[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Nick Moran (Michigan Live) writes about Chef Gilma DeLaCruz, who, with her husband Edward DeLaCruz, co-owns Art Caribbean Fusion Cuisine in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Opening a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic isn’t ideal, but Gilma and Edward DeLaCruz did it and are sharing the culture of the Dominican Republic through flavorful food at Art Caribbean Fusion Cuisine. The couple is hoping their restaurant, which opened last summer, continues to be a welcoming, colorful fixture in downtown for those unfamiliar with their Dominican roots.
Chef and co-owner Gilma DeLaCruz said the plan was to expand from their popular food truck, El Caribe, into a restaurant in March 2020 but closures to slow the spread of COVID-19 delayed the opening at 55 Monroe Center St. NW until July. She said her goal has been to expose Grand Rapids to the cooking she grew up with in the Dominican Republic, which she described as homestyle, warm and embracing. That means being very intentional about everything from her recipes to the restaurant’s décor.
“People are not very familiar with the Dominican concept, but we’re trying to make (Grand Rapids) diverse and share culture,” DeLaCruz said. “Our restaurant not only shares the food aspect, but we also share the art that we have here on our walls. We want to make sure people come in here and feel that warmth from the Dominican Republic when they’re in here – the music, the food, the art, the cheer for our culture.”
As guests walk in, they’re greeted with a wave of bright colors ranging from massive painted walls from local Caribbean-inspired artist Erick Picardo to carnival masks and hand-painted mugs straight from the Dominican Republic. While the art showcases elements of Dominican culture, DeLaCruz said she wanted to appreciate Grand Rapid’s creative culture in her own way. “We definitely wanted to have that connection with the city in the restaurant,” she said.
The creativity extends to the menu. DeLaCruz is highlighting traditional items like the oxtail stew. She said the slow-cooked, tender cut of beef is paired with rice and beans that are made with love – ditching the cans and opting for freshly-sourced beans that are boiled in-house.
Guests can try oxtail, rice, and beans on Mi Bandera — the name for a Dominican plate that pairs rice, beans and meat. DeLaCruz said that plantains are a true Dominican staple food, and they are present in a range of ways at Art Caribbean. She said the idea of plátano power, which is a regional nod to plantains being given baseball players for strength, and the widespread use of the banana-esque fruit makes it essential eating.
The restaurant uses the versatile ingredient both in plantain chips and as a bread substitute in some of their savory sandwiches.
But what shines the most, DeLaCruz said, are Art Caribbean’s empanadas, which are doughy vessels that hold mixed fillings like cheese, meat, or vegetables. She compared them to a Hot Pocket or turnover, but with their warm, filling interiors that can be shared or eaten on the go.
“When I think about what we’re going to make in the empanadas, I want to make sure that everybody gets a bite of everything in there,” DeLaCruz said. “So, if we put cheese, onions, meat (in it), when you grab a bite, that’s what we want you to grab. All of that warmth, all of that food – grab it all together in an empanada.” [. . .]
For full article, see https://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/2021/03/local-eats-art-caribbean-fusion-cuisine-is-serving-up-dominican-flavors-in-grand-rapids.html
Art Caribbean Fusion Cuisine
55 Monroe Center Street Northwest, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503