La Vecina’s ghost kitchen returns February 7; in-person meal planned for spring

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Newport Restaurant Group’s La Vecina, which began as an authentic Mexican pop-up restaurant by Bar ‘Cino executive chef Mariana Gonzalez-Trasvina, will return as a ‘ghost kitchen’ to Bar ‘Cino on Monday, February 7, before its brick -and-mortar opening this spring.

From Monday, take-out and delivery will be available every day from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

In case you’re wondering what a ghost kitchen is, it’s a lot less scary than it looks. Sometimes referred to as a cloud kitchen or virtual kitchen, it is defined as a professional food preparation and a cooking space set up to create take-out/delivery-only meals. Often, as in the case of La Vecina, the ghost kitchen exists within an already established restaurant.

Ghost kitchens have gained popularity nationwide as an innovative way to reduce costs and meet the high demand for food delivery in the age of the pandemic. Locally, another example of ghost cooking was Green Dragon, a weekend concept that existed inside the Midtown Oyster Bar until early 2021.

La Vecina, however, will only temporarily exist as a ghost kitchen inside Bar ‘Cino and will have its own dedicated kitchen when it opens for in-person dining this spring. Shawn Westhoven, beverage director of Newport Restaurant Group, who has led the vision behind many of the company’s restaurant concepts, including La Vecina, said the new taqueria will seat up to 40 people.

“As we put the finishing touches on the brick-and-mortar location of La Vecina, we’re excited to bring Chef Mariana’s artisanal Mexican street food back to a ghost kitchen until we open our doors this spring. “Westhoven said.

What’s Up Newp had the chance to chat with Westhoven in La Vecina’s new space next to Bar ‘Cino and get an exclusive look inside, including a first look at the brightly colored murals of the artist Sam Malpass from Badway Creative.

A first look at the brightly colored murals by artist Sam Malpass of Badway Creative. Photo credit: Sarah McClutchy
Photo of the mural inside La Vecine Taqueria. Photo credit: Sarah McClutchy

Westhoven said he also worked with Tracey Moore of Moore’s Elegant Spaces to help with other space details such as stools, tiles and colors.

In addition to the eye-catching artwork, another aspect of La Vecina — which means “the next door neighbor” or “the girl next door” — that will set it apart from other restaurants is its technology.

Westhoven explained that you will be able to enter the restaurant, sit down and place your order on your smartphone via a table card QR code. Your food will be delivered to your table directly from the kitchen and you will have the option of paying your bill as a group or individually, all via your phone on the La Vecina website. If by chance, no table is available when you arrive, you will have the option of scanning a QR code to add yourself to a waiting list and receive an SMS when places become available.

As for La Vecina’s menu, expect to see more hit Mexican street tacos prepared by Mexico City-native Chef Gonzalez-Trasvina, who honor his family’s generational recipes: pollo with salsa verde, Spicy Marinated Shrimp, Pasteur Pork, Braised Short Rib, and Street Corn Style Squash & Mushrooms served in handmade blue corn tortillas. As a bonus, authentic Mexican cuisine is also suitable for those with special dietary needs and plant-based eaters.

“All tacos are gluten-free,” Westhoven said. “The squash and mushroom taco is vegetarian and, with the omission of the cotija cheese, can be made vegan.”

Photo credit: Erin McGinn

For those with a sweet tooth, the dessert menu features mouth-watering indulgences like Tres Leches: Vanilla Sponge Cake, Three Milks, Cinnamon, and Whipped Cream and Mexican-Spiced Hot Chocolate Torte with Dulce de Leche and Whipped Cream.

At the bar, where the bartender is equipped to handle cash, you can expect to find interesting and unusual tequilas and mezcals alongside spirits from local distillers like The Industrial Spirits Company and Rhode Island Spirits.

The bar at La Vecina Taqueria. Photo credit: Sarah McClutchy

Westhoven estimates it will be at least a month before in-person dining starts at La Vecina, but in the meantime you can enjoy takeout and delivery from Monday.

More What’sUpNewp reporting on La Vecina

February 5, 2021 – La Vecina continues at Bar ‘Cino, will offer take-out and delivery

January 12, 2021 – La Vecina Taqueria hits Bar ‘Cino from January 18-31

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