Originally from Los Angeles, it comes as no surprise that I’ve had my fair share of authentic Latin American food. It’s practically unavoidable to not see street vendors selling carne asada tacos when you’re in the area — they’re everywhere.
When I got to Berkeley, I was more than a little bummed to see things weren’t the same here. At first glance, it seemed like the closest thing Berkeley had to Latin American cuisine was Chipotle, and that isn’t what I define as authentic. No hate to my Chipotle lovers out there.
It was then that I began my search for food that reminded me of back home. It took some time and a long AC Transit bus ride, but I finally found my go-to restaurant for Latin American food.
Casa Latina Bakery is somewhat hidden on San Pablo Avenue, a stone’s throw away from the Popeyes on the street corner before. Upon entering the establishment, the sweetest smell of pan dulce greets your nostrils, bright colors dazzle your eyes and a great selection of Latin music blesses your ears. When I first found it, I remember being immediately drawn in by the warm, homey aesthetic infused with Latin flavor. Copies of Frida Kahlo’s most famous original paintings decorate the surrounding walls, creating the perfect ambiance for you to enjoy your utterly tasty meal.
The menu has an array of Latin American dishes to choose from: tacos de plaza, burritos, flautas, torta sandwiches, pupusas and so much more. Not only are the tortillas made by hand, but the horchata is the best I’ve ever had. The canela, or cinnamon, is perfectly balanced to the point of delightful sweetness, yet never overpowering on the taste buds. I usually order the carne asada tacos de plaza with horchata whenever I go. Casa Latina is also a bakery and offers a selection of pan dulce you can take to go and savor with cafecito back home.
For many in the Latine community who feel homesick from time to time, Casa Latina feels like a piece of home. The servers — who all speak Spanish, by the way — create a welcoming atmosphere with their kind smiles and pleasant greetings.
So, the next time you’re in the mood for a bit of Latin spice and an inviting ambiance to ease your homesickness, make sure you check out Casa Latina’s menu to fulfill all those cravings!