SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — The exotic, fresh flavors of Pan Latin Café, a beloved Battery Park City eatery that closed nearly three years ago, have finally made their way back Downtown — and locals say their taste buds couldn’t be happier.
Some of the eatery’s signature dishes, such as guava-roasted chicken, can now be found every weekend at the Fulton Stall Market in the South Street Seaport, where owners Sandy and John Kraehling started running a food booth on Sunday.
“We’re so excited to be in lower Manhattan again,” said Sandy Kraehling, 51. “It feels like home.”
In 2010, the couple was forced to shutter its popular café, which was housed in a cozy storefront at the west end of Chambers Street, after several years of declining business thanks, in part, to the recession, she said.
“It was very tough for us to leave,” Kraehling said. “But it’s what we had to do.”
Since then, the couple has kept Pan Latin alive through catering, and Kraehling, a trained chef, is also working as an adviser to other food service businesses. They’ve additionally been selling some of their Latin goodies, like guava cheesecake bread pudding, in local markets, including the Battery Park City Gourmet Market on North End Avenue.
Having the food stand lets Kraehling serve her style of South American cooking — with fresh, often organic ingredients — while interacting with customers old and new.
Jean Chen-Villaba, who had frequented the Battery Park City location, said she and her family were very pleasantly surprised when they discovered Pan Latin’s table at the seasonal South Street market on Sunday.
“We ordered chicken tamales, a chorizo sandwich, and a cornmeal pancake with mozzarella cheese and tomato tapas,” said Chen-Villaba. “And yes, it was just as we remembered it — delightful and friendly owners John and Sandy, and fresh, nutritious, delicious food.”
The family also relived their tasty food memories by chowing down on some of the desserts — the “smooth and perfectly sweetened” butter cookies and flan, she said.
“It’s really great news that they’re here,” said Chen-Villaba. “So many Downtown residents have missed them — we can’t wait to go back.”
Pan Latin will be at the market, at South and Fulton streets, every weekend from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Kraehling said she hopes to open a new café in the future, but for now she and John are focused on the market, where they'll expand their offerings in the next couple of weeks with pan dulces, or sweet breads, as well as Colombian-style cheese breads and other dishes.
“We feel really grateful," Kraehling said. "Being here, with all the love and support from the community, it means everything to us."