Francis Matias noticed that island cuisine was missing in the Miami
Valley, so he and his family did something about it.
The Sabina residents opened Antojitos Criollos Restaurant at 3937 Linden Ave. in 2010 and haven't looked back.
"We started with a low budget and here we are, three years later," Matias said. "It was a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice. It is not easy, but it is growing up. Sales are going up and we are still learning."
The Matias family started its Puerto Rican and Caribbean food business by working festivals in Dayton, Columbus and Cleveland in 2009. They were encouraged to take it to the next level after winning best food at the Cleveland Puerto Rican Day Parade shortly after starting.
Their restaurant now draws support from Latino customers who work at nearby Wright Patterson Air Force Base and other fans of Caribbean food.
Antojitos Criollos is located across from Eastown Shopping Center in the space that previously housed Mi Tierra, a Mexican restaurant, and Viet, a Vietnamese restaurant.
Matias got his start in the restaurant business and found his passion for food working with his cousin, a professor of culinary, in Puerto Rico.
Food for the U.S. territory is influenced by three main cultures, he said.
"It is a mix of authentic (food) from island and fruits from the (African) jungle. It is from Africans and the Spaniards from Spain," he said. "It is a mix of foods like yuca and bananas from Africa and bacalao (fish cakes) from Spain. This blend makes Puerto Rican."
The Matias family hails from a fishing community on the west side of Puerto Rico. The family moved to the Miami Valley seven years ago when Francisco Matias, Francis' father, took a job at DHL in Wilmington.
Their restaurant specializes in classic Puerto Rican dishes mostly made by Francisco.
Dishes such churrasco (skirt steak) and mofongo with chicken and red sauce are popular, Francis Matias said.
That dish is made of marinated boneless and skinless chicken thighs with a sauce made of tomatoes, peppers, garlic and cilantro, he said.
The eatery makes its mofongo with mashed plantains mixed with a little olive oil and seasoning, Matias added.
Classic Puerto Rican dishes mostly range from $10 to $12 for dinner. Daily lunch specials are $7 and most appetizers and side items cost only a few bucks.
The restaurant holds a monthly party that includes music and a $20 buffet with items specially selected by Matias.
Beef loin stuffed with roasted peppers and olive, and marinated in wine was among the items on the buffet in May.
Matias said many of the dishes are special creations while others are based on meals he personally researches.
"We always try to do something new," he said.
The next party is set for June 15. It will start at 7:30 p.m.
Antojitos Criollos Restaurant
3937 Linden Ave., Dayton
Monday through Friday -- 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday -- 1 to 9 p.m.
What do you think? Have you tried Antojitos Criollos Restaurant? Did you love it?
Contact this columnist and blogger at arobinson@DaytonDailyNews.com or Twitter.com/DDNSmartMouth
(c)2013 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)
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