One of the most unique restaurants in Philadelphia is South Philly Barbacoa.
Run by Cristina Martinez and her husband, Ben Miller, SPB is open Friday-Sunday, and serves barbacoa, slow cooked lamb that has earned it the distinction of being Bon Appetit’s #6 new restaurant in America.
But Martinez and Miller aren’t just restaurateurs, they’re community activists, shining a light on the contributions of undocumented restaurant staff and cultural appropriation in food.
Says Martinez, “Tacos play a very prominent role in my culture. Sure, in essence, they constitute protein in a good tortilla. But more than anything, they represent the act of gathering and eating with your family. They represent enjoying good company and replenishing your body. My people eat tacos after a hard day’s work, but these days some people are turning tacos into the newest foodie cash crop.”
I hope that there is room for all at the table – all cultures appreciate the value of a great meal spent with friends and family. SPB’s willingness to ask us to consider the implications of the appropriation of Mexican culture without proper recognition or respect is not an issue that diners are often faced with.
Before your next trip to your local taqueria, or upscale Mexican, take a few minutes to watch Bon Appetit’s video on Cristina Martinez, and consider the stories of those in the kitchens around Philadelphia, and where they and their food come from. The talk about walls, and deportation forces has real implications for people who work in our favorite restaurants.
And the food? It’s amazing. I got in there for one of the last days they served their tortas. There’s a green mole with chicken, and a traditional mole with pork.