James Beard Award Winner Cristina Martinez Acquires Connie’s Ric Rac Space

The Mid-Atlantic's Best Chef is planning something special.
Photo: Official @barbacoachef/Instagram
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On the heels of a massive win, the acclaimed Philly chef is getting ready to seriously upgrade her latest restaurant.

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Chef Cristina Martinez certainly has a lot to celebrate. The owner of acclaimed Mexican restaurants South Philly Barbacoa and Casa Mexico, Chef Martinez earned the highly coveted James Beard Award for Best Chef: Mid Atlantic on June 13th. The well-earned victory was a long-time dream for Chef Martinez, who had been named as semi-finalist in the category every year since 2017.

Cristina Martinez is a Philadelphia-based chef and immigration activist who was born in Capulhuac, Mexico. After crossing the border from Juarez into the United States, she found a job as a pastry chef in an Italian restaurant in Philadelphia, where she met her now-husband Benjamin Miller. After Chef Martinez was fired from the restaurant after they discovered her undocumented status, she began cooking food for other Mexican workers in her apartment, earning such a positive reaction that she began selling tacos from a pushcart with her husband.

In 2015, the two were finally able to open their first permanent restaurant, South Philly Barbacoa, earning universal acclaim almost directly after opening it. Today Chef Martinez is also recognized from her appearance on the Netflix special Chef’s Table, as well as her activist work in establishing the Popular Alliance for Undocumented Workers’ Rights. Now, after a long journey of success that has culminated in her victory at the James Beard Awards, Chef Martinez is getting ready to make some serious upgrades to her latest restaurant, Casa Mexico.

A few days ago, Chef Martinez announced on Instagram she had signed a management agreement with Connie’s Ric Rac. Connie’s Ric Rac was a popular music venue known for hosting some of Philadelphia’s best DIY and Punk acts, as well as comedians, open mics, and small theatre productions. Connie has acquired both the real estate and liquor license from Connie’s Ric Rac, which will enable her to bring the neighboring Casa Mexico into the space, where she will be able to serve beer and cocktails for the first time.

Chef Martinez said on Instagram that “Casa Mexico & South Philly Barbacoa will soon have the benefit of serving alcoholic beverages and a lot of additional seating.” At the moment, she and her team need some help with the renovation, and are looking for a licensed contractor to help realize her vision. For more information, you can follow Casa Mexico on Instagram for regular updates as the story progresses.

Jake Rogers

Jake Rogers is an author and playwright based out of Brooklyn, New York. A lively performer who is deeply passionate about history and literature, outside of his reporting he also produces short films and plays with his theatre troupe, the LSTC. He is currently producing a web series about a butterfly and moth who are roommates that will be released later in the year.
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