican and Puerto Rican cuisine into a nostalgic, fast-casual parcel that gives patrons a sense of home. The smells, sounds and ambience of the restaurant are as authentic as the dishes served up by owner Maria Rodriquez, who opened shop 10 years ago.
“[First] I worked out of my house for two years, it was a lot of work,” Rodriquez said. She explained that a move to their Boniface location was necessary as their clientele grew.
Tropical Latin Food doesn’t just appeal to those with Dominican and Puerto Rican roots, however. Rodriquez says they see a diverse variety of customers with a common craving for tropical island fare.
Upon entering the restaurant, your nose is greeted by the scents of stews that have been slow roasting for hours, spiced to perfection, and your eyes are greeted by the humble decor and beverage cooler full of imported drinks.
Tropical Latin Food serves up their dishes cafeteria style, and each dish is lined up behind a glass case. Highlighting their lineup are carne guisada, pollo guisado, bistec encelbollado (beef, pork and chicken stews), as well as various sides such as mofongo (mashed, fried plantains), plantano frito (sweet, fried plantains), yuca cocida (boiled cassava root) and more.
When asked what their most popular dish was out of the several they had, Rodriquez confidently answered “everything.”
I went with the carne de res guisada (a braised beef stew), arroz con habichuelo (seasoned rice with black beans) and plantano frito.
The guisada was braised in a flavorful, tomato-based sauce and the entire dish was fatty, flavorful and delicious. The meat was tender and disintegrated in my mouth without the need for much chewing. It was obvious that the stew had been simmering for hours, allowing fat to render out of the beef and marry its flavors onto the rest of the dish.
The seasoned rice was self-explanatory, but it offered a depth of flavor that I would’ve missed out on had I opted for white rice.
The fried plantains were the perfect compliment to the salty, flavorful stew. The large chunks of sweet, caramelized plantains cut through the rich stew and offered a nice contrast. These are a must-try — as on their own, the plantains would make for an outstanding snack.
The whole meal was $18 — not the most affordable, but you can’t put a price on nostalgia and quality. Being that it’s not really possible to find similar cuisine in a convenient fast-casual setting, Tropical Latin Food is worth every penny.
Certain items varied in cost, but a plate with your favorite entree is going to run no more than $15. For an extra side like plantains, you’ll be shelling out another few dollars.
However, the restaurant fills a much-needed niche in Anchorage, which has a decent-sized Dominican and Puerto Rican community. It’s impossible to put a price on satisfying a craving, and Tropical Latin Food is the destination for Dominican and Puerto Rican cuisine. Try it today at their 341 Boniface Parkway location.