AN AMPLE SLICE OF LATIN AMERICAN CULTURAL RICHES ARE FOUND NOT FAR FROM CAMPUS.
Story and photography by Alexis Hullinger, Kennedy Center photo editor (photography, ’18)
On Friday night, on a corner just off Provo’s Center Street, you can hear the familiar Latin beat coming from a small restaurant that serves Dominican cuisine. El Tropical is a gathering place for great food, dancing, and karaoke, and at the end of each week, a crowd gathers to push the tables back and have a bit of fun. Provo may seem like a quiet town, but if you know where to look, there is a vibrant culture waiting to be explored.
The Festival Latino Americano is a big four-day party at the end of August and the first part of September. Center Street closes down for dancing, cultural celebrations, fund-raisers, lucha libre wrestling, and, of course, amazing food from all over Central and South America. The event is sponsored by the Centro Hispano, a group that has been in Utah County since 2003. Centro Hispano’s staff and volunteers work year-round to provide Hispanic immigrants with the information and resources they need to succeed in the area. This year was the fifteenth year of the festival, which was attended in mass by people from all over Utah County. The atmosphere of this Latin getaway in the heart of Provo is intoxicating. And everyone is welcome.
Latin food differs depending on the country and region it originates from. In Provo there are a variety of restaurants to choose from for a taste south of the border. The owners of Panpaya, a Venezuelan and Colombian blend, are kind and hope to educate their diners as well as feed them a hearty meal. Stop in for an arepa or pollo romano with a savory blend of rice, beans, and bacon. If you’ve never had a pupusa, you’re missing out. Head to El Salvador restaurant to grab a few—and say yes to the ensalada and sauces. You won’t be disappointed. If sandwiches are more your style, Cultura Bakery and Cafe offers sweet breads, chili relleno, and a cold horchata. For fried plantain or yucca or a piña colada smoothie, visit Lucy’s Brazilian Kitchen. If you go on the right night, there could be dancing or even a soccer game. Make sure to wear the right jersey! And if alfajores and chorizo are more your speed, don’t miss a trip to Lomito’s. Though it is in Orem, the small restaurant is worth a visit.
Whatever type of Latin American food you might be looking for, there is somewhere in Provo to satisfy.
Finding Latin America in and Around Provo
Provo and Orem are home to many small Latin American restaurants with authentic food usually cooked by natives. Here are a few places to try.
Cultura Bakery and Cafe
151 University Ave.
Mexican and Salvadorian
325 S. 200 W.
332 Center St.
54 N. 400 W.
180 Center St.
Lucy’s Brazilian Kitchen
155 N. University Ave.
Panpaya Latin Grill
Venezuelan and Colombian
1200 Towne Center Blvd.
355 State St.
Se Llama Peru
368 Center St.