By AARON WORMUS
Palms West Monthly
Posted March 2, 2020
Leave behind the skyscraping condos of downtown and drive south on Dixie Highway to a part of the city bubbling with flavor: the Latin Quarter.
From Belvedere Road to West Palm Beach’s southern limits, between Dixie Highway and I-95, the demographic makeup changes. In a city that is 24 percent Hispanic, the Latin Quarter is comprised of 70 percent Hispanics – and the Latin vibe is wonderful.
There are many ways to experience the Latin Quarter and here’s some of my favorites:
• Stop in for a cup of Cuban coffee at the unassuming Capri Bakery & Restaurant on Southern Boulevard near Parker Avenue. When you step into the family-owned eatery, you’ll feel like you’ve walked into Cuba itself. Patrons may sit inside or on the patio while Latin music plays and the aroma of delicious food fills the air.
• Head south to Los Altos Jalisco at 6611 S. Dixie Hwy., an authentic Mexican restaurant tucked into the neighborhood. The owner waits on customers, who can enjoy a Mexican beer while surrounded by flowers in the beautiful backyard patio.
• Havana Restaurant on the corner of Dixie Highway and Forest Hill Boulevard is home to the 24/7 cafecito window where you can pick up a Cuban sandwich – or anything off the menu – at 3 a.m.
• Finally, we arrive at the legendary Don Ramon Restaurante & Social Club at 7101 S. Dixie Hwy. This is a true Cuban experience from the moment hungry customers walk in the door, where they can enjoy the sounds of live piano music and always a warm atmosphere.
Diners can sit in the lounge and enjoy a Mojito, Daiquiri or a Cuba Libre or take a seat in the main dining area and eat the most succulent homemade Cuban food accompanied by very friendly service.
Dina Rubio, co-owner of Don Ramon along with husband Juan, fled the revolution in Nicaragua when she was a teenager in 1981. Her family moved to Palm Beach Gardens to live with relatives, but she kept finding herself in West Palm Beach.
“We didn’t know the language, didn’t know anyone. We tried to figure out where they sold Latin food, where they had Spanish Mass, and where they had doctors who spoke our language,” says Rubio. “And it kept bringing us to West Palm Beach. Many Cubans had already settled here. We wanted sweet plantains and yuca and to shop at familiar stores. We went to Mass at St. Juliana. So we moved to this area and it felt like home.”
Rubio and her husband took over Don Ramon in 1998 and transformed it into a gathering place for the community. She’s currently president of the Southside Business Association, but wanted to do more for the local Hispanic community. So she, along with local businessman and attorney Laz Mur and Arlen Castillo, founded the non-profit Latin Quarter of West Palm Beach in 2019.
The organization’s goal is to unite the diverse Hispanic community and foster growth and hope through strategic alliances and outreach programs. To date, they have worked with local schools and churches to promote after-school programs for Latino youth and offer family strengthening programs to those in need.
The kick-off event was the Latin Quarter WPB 2019 Hispanic Heritage Month Parade held in October. West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James was the grand marshal. This year’s parade takes place Oct. 10.
“When I first came here, nobody knew what an empanada was,” says Rubio. ”Now, you find them everywhere. Our food is as diverse as our cultures, and you see it on every menu.”
For more information on Latin Quarter WPB, visit latinquarterwpb.org. And make plans to go to Dreher Park on March 19 to celebrate the city’s 125th anniversary with the Latin Quarter WPB. There will be food trucks and plenty of entertainment.
And you’re invited!
Pictured above: The Latin Quarter West Palm Beach, a local non-profit that helps strengthen the local Hispanic community, held the city’s first Hispanic Heritage Month Parade on Oct. 5, 2019, marching north on Dixie Highway toward St. Juliana’s Catholic Church. Courtesy of Latin Quarter West Palm Beach