Alma Cocina Latina is a Venezuelan restaurant, located in the Can Company, with an amazing arepa bar (the first in Baltimore!) and a superb menu inspired by Venezuelan culinary roots using contemporary techniques.
“The best ambassadors for Venezuela in the United States right now are Irena Stein and Enrique Limardo. They’re the owner and chef, respectively, of Alma Cocina Latina in Southeast Baltimore, an alluring young restaurant that shines a light on a style of cooking that doesn’t get much play in this country,” asserts Tom Sietsema, the often-tough Washington Post Food Critic who awarded Alma Cocina 3.5 out of 4 stars.
Alma Cocina Latina, affectionately known as Alma (Spanish for “soul”), provides a South American culinary experience with a central focus on Venezuelan food. Stein, a Venezuelan native, believes award-winning chef Enrique Limardo “combines ingredients of the tropical region with an abundance of imagination and a deep knowledge of contemporary techniques. He creates very artistic dishes, which are always very familiar and easy on any palate, and are easy to love. Colors, flavors, ingredients, textures marry beautifully together.”
Migena Di agrees, exclaiming, “Hands down BEST food in Baltimore! Every ingredient seems to belong in each dish to create an extraordinary culinary experience.”
The Alma concept is about culture. They strive to say something important to the world through their food. The website reads, “We don't just feed the palate, we feed imagination & soul.”
At the heart of this concept is the arepa. Arepas, the daily bread for Venezuelans, are round, crispy corn patties filled with an endless array of options. Eaten at any time, day or night, they are gluten-free and irresistible.
We sampled the La Vaca Mariposa, overflowing with grilled Angus sirloin, chicken breast, chorizo, a fried egg, avocado, nata (a Spanish crème fraiche similar to sour cream), and queso de año (a soft, white Spanish cheese). The simple ingredients combined offer an outstanding depth of flavor and richness. If you’re a seafood lover, try the Parrillada Marina stuffed with grilled octopus, calamari, shrimp, red bell peppers, red onion, Merkén, white wine, garlic flakes and preserved lemon vinaigrette. If you’re a vegetarian or seeking a delicious and filling gluten-free dinner, try The Vegan Heaven arepas - a crispy pocket full of cauliflower, spicy mango cabbage slaw, apple jalapeno puree, cassava crumble and kale.
The menu at Alma Cocina also features several other Venezuelan-centric dishes including Pastelitos, Polenta de Alma, Pulpo, and our favorite, Casabe which consists of crispy Cassava bread served with cilantro mojo and black bean butter. For detailed descriptions, visit http://almacocinalatina.com/menu/.
It’s important to note, the ingredients used at Alma are purchased with extreme care. The website emphasizes “Meats are sourced from surrounding responsible farms where animals are not fed hormones or antibiotics. Our fish purveyors work closely with the chefs to carefully choose the freshest ocean treasures for our ceviches and other dishes. Our thousands of pounds of chilis are organically grown right here in Maryland. Our bar manager/alchemist works with fresh fruits, herbs, and spices to make his magical cocktails.”
Speaking of cocktails, the beverage program at Alma is designed to transport everyone, from the rum enthusiast to the curious wanderer, to a warm sandy beach. “Our bar is a treasure chest of unique and small craft spirits that represent the history of The Caribbean and Latin countries. We also focus on artisanally made sangria, craft beer and wine, in an effort to give Baltimore the experience it deserves.”
Owner Irena Stein describes each cocktail as a work of art. Her favorite is the Cielo Verde consisting of Sotol Siempre, rosemary infused Dolin blanc, Agwa, lime juice and mint syrup, with a jalapeño salt rim. We sampled The Papa Hemingway, a very popular drink that includes Venezuelan Santa Teresa Rum, Strega, lemon and lime juice, simple syrup, Giffard Grapefruit and grapefruit bitters. We highly recommend giving this luscious, perfectly balanced libation a try.
If you’re wondering how this sophisticated and culinarily-captivating restaurant found it’s way to our community, here’s a little history. Owners and husband and wife team, Irena Stein and Mark Demshak, opened Alma Cocina Latina in April 2015 upon the prompting of local developer Bill Struever. Struever, a previous owner of the Can Company complex, had a vision to re-create and refresh the property as a community destination featuring several restaurants offering interesting, artisanal food. Because Canton is known as a fast-growing and developing neighborhood in Baltimore, Stein and Demshak agreed and quickly hired Venezuelan Chef Enrique Limardo to bring their vision to life.
Three years later, Stein says “Canton as a community has been appreciative and supportive of our restaurant as it offers a completely different culinary experience than other restaurants in the area. Walk-ins happen daily from our immediate surroundings for a quick bite mid-week, to sit outside, enjoy live music or even write books at the bar.”
Stein emphasizes “We are not just a special occasion/celebration restaurant! We want our neighbors to also come simply for an arepa or a cocktail any night of the week.” For music lovers, we suggest Thursday evenings from 6-9 pm when Alma hosts all night happy hour and live music spotlighting classical, Flamenco and Bossa Nova guitarists. Featured artists include Fritz Lerma, Alex Barnett, and Michael Joseph Harris.
Happy Hour is also served Monday-Friday from 5-7 pm. Enjoy $6 bites, including zesty Fried Shishito Peppers with green plantain dust and Caribbean dipping sauce (vegan, dairy-free) or Yucas Bravas - crispy yuca fries with cotija cheese, salsa Diablo and goat-cheese nata (vegan, gluten-free).
If you’re dining with a group, we recommend the delicious Summer Prix Fixe Menu featuring 3 courses for $50. It’s the perfect way to sample Chef Enrique’s creative cuisine. “The chef prefers to serve it to an entire table so everyone enjoys the courses harmoniously. The Prix Fixe highlights the different sections of the menu, giving the guest the opportunity to experience Alma fully,” says Stein. For menu details, visit http://almacocinalatina.com/summerprixfixe/.
When asked ‘Are you happy you opened in Canton?’, Irena smiles and replies, “The setting of historic buildings, waterfront, and the marinas create an ideal background for the diverse Canton demographic that visits Alma. From young families to lifelong residents, they all come together to celebrate and share ideas and food at Alma.” She also advocates, “We believe Alma is a great gem in the city of Baltimore, and we are happy to be at the heart of Canton.”
2400 Boston Street at the Can Company, free parking on-site
Monday-Thursday 5-9:30 pm, Friday & Saturday 5-10:30 pm
For further information, contact ark Demshak at firstname.lastname@example.org