The sign is up and the finishing touches are being put on at Casa Mexico, the second Philadelphia restaurant from Cristina Martinez of South Philly Barbacoa fame. If all goes according to plan, the doors will open at 1134 S. Ninth Street in the Italian Market on Thursday, February 6. But there’s a twist: For the first six nights, guest chef Maria Mercedes Grubb, in town from Puerto Rico, will run the kitchen.
Followers of Philly’s food scene will remember that Grubb joined Martinez at South Philly Barbacoa last month for a multi-day fundraiser to support victims of the earthquake in Puerto Rico. Grubb, a 2019 James Beard Award nominee, owns Gallo Negro in San Juan’s Santurce neighborhood and co-founded Serve PR to help hospitality industry workers after Hurricane Maria. (She originally planned to host an Octavitas dinner with Martinez at Reading Terminal Market in January; they switched it up when the earthquake hit.)
Starting Thursday and going through Tuesday, February 11, the visiting chef will spend her days shopping in the Italian Market to put together dinners at Casa Mexico, running from 6 to 10 p.m. or until they sell out, which is pretty much guaranteed to happen. So get in line and bring cash: No reservations or credit cards.
Martinez plans to keep up the Italian Market sourcing when Casa Mexico settles into its regular routine, adjusting dishes based on what’s available that day.
The address was until recently Greek eatery Koukouzeli, but you wouldn’t recognize it walking by. Gone is the blue-and-white color scheme in favor of bright pinks, yellows, and oranges. The cheerful spot stands out on the block, which is home to dive-y music venue Connie’s Ric Rac, right next door, and a few other notable Mexican eateries, including Taqueria La Prima. South Philly Barbacoa is just two doors down.